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Why Voice Matters in Employee Selection and Retention

by Richard Correia

Contact center representatives and agents are always on: Their roles require them to be continuously engaged while interacting with customers. They’re called on to switch between multiple skills or channels while maintaining high levels of accuracy and thinking on their feet – all while staying positive and responsive to customer needs.

A unique set of skills is required, and these skills can be challenging to identify during the hiring process. Hiring managers must sift through a large group of candidates to determine the people who will be a good cultural fit, be engaged in their work and perform well long term. Employee selection and retention remains a challenge across contact centers, often with an associated cost that goes unrecognized.

The operational cost-benefit of high retention Bringing on the right people from the beginning helps contact centers reduce employee turnover, which has significant operational costs. Onboarding costs, including low employee productivity time during the early weeks and months, are often overlooked when considering the costs of hiring and retaining employees; when combined with low retention rates, the financial loss associated with ineffective hiring methods can be substantial.

No longer viewed as solely a problem – or expense – for human resources, contact center operational directors and managers must look beyond traditional recruiting processes to pinpoint high-quality, engaged employees. The engaged workforce performs at a higher level, including a 37% reduction in absenteeism, a 65% reduction in turnover, a 10% increase in customer satisfaction and a 22% improvement in profitability.

These significant factors emphasize the need to fill the gap between what HR is assessing in recruiting and an organization’s operational needs to maintain high-quality customer service and ensure long-term employee performance.

Emotional affect is an indicator of engagement Researchers have identified inherent attributes that are key predictors of employee engagement and performance in the contact center. Emotional affect, or the energy and emotion (whether positive or negative) that a candidate brings to the interview, and communication skills are critically important in high-interaction contact center roles. Emotional affect in particular is significant because research shows that emotions lead engagement, and a more engaged employee is linked to better performance.

It can be difficult, however, to objectively and consistently test for emotional affect in a traditional job interview.3 Two recruiters might assess energy and voice quality, for example, differently in the same situation without even realizing it.

Voice can provide indicators that someone will be a good fit In a role where voice is often the only representative of a company, a contact center agent’s vocal characteristics are important. Clarity of speech, communication of concepts, energy, responsiveness or emotional tendencies are all conveyed vocally and can have an impact on perceived quality of service or an organization’s reputation.4 As a result, a candidate’s voice is a good indicator of how he or she will perform in the contact center environment and is key to the employee selection process.

New technology can not only help streamline and automate the elements of the interview process but also provide an objective unbiased assessment and prediction of employee aptitude, engagement and performance using voice analysis. In a new artificial intelligence (AI) model, employee engagement and performance is predicted by analyzing vocal characteristics during the interview process. The model leads a candidate through a series of work-related questions or virtual scenarios, and an algorithm does a deep analysis on recorded voice to break down how a candidate communicates and engages. Focusing on vocal energy, including positive displays such as alertness, excitement and enthusiasm as well as negative ones, such as passiveness, pace, boredom and silence, the system performs an analysis for high emotional affect. The technology identifies candidates who are highly positive and likely to perform well in contact center roles, whether sales, support or technical.

In doing so, the technology ensures that contact center leaders are letting the right people in the door so that when they get to forecasting, scheduling and employee engagement, they are doing it with the best employees. Learn more about the importance of recruiting the right employees and the voice analytics technology that can help in our white paper, “The Science Behind Employee Selection and Retention.” 1 Dale Carnegie Training white paper: Emotional Drivers of Employee Engagement and Gallup Report: State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide 2 "Emotional Drivers of Employee Engagement." Dale Carnegie. 2013. 3 Shetelboim, Ronen. "2017 Recruiter Nation Report: Evaluating the Perfect Hire," September 22, 2017. 4 March 2019 survey of NICE User Community.

Richard Correia Richard has many years of experience in Product Management and Product/Solutions Marketing, with time at Cisco, Turin/Force10, Dell, and CyrusOne. Accomplishments include managing the product direction and revenue of Turin/Force10 data center solutions from a few million, to just under a hundred million. At Dell, he was focused on marketing the different hardware and software components of the data center solutions. At CyrusOne, he changed the direction and strategy of marketing, focusing on greater ROI. Richard holds a bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering from University of Rhode Island and advanced degrees in Business & Engineering from Southern Methodist University.

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