|Assessment Type:||Individual progressive portfolio of answers|
|Word count/Length||Each answer must be between 600 and 800 words long. (NOTE: 800 words is the MAXIMUM word limit for each answer. There is no +10% allowance on these questions.)|
This module introduces Organisational Behaviour (OB) theory and research to help you gain an understanding of the range of individual, group and organisational factors which can influence the way that employees behave in the workplace.
You are required to complete a progressive assignment, building a portfolio of FIVE short answers (600-800 words each), on a week-by-week basis, to satisfy the module learning outcomes:
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- Demonstrate knowledge of Organisational Behaviour (OB) theory and research
- Apply OB knowledge to analyse the causes of behaviour in the workplace at an individual, team and organisational level
Applying your knowledge from the module to the Insure-You and Re-Call case studies (Appendix A), answer questions 1-5. Support your answers with reference to relevant literature and research in the related areas using the Harvard Referencing system and examples from the case study to illustrate your points where appropriate.
Q1. On completion of week 4:
Discuss the use of rational and bureaucratic approaches to the organisation of work at Insure-You and its impact on organisational behaviour at the call centre. Using examples from Re-Call to illustrate your points, how could any negative impacts of rational work design be overcome?
Q2. On completion of week 6
Evaluate the use of personality testing in the recruitment process at Insure-You and Re-Call. What are the advantages and risks of this type of testing and how could the use of the tests be improved?
Q3. On completion of week 8
Compare the approach to and effectiveness of leadership and teamworking at Insure-You and Re-Call.
Q4. On completion of week 10
Use behavioural learning theory to outline how you could improve the approach to staff training at Insure-You. What could be the limitations to this approach?
Q5. On completion of week 12
How effectively has the introduction of new technology been managed at Insure-You? With reference to relevant research and examples from Re-Call, how could Insure- You improve its approach to managing change?
All answers must be:
- Between 600 and 800 words long. (NOTE: 800 words is the MAXIMUM word limit for each answer. There is no +10% allowance on these questions.)
- Supported with relevant literature using the Harvard Referencing system. This requires citations (references to relevant literature) within the answer itself which then must also be listed in full in a reference list at the end of your work. You may choose to place a reference list at the end of each question OR at the end of the full portfolio. Work will not be awarded a pass grade at this level of study without a clear demonstration of this skill.
For the final submission you must:
- Submit all FIVE completed questions.
Insure-You is a large telemarketing company who generate quotes and sell policies for a range of insurance products including motor, home, life and pet products. Their large, purpose-built call centre is based on an out-of-town industrial park in the North East of England. 800 work stations are organised across 3 floors with staff grouped into three departments:
- Inbound calls
- Outbound calls
- Customer service, claims and helpline
The business operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week with staff organised into 3 shifts. Day staff alternate morning shifts (6.30am-2.30pm) and afternoon shifts (2.30pm – 10.30pm) on a 2 week rota. A smaller permanent night shift team cover the hours 10.30pm– 6.30am to keep the claims and helpline services running on a 24hour basis. Call operators (agents) are organised into teams of 6-10 employees with a full-time permanent member of staff as team captain. Team captains report into supervisors who in turn report to the shift manager. The senior management team consists of the three shift managers, HR, IT and Finance managers and the Call Centre Manager who joined Insure-You from a rival company 18 months ago.
A small core of staff are employed on full and part time permanent contracts but the business also relies on a large number of agency staff and zero hours contracts to cope with seasonal fluctuation in call volumes as well as a high staff turnover rate. At 30% this is at the top end of the industry average. Absence rates are also high in relation to the industry norm, particularly within the night shift team. To keep up with the large number of vacancies this creates the organisation operates a fast and simple recruitment process based on an automated online personality test and a short application form. The training department run group induction sessions for new starters once per month where they process all the new starter paperwork while new recruits watch videos introducing them to the organisation and the computer and telephone systems. They then spend 4 hour watching a team captain handle calls before they ‘go live’ on the system.
As labour accounts for 60% of the centre’s overall costs, maximising staff productivity to handle call volumes is essential. Work is therefore intense with a target to answer 80% of calls in 30 seconds and to complete calls within 4 minutes. Agents follow online scripts on their computers to work through each call efficiently and are only allowed to leave their workstations for scheduled breaks to maximise staffing cover. Supervisors listen into calls and will provide advice to agents on how to end calls more quickly. ‘Dress-up’ days, competitions and nights out are organised regularly to try to provide relief from the repetitive and stressful work environment but staff participation in these organised events is often poor.
Nine months ago, the Centre Manager decided to introduce new interactive voice response and automatic call distribution technology to help speed up call handling further. The aim was to maximise the opportunity for sales and minimise the number of agents required. He quickly settled on a system he was familiar with from his old organisation and head office were impressed by the speed with which he purchased and implemented the new system. The system directs calls to relevant agents as soon as they indicate they are available on their computer. If operators are unavailable customers are placed in a queue. To minimise this, supervisors monitor data from the system on the number of calls taken be each agent, length of call and time spent on post call administration to manage agent performance. This information is also displayed on electronic screens throughout the centre. Two agents have recently been dismissed for taking unauthorised breaks by failing to indicate their availability for the next call on their computer.
The anticipated positive impact on sales from introducing the technology has been slow to materialise however. Sales figures have been falling behind budget for three months despite the introduction of a ‘star of the week’ award by the supervisory team. Customer complaints, collated on a monthly basis, also appear to be on the rise. The management team are spending more time than ever in their offices analysing sales and performance data. At the beginning of each shift the supervisors and shift manager review data from the previous day. Agents who are failing to meet the required performance standards may be asked to spend time in supervised calls with their team captain. Repeat offenders are placed on a warning system which may ultimately lead to dismissal if improvements aren’t achieved. Staff on a ‘warning’ are unable to qualify for the team based monthly sales bonus which can account for up to 20% of the agents take home pay. Agency staff are also barred from moving to a permanent role if they have more than 2 warnings on their file.
Re-call is an in-house call centre for a well-known high-street retailer, set up to deal with customer questions and complaints. They deal in particular with queries about deliveries and returns from their online delivery service. It consists of 100 workstations located within the organisation’s head office in central London. The call centre opening times are aligned with the organisations stores from 8am – 10pm. All staff are on full time or part time permanent contracts with the organisation and enjoy the same terms and benefits as staff in the main retail arm of the business. While some of the agents have been recruited directly to Re-Call all the supervisors and managers have had previous work experience in the main retail business. Similarly, there are clear career routes for agents to apply to move on to other areas of the business as opportunities arise.
Staff recruited directly to Re-Call undergo a detailed selection process including an interview and group activities designed to assess their ability to work within and lead a team. Personality testing is used to identify extrovert personalities with the ability to be helpful, friendly and empathetic towards customers. Successful applicants undertake a weeklong induction training programme where they spend time visiting one of the organisation’s warehouse and distribution centres, a full day in one of the retail stores and a presentation from one of the organisations senior managers outlining the company’s vision, mission and strategy. Staff also receive instruction and supervised practice on taking calls and operation of the associated computer systems. After completion of a 3 month probationary period, supervisors conduct a coaching session with employees twice per year where they spend time observing the employee at work, assessing their performance against a service quality check list and agreeing a development plan for each individual including clear objectives. This is a good time for staff to discuss any career aspirations they may have to move on further in the business and to explore how they can move towards this.
While many of the calls and enquiries staff receive are repetitive, staff also have to have good problem-solving skills to resolve the more complicated enquiries. They may need to make calls to store and warehouse teams to find a solution so strong communication and interpersonal skills are also a necessary requirement in the role. There is a strong emphasis on customer service in the call centre and this is monitored through customer satisfaction surveys as well as statistics on queue time, call length and abandoned calls.
Supervisors use a ‘heat chart’ to help with the staff scheduling process. This shows the percentage of calls answered within 2 minutes broken down into half hour cells for the whole week. Red cells show time slots were over 50% of calls take longer to answer. The supervisors work with relevant employees to investigate the cause of red cells to agree a temporary and/or long term solution as required. This could be because of an unusual spike in calls caused by a particular product or system problem, absenteeism, incorrect rostering or an increase in call complexity for example. Part time staff are willing to increase their hours temporarily to help out where they can and supervisors themselves are often seen stepping in to answer calls if the lines become busy. At quieter times they can often be seen ‘on the floor’ chatting to staff about their work or just sharing news about family, hobbies or what was on TV the night before!
Call handlers are organised into teams of 10-15 under a supervisor who is responsible for meeting with and briefing their team before each shift. Supervisors report directly to the call centre manager. Supervisors encourage staff to raise any problems or suggestions they may have to improve customer service and managers have formed small customer development action teams (CATs) to develop some of these ideas. The centre recently won a small cash prize from the organisation for an initiative developed by a CAT to introduce more sustainable packaging for online delivery. The idea came from an identified trend in customer feedback and the solution was developed in consultation with the main London based distribution centre. Re-call employees voted to donate the money to a local hospital charity where one of the team’s children had recently received some urgent treatment.
Staff are given a further ‘voice’ in the business through an employee focus group which meets within head office every other month. Re-call have two elected representatives who sit on this group. Supervisors provide time in their daily briefings for the representatives to gather staff views and opinions for the meetings and to feedback anything that has been discussed with a particular focus on consultation on any planned changes. Through this approach the team are kept up to date with what is going on at Head Office and throughout the wider organisation. For example the staff representatives and the forum have played a vital role in supporting staff through temporary changes that had to be made to keep the business working through the COVID pandemic, They helped to keep everyone informed about how and why changes were being made and acted as a vital communication link back to senior staff about how employees were coping and where additional support and information was required.
NOTE: Insure-You and Re-Call are fictional call centres but are based on research on genuine organisations found in the following articles which you may find interesting:
Chambel, M. Alcover, C. (2011) The psychological contract of call-centre workers: Employment conditions, satisfaction and civic virtue behaviours, Economic and Industrial Democracy, 32:1 115-134
Houlihan, M. (2002) Tensions and variations in call centre management strategies, Human Resource Management Journal, 12:4, 67-85
Robinson, G., Morley, C. (2006) Call centre management responsibilities and performance, International Journal of Service Industry Management, 17:3, 284-300.