‘Post Covid’ Recruitment Challenges facing Contact Centres in 2021

Contact Centres remain one of the UKs leading industries for employment across the country. Contact Babel’s report on the state of the industry 2020 – 2024 notes that:

  • There over 6000 call centres in the United Kingdom
  • There are around 812,000 agent roles within these centres
  • Over 4% of the UK’s working population is employed at a call centre
  • The average contact centre has 127 employees
  • Mean agent attrition in outsourcing is 4 times higher than in-house operations
  • New hire attrition rates are demonstrably influenced by on-boarding methods
  • Large centres have double the rate of attrition to smaller operations
  • The average contact centre management salary has increased to over £42K
  • Almost two-thirds of contact centres expect to have over 50% of their workforce working remotely in 2021


Having experienced a year of unparalleled retention within the contact centres industries, we are now emerging into a new era of contact centre hiring.  ‘Post Covid’ hiring has created huge opportunities for employers if their proposition is right.  However, there are also some huge challenges ahead, many of which have never been encountered before. So how can you avoid the inevitable rise in attrition and ensure you are an employer of choice in this new ‘Post Covid’ world?


The potential challenges ahead...

Competition - Market on the move - the job market is picking up pace again and we are going to see a rapid rise in attrition across many contact centres in the UK.

The opportunities for a ‘new era’ of working are rapidly emerging and it’s not just contact centres who are looking to recruit.  The hospitality industry is predicting an unprecedented rise in job vacancies as hospitality beings to open again and the surge for entertainment outside the home is predicted to be in huge demand.  Many EU workers have moved away from the UK and the hospitality industry is already quoting enormous challenges in recruiting staff.  Inevitably this will have a knock-on effect as the hospitality, retail & contact centre industries often recruit from a similar pool of potential candidates.

Solution: ensure that you can leverage off the benefits of working in a contact centre over retail and hospitality to include: blended working, better working hours, better shifts, less weekend shifts, better learning and development, better benefits, better work prospects and career development to name but a few!


Salary & Benefits - with the ‘National Living Wage’ for age 23 and over sitting at almost £9 an hour (£8.91) an equivalent 40hr permanent minimum wage is £18,532. 

Many contact centre salaries have not increased in line with this and considering the challenges and often complexities of working within a contact centre environment, salary has to be a clear differentiator when selecting (and remaining within) a job. As a comparison Aldi offer retail staff £9.55 an hour (£19,864 a year) and Amazon are paying £11.41 (£23,732) for warehouse operatives (this is in the North West region).  It’s imperative that you understand the market around you and are clear on what opportunities both your existing and potential employees have access to. According to the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA), staff turnover in contact centres is on average around 26% annually. Considering the national average is 15%, there’s clearly something particularly challenging about the role, so are you compensating the challenges accordingly?

Solution: ensure you really understand the market around you and that you are presenting yourself as an employer of choice, with associate salaries at the right level for the type of job you are offering and expectations you have of the potential employee.  Offer those commuting into the office subsidies on travel and parking etc.  Offer shift allowances for work outside of normal working hours (9am-5.30pm)


Working Shifts – many advisors list unsociable and weekend shifts as being one of the main reasons why they leave a job, so how do we combat this?

Real-life case study – client based in the North East with a small 30 strong customer service team, pre covid based in the office fulltime, they suffered attrition but nothing out of the ordinary.  Recently they all returned to the office and in the first 2 weeks of returning they have seen 6 advisors hand in their notice.  That’s 20% of their workforce leaving as a direct result of returning to the office environment.  The obvious question is why? And the answer is simple – they do not want to work early or late shifts in the office, and who could blame them? They have managed perfectly well working from home, no commute and no early or late starts, they can just fit the shifts into their life balance, and they can now find another job with a much better balance of home and office work. 

Solution: if you are able to offer a blended approach, then arrange the shifts around homeworking, it’s a simple way to combat the issues around working shifts!


Candidate Engagement & On-Boarding – how do employers ensure that candidates are engaged throughout the recruitment and on-boarding process?

Many employees who have been working from home or on furlough are now being asked to step back into the office again. With organisations starting to recruit, we are seeing a return to challenging show rates at assessment and interview, with a number of our clients even quoting issues with securing initial contact with applications (one of our clients quoted 40% of candidates not answering any form of initial contact).

Lots of candidates applying, not many following through and if you do manage to get in touch with them and they show interest, many (50% quoted by another client) are not showing for assessment events (if they are ‘in person’).  Contact Babel’s most recent report states that “New hire attrition rates are demonstrably influenced by on-boarding methods”, therefore it remains vital that on-boarding is a key priority for organisations looking to recruit.

Solution: continue to utilise on-line assessment methods where you can, its quicker, easier and more cost effective than face to face and its more likely that candidates will attend if they can attend from the comfort of their own home.  Ensure that you are designing an on-line assessment that is engaging, fun, informative and attention grabbing.  Ask key members of the company to perform introduction sessions and offer Q&A opportunities.  Create informative ‘virtual office’ show rounds and provide a virtual call listening exercise. Promote all the key benefits of working for the organisation and do everything you can to engage with candidates throughout the entire process. On-boarding must be a key priority for all organisations if they are looking to reduce attrition in the initial months of employment.


Employee Safety – nervousness around safe working conditions.

Seemingly lots of job seekers applying to adverts, but are they currently just dipping their toe in the water? We think that many candidates who are on furlough or nervous about returning to an office environment are currently just assessing the current market and as yet are not ready or in a position to actually accept a new job, which is potentially why we may be experiencing interest, but very little engagement.  Expecting candidates to attend ‘in-person’ assessments and to return to an office environment may still pose a big risk to those who are concerned around their health and safety in the workplace. 

Solution: ensure that safety at work is a key priority for your organisation and make sure you clearly explain this at every opportunity. 


Office Working, an Employee Choice - for many existing and potential employees the option to work from home is not the desired option.

As with everything, working from home has its disadvantages, especially for on-boarding new employees, many of which (in contact centres) are at an early stage of their career.  Often new employees require effective training and development, and the lack of social interactions can extremely limiting for those looking to start and develop their careers in busy office environments. Many employees do not want the isolation of working from home, often in environments that do not lend themselves to productive and effective working.

Solution: The real winners here are the organisations who are able to offer a blended approach and can meet the needs of all their employees.  If managed correctly a ‘hybrid’ model can offer the best solution possible, not only to offer flexibility to their employees, but also create opportunities to recruit talent from further afield and not having to rely on a totally ‘local’ workforce.  This solution for many contact centre organisations is revolutionary, with many locations becoming saturated with contact centres, the ability to recruit away from these locations can offer a huge competitive advantage in sourcing talent.  



Recruitment can be challenging for any organisation and can be dependent on so many factors, however if you want to attract, recruit and retain talent, you need to focus on four main elements to ensure success:

  1. Market leading proposition to attract candidates to include salary, benefits, shifts, flexibility and work-life balance.
  2. Excellent on-boarding processes to include assessment and training.
  3. On-going candidate engagement to develop and promote excellent employee wellbeing and retention.
  4. Investment in people, systems and technology to support a new era of hybrid working.


Cactus Search and Frontline offer a unique proposition in Contact Centre resourcing

  • We provide the only specialist volume resourcing solution within all areas of a contact centre business. We offer a tailored approach designed to meet individual project requirements.
  • The business has developed a holistic approach that offers our clients a partner, with the expertise to meet their resourcing needs from Operations Director to Frontline Advisor.
  • Whether we are recruiting in our core contact centre management, technical or frontline disciplines or offering additional support in HR, Finance, IT, Marketing, Supply Chain or Training, we have become a trusted partner to many of the UK’s largest corporate & outsourced centres

The power of the combined Cactus brands, backed by market expertise, robust processes and a desire to deliver the highest quality of service, makes us a strong ambassador for any business in what is a highly competitive and constantly evolving market.


For more details contact Francesca Randle, Director Cactus Search - f.randle@cactussearch.co.uk