Fire Up Your Team – Panorama Magazine

Barbara Bradbury, vice president at AnswerPlus Inc., has a surprising answer when asked why the 48-year-old call centre has been such a success over the years.

The customer doesn’t come first.

Our employees have to come first. We’re selling a service and you’re only going to give good service by having good and happy people, she says. We probably devote 70 per cent or more of our time and resources on our employees  coaching, training, monitoring. IT’s all about them.

Barbara Bradbury, Vice President at AnswerPlus Inc

Barbara Bradbury, Vice President at AnswerPlus Inc

The company’s ability to attract and retain good and happy people was recognized last year when AnswerPlus won the Hamilton Human Resources Hero Award, marking it an HR leader within the Hamilton business community.

AnswerPlus, a full-service, 24/7, inbound call centre specializing in emergency response, has 40 employees at its Hamilton office, the majority of them fulltime. The call centre industry traditionally has high staff turnover, but AnswerPlus bucks the trend because of its dedication to employee retention.

The key is recognizing the goals and values of today’s younger workforce  the post Baby Boom Generation X, and their younger siblings, Generation Y. I can’t tell people enough: if becoming an employer of choice is not your goal, you are not going to keep Gen X and Gen Y people, Bradbury insists. They will come in, do a great job for you, they will give you what skills they have learned, they will learn what skills they can get from you  but if you can’t keep stimulating them, if you can’t keep challenging them, they will leave you and go somewhere else, she says.

The biggest key is to keep them involved in everything that happens. You have to give them perpetual feedback. Otherwise, they don’t see a future for themselves with you. Pay scales at AnswerPlus are based on skill sets, rather than tenure. Because our clients vary so much, we have 12 different skill sets. When you’ve mastered one, we’ll move you up to the next one. And as you move up through the skill sets, you’ll recognize an increase in pay, Bradbury says. Staff members are rewarded with performance bonuses based on evaluations of their phone calls. Corporate awards that the company receives are celebrated with special events. Management and sales meetings are open to any employee who wishes to attend and the minutes are posted for all to see.

Working at a call centre can be stressful, so AnswerPlus has been known to bring in a massage therapist on particularly hectic days. It has also set aside its own Tranquility Base, a quiet room where employees can relieve stress.

It’s all part of looking after our people. We feel a moral obligation to be doing this. It’s often the little things that make the difference.

Inspired and engaged employees will take your business to the next level
By Paul Mitchell
Reprinted from Panorama Magazine