Self-organizing teams: employees in power and in their strength!

Many Contact Centers are still traditionally set up with regard to the management of people and teams: directive management. This is as I know most customer contact organizations that manage tens or hundreds of people. WFM is leading and Team Leaders and Managers generally determine what happens on the floor. But this model seems to become obsolete very quickly. Employees themselves at the wheel, that’s the motto! Ine Beljaars (AEGON) shared with us her story about how she got it in the classic way in Aegon’s Contact Center. successfully transformed from management to self-organizing teams.

The organization had operated according to the traditional model for years, with the telephony channel still having the largest share in the contact with customers. In addition, the management had been trying for a long time to connect with the various changes that were going on: an increase in the need of customers for digital and the desire of the management to significantly reduce costs with a much better customer experience. That did not work well enough and did not go the way it went, the cake was gone. It was time for a change! Time for a different strategy and new way of working.

The first steps of the organization towards self-managing teams

The first step that Aegon made in self-organizing teams was to adjust the starting point for customer contact. “We ensure that it works and that you do not have to contact us” was the new credo. If you still want contact, you first follow the self-service route. As a last resort, there is always live contact. So the focus became to proactively arrange things for customers. If there was still a need for contact, it would first be done via self-service. Then via the Chat or Whatsapp and finally by phone.

The next step in the process was to clarify the frameworks and objectives: better customer service at lower costs. This purpose has been translated into goals, ambitions and ultimately into KPIs for Cutsomer Services.

Why does Aegon choose the team that puts employees at the wheel?

You may wonder what the reason was for Aegon to opt for self-organization, something that was completely unknown to them. This reason has probably been one of the most important drivers of success: the urgency to do things differently. In addition, there was a need for greater agility and the desire to make much better use of people’s knowledge and talents.

What was the approach?

First of all, they chose to create space for the desired change and to experiment with the new way of working. Subsequently, it was decided to implement a phased implementation based on the Shu Ha Ri method.

Picture: phases SHU HA RI

We explain a number of elements per phase.

Shu:

  • Organize the right Mindset. Make sure that people are able to give and receive feedback. This is a process that takes time and attention and involves trial and error.
  • Organize support processes within the team. Let the teams determine their availability and planning with each other within the set framework of the purpose and objectives.

HA:

  • Send the WHAT and leave the HOW to the experts. This is generally the hardest part for executives.
  • Work from your own clear and supported purpose and additional criteria and stick to them. These frameworks are absolutely necessary. This means that policy aspects are still determined at management level.
  • Give employees room to control, trust and responsibility. If you say that you let the employees do it, really give them space and let them solve it themselves when things go wrong.

RI:

  • Teams are self-organizing and optimize processes independently and with each other. The employees are the specialists and they know better than anyone where the possibilities for improvement lie.
  • The manager facilitates the team. So support and coach, ask questions and help. Set clear goals and frameworks and no assignments or direction. Do it yourself.

So create the right mindset, use the talents and qualities of the team, give employees room to regulate, trust and responsibility, see mistakes as improvement steps and stick to the goal.

What were the results in practice?

Overall, the NPS score has increased enormously. In addition, all support activities have been reduced by almost half compared to the old situation. Ine also has a clear opinion: agile leadership improves the joy of working for the teams and also has the result that internal mobility is created instead of people leaving.

And what are the main learning points?

  • The entire process is a typical process of learning by doing. So take your time and accept that it is a learning process.
  • Self-organization is and remains a means, keep focusing on the goal!
  • A joint responsibility also requires great flexibility in tasks and roles. Think out of the box when it comes to organizing this.

Overall, a very educational process from which the employees have gained more job satisfaction.

Was this all Ine had to say? No definitely not. There was much more to tell and to share with the colleagues present. Are you curious and do you want to know more? Send me an email: wietse.westerhuis@dimenzi.com.

Wietse Westerhuis

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