Conversations are essential for an HR professional’s job. Conversations are also complex.

What could appear to be a simple exchange of words is actually communication that conveys meaning through so many small factors. Not just the words themselves, but the pauses, the tone, the laughter or sighs.

In “New Ways of Working” initiatives – the idea of organising work towards realising people’s full potential – conversation is an important but rarely recognised tool.

I want to advocate managers and employees alike to make a conscious choice of work-modes depending on the task, whether it be collaboration, concentration, conversation or communication:

Call centric workers

I believe that the power of conversation has the potential to transform customer service, business opportunities and employee engagement. What is required to achieve this, are new ways of working factors such as job engagement, the right package of supportive technology, behaviours and culture – all of which are fundamental for reaching the highest level of productivity for call centric workers.

This group of employees, who should be a strategic priority for the business, need to focus on conversations in calls in order to produce value. Whether time spent on the call itself or preparing for a call, these people can work at different extremes of ‘efficiency focus’ and ‘value focus’.

Businesses are facing many challenges in creating productive working environments for these workers, as staff battle with many factors and distractions, such as noise, workspace and ineffective technology.

Productivity equation

All issues factor in to the “productivity equation”. Our recent research shows just how the different factors impact productivity for four different groups: the call centre agent, trader, civil servant and advisor.

HR professionals are represented in the civil servant group. It is estimated that 19% of customer service profiles are working in set-ups with efficiency focus, yet the complexity is relatively high.

These are roles such as IT, HR or government and civil service. They provide consultancy, yet conduct high volumes of calls and therefore must also remain focused on efficiency. HR professionals spend a significant amount of time preparing for the next lengthy and complex call, whilst also conducting some basic administrative work.

HR professional’s workplace

This brings us to the key question: what impacts the HR professional’s productivity? The research shows a couple of key factors:  

Sufficient concentrating conditions: HR professionals need sufficient conditions to spend time concentrating as they prepare for calls. They also feel that there are too many calls and emails during the day and that their surroundings are distracting – especially due to interruptions from colleagues and lack of privacy/ personal space. These factors contribute to a more stressful environment. 

Music as a stress protector: the single most important factor for upgrading productivity is to listen to music while working. With the need for concentration, this is no surprise. But it is the degree of productivity impact that is very interesting. It could be related to the stress issue, where music is a protection against stress by blocking out environmental noise.

Create an engaging environment: the creation of an environment where engagement and job satisfaction is very stimulating for the overall productivity. Here, the human factors matter, which is no surprise. However, as one of the pain points for this profile is lack of privacy, it is surprising that working within a supportive work space is not linked to greater productivity.

Support concentration zones: supportive technology and culture is a key focus. Basic technology is normally in place, which characterises the most productive profiles. The cultural aspect could be linked to a behaviour, around respect for the need for a concentration zone – so colleagues are not that loud and make fewer interruptions during the day. 

The key factors above are the basics to start from if looking for improving productivity in New Ways of Working initiatives.

Organisations should however continually ask themselves: Who is responsible for productivity in the modern workplace and how do we enable better productivity? How do we measure the impact of better productivity? Only then an organisation will make the most out of its employees.