How the Power of One Can Engage Your Employees

By Shannon Garcia, Liberty Mutual

A contact center has many challenges by nature of the way in which our customers are able to contact us.  One of the biggest challenges can center on behavior and engagement.

In a busy environment like a call center, it can be hard to resist the temptation to take a few minutes extra during a break, or have a slightly longer lunch than normal. After all, there might be hundreds of other agents on the phones taking calls. An individual agent might think it makes no difference if they skive off for a few minutes.1

Recent research by Gallup found that only 32% of all employees in the US, feel they are engaged. 2 Lack of engagement comes at a cost.  Higher absenteeism, turnover, shrinkage, and lower productivity can all be attributed to an employee’s level of engagement.

With contact center staffing costs driven primarily by payroll costs, adherence (a component of shrinkage) is critical in managing expense as well as engagement to retain efficient and effective talent.

Adherence in a contact center is difficult when compared to a traditional brick and mortar retail establishment. Imagine standing in line for five minutes and just as you are stepping up to the cashier, he walks away from his station. In these situations, adherence to schedule is far more likely as the customer can see who is going to assist them and a cashier walking away would create a very visible, bad customer experience.

For contact center employees, it is much easier to walk away as the customer cannot “see” who is next in line to assist them.  Therefore, taking time to go get coffee or chat with a neighbor doesn’t seem too terrible to the employee.

To mitigate this behavioral component, it is important to engage employees by providing information about the “Power of One” concept by demonstrating activities and set acceptable adherence goals for all employees.

An excellent visual exercise to help employees understand their importance with customer experience is to discuss what it would look like in a face-to-face interaction if they just walked away.  This also helps the employee understand personally how it would feel if they experienced the same situation.

Another option, and one of my favorites, is the balloon toss.  For new hire classes, we blow up a balloon for each employee plus about 5 more.  We then have them batting the balloons in the air, without letting those hit the ground.  About 30 seconds into the exercise, we ask one to sit down forcing the remaining to keep all in the air.  Every 30 seconds following, we continue asking one more to sit.  The resulting visual is extremely eye opening watching their peers have to work harder trying to keep all balloons in the air.

Balloon toss

These activities can truly drive home the message that each and every employee is important not only to the customer experience but also their peers.  Engagement and behavior are two different sides of the same coin.  Typically an engaged employee will display proper behaviors to ensure the customer and their peers are a priority.

Still not convinced?  The proof is in the numbers.  If you staff 100 employees at an annual salary of $55,000, and have 8% in adherence loss (shrinkage), the annual cost is $440,000 in nonproductive time: almost half a million dollars in company payroll for longer breaks, lunches, and chats with neighbors.

Increased engagement can also reduce absenteeism, another component of shrinkage and lower attrition.  The cost of onboarding a new employee is very expensive and therefore is in the best interest of an employer to retain employees.  Engaged employees also have higher productivity rates because the employees are more invested in the quality and efficiency of their work.

For more ideas on Power of One activities, please see the great options Penny Reynolds provided in the Summer 2015 On Target.

Vicki Herrell has also published an article focusing on these valuable activities.

Shannon Garcia, CWPP, is Senior Business Analyst with Liberty Mutual Insurance. She may be reached at

1 D. V. (2011, August 10). The Power of One. from

2 Mann, A., & Harter, J. (2016, January 07). 
Gallup.Com – Daily News, Polls, Public Opinion on Politics, Economy, Wellbeing, and World. The Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis | Gallup. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from