Powershop’s call centre has almost no turnover. Here’s our secret:

Our HR Manager, Craig Scott-Hill, has another blog post to contribute;

As our call centre is based in Masterton, we have hired a lot of people who are either related to each other or are good friends. There is a limit to how far we can go with this, and it doesn’t help build diversity.

When we advertise we easily get well over 100 applicants, all sending us a CV. So while I was pushing for us to advertise all our call centre vacancies, our team leaders were reluctant because of the screening time involved, and then when we interviewed candidates (off the CV) it would be clear to us some were a poor fit in the first few minutes of the interview.

Most employers and HR folks will agree that CVs tell you little about a person’s attitude. They’re carefully scripted. Anyone can call themselves a team player, mood maker, problem solver or people person. CVs are pieces of artifice. They’re PR puffery. And we all know it.

So we learned that experience working in a call centre and CV’s alone haven’t been helpful to predict good performance. So I asked our Team Leaders to tell me, what is the key thing we should be looking for? Quite simply it came down to attitude, ethics like hard work, determination, pride with customers, and working well with a variety of different people.

So now we were stuck, if the CV isn’t a good first filter then how are we going to hire for attitude or personality? Especially with the list I’d been given.

So chuck that CV away. Well, until further down the recruitment process at least. This is how it works at Powershop when we hire for our contact centre.

We like to know three things about someone to make sure they will get on with us and love working here: that they ‘give a shit’, love to ‘be awesome’, and ‘embrace unique’. So instead of looking at someone’s CV we just ask them questions. Not about work experience, but about things like dishwashers.

It’s amazing what you can learn about someone from the office dishwasher. No other site in the workplace can so easily generate a rage induced tantrum from something as innocuous as dishes left on the bench instead of being put in the dishwasher.

Do they respect common space? Can they handle conflict? Are they just lazy or disrespectful? Do they write passive aggressive post its?

Of course we ask about much more than dishwashers. My point is that if the CV is the basis to decide on an interview then, it’s pretty much useless if attitude is what you are recruiting for. Without good cultural fit (built on great attitudes), our crew, our culture and our customers are all being sold short, and we just cannot risk this. Our culture, helps us deliver outstanding customer service, and helps us make Powershop hard to leave.

We also believe in giving people radical choice, because if we are telling our crew how to be, then they can never be the real person they are. We want people who can make decisions for themselves, who bring their personality to work, not to leave it at our front door. Our customers deserve to speak with real people not to a call centre script. So wear what you want to wear be it a three piece suit or a onesie. That’s fine, you choose not us. You’re happy working
at a desk fine, standing up fine, sitting down fine, or lying down fine.

So we ask them to post a photo. It can be of anything – pets, friends, favourite food. This gives us a sense of the choices they have made, and the chance to ask open ended questions to get a clear idea of what it’s actually going to be like to spend eight hours a day in close proximity to them.

If you think about it, many of us spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our friends, partners or families. We don’t pick the latter based on what they studied or where they’ve worked – so why should it be any different in the workplace?

Only once we’ve chosen our candidates do we ask for a CV. It’s never used to shortlist candidates, but rather to corroborate what we’ve already heard from our top choices.

Our results speak for themselves. The average contact centre has a turnover rate of around 25 percent a year. At Powershop, fewer than one in ten people leave every year, and that’s usually because of life changes like heading overseas or having a child.

And unsurprisingly, people who like where they work perform much better than those who turn up for the paycheck. Powershop’s customers have rated us higher than any other power company’s customers have rated their power company* for the last five years running in an independent survey, and as our call centre is the front line of our customer experience, they can take credit for the accolade.

We put this down to the culture we have created and our hiring decisions are essential to achieving a great culture which puts personality well ahead of the CV. Because we can all look good on paper, but at the end of the day it comes down to them getting on with us, and us getting on with them.

And clearing their f*cking dishes.


* Customers from seven other New Zealand power companies were surveyed.

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