Something interesting is happening in the current US labor market. For so long, the business news cycle has been punctuated by bad-news stories of unemployment and a sense of economic malaise. However, some recent statistics provided by Career Builder are providing some reason for optimism.
One of the most telling trends borne out in Career Builder’s analysis was that of current unemployment, which increased from 4.9% to 5% between February and March in the US. This is a reflection of more people re-entering the American labor force, meaning more people actively seeking work. In fact, the number of Americans participating in the workforce is at its highest point in a year. Contact center leaders should view this trend as an interesting opportunity for on-boarding new talent.
For US contact center managers, having more applicants is a problem that many of their counterparts overseas would love to have. More choice of potential recruits not only means less pressure to hire someone that may not be appropriate for a front-line customer service role, but a larger talent pool means the chance to select from more applicants that have the customer experience skills required to ensure positive voice and non-voice interactions. The impact on agent churn cannot be understated either; over the past several years attrition has been at a crisis point in the US, and more fluidity in the labor force will mean greater opportunity for hiring agents that want to make a career in the contact center space, as opposed to those that are inclined to use it as a stop-gap until something better comes along. Contact center managers can also take advantage of a reinvigorated pool of applicants, many of which will be re-entering the workforce with enthusiasm and energy, the perfect profile for delivering high-end customer experiences.
However, this trend must be tempered with some realism as well. It is true that US contact centers can benefit from a larger labor pool from which to draw talent, but forward looking managers will also realize that some challenges will need to be overcome. An obvious one will be re-integrating individuals into the workforce that in some cases have not been employed (or sought employment) for nearly a decade. How best to make such individuals feel at home in a modern contact center environment, when the technology, telephony and work practices will have evolved from the last time they were employed full time? Equally, one of the points cited by Career Builder in their analysis revolves around the demographic of those Americans coming back to the labor market, in that it will reflect an aging population. In many cases those close to the traditional retirement age (or individuals already past that milestone) will only be looking for casual employment, meaning more favorability toward casual roles as opposed to a traditional full-time work week, thus putting pressure on scheduling.
The increase in size of the American labor force is good news for all sector of the economy and should be embraced by contact center managers. But, careful planning will be required in order to take full advantage of this emerging trend.