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Contact Center

Rethinking Throughput Inside Contact Center Hiring

published by
Chandal Nolasco da Silva
April 26, 2024
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Rethinking Throughput Inside Contact Center Hiring

Picture this. Two companies have the same hiring targets to meet - we’re talking one hundred new employees every single month. And while the companies have the same headcount targets, they are using very different hiring strategies. One focuses on throughput, getting as many candidates in as fast as possible. The other focuses on hiring quality, so they screen as many candidates out as possible at the top of the funnel. 

Which strategy is most effective for call centers? Let’s discuss.

What is Throughput in Hiring?

TechTarget defines throughput as “a measure of how many units of information a system can process in a given amount of time.” In the hiring world, throughput refers to the volume of candidates making their way through the recruitment funnel, which helps hiring teams understand the number of candidates they need to achieve their hiring targets. The Head of Talent Operations at WellTech, Luke Eaton, breaks down the concept even further from a hiring perspective:

“In recruitment, we mean the number of candidates to successfully pass through our recruitment process in whatever time scale was agreed by the business. For example, This quarter, (x) many candidates at the start got us (y) many hires at the end.

Conversely, if a company needed to hire 100 new employees every month, they may realize that they need to put through at least 1000 candidates every month to meet this hiring target.

Using Throughput as a Metric in Contact Centers

Many companies and call centers struggle to keep up with hiring demands. Almost half of the contact center managers included in one survey felt that high agent turnover rates were the biggest operating problem they were facing. The constant churn leaves high-volume hiring teams on a never-ending hiring spree, while leadership tries to plan and create financial forecasts among these moving parts. 

It can definitely be challenging trying to grow a team and meet revenue targets while mitigating overhead risk and inefficiency, says Clevenue Co-Founder, Alex Handsaker. He adds “Throughput is a useful concept particularly when recruiting in hyper-growth businesses with large hiring targets, where recruitment is ongoing.” 

Throughput speaks to efficiency at different stages of the hiring process. For example, there can be a conversion rate at each stage of the candidate pipeline, and this rate is referred to as funnel throughput.  

While throughput can demonstrate efficiency or bottlenecks in a hiring process, one source suggests that it’s preferable because it’s a metric that HR teams can control (unlike so many other aspects of candidate behavior that recruiters can’t control but impact departmental KPIs).

Throughput Hiring Scenarios

High-level throughput helps give hiring teams visibility on how many candidates are moving through the pipeline, but is it something they should focus on? Are effective hiring results possible if the focus is on quantity rather than quality? Consider this common scenario focusing on quantity:

Scenario 1: Throughput as a focus to meet hiring objectives
A fast-growing call center needs to hire one hundred new employees every month, and the hiring team  puts through as many as possible to achieve these goals. Out of a thousand candidates, 100 are selected each week to go through to interview, for a total of 400 candidates each month. There are only two call center managers available to conduct these last-round interviews. That means 100 interviews per manager per week, or at least twenty interviews every single working day. Anytime there is a holiday, or someone is busy, or away from the office there is a bottleneck and the team can’t get offers out to candidates as fast as they thought, so candidates start falling out of the recruitment process. The recruitment team doubles down at this point increasing the amount of candidates they need per hire, while effort and costs increase simultaneously. The effort the hiring teams put into creating volume is wasted. More importantly, the focus on throughput distracts from the fact that candidate quality has lowered and attrition is through the roof. As a result, the cycle repeats and the negative impacts are compounded over time.

Now let’s consider an alternative scenario where a high-volume hiring center is focused on quality hires instead:

Scenario 2: Hiring quality as a focus to meet hiring objectives
A fast-growing call center needs to hire one hundred new employees every month. Out of 1000 candidates, just 30 make it through the initial screening process each week. Because there are only two call center managers available to conduct last-round interviews, the hiring team is focused on only the highest-quality candidates. The hiring team implements unbiased soft-skill screening, powered by AI, at the top of the hiring funnel avoiding bottlenecks during last-round interviews. The two hiring managers have just three interviews per day, they feel much less burnt out, and can focus on their job. As a result the candidate experience is better so fewer candidates drop out of the hiring process. Everyone is also encouraged by the fact that the focus on quality has meant that they’ve had higher-performing agents, and have reduced attrition rates significantly . The hires stay much longer than when they just focused on headcount numbers. Over time the hiring mandate lessens because agents stay and perform, and the positive impacts are compounded over time.

Both funnels get the same output volume, BUT scenario 2 costs less, and gets better performance. Scenario 2 (the one that isn’t focused solely on throughput) is better for contact centers.

One author recommends looking for particular sets of skills to help solve the throughput bottleneck problem. The latest HiringBranch performance report revealed that screening for the right set of skills early on in the hiring process was a highly effective way to curb attrition in call centers. That means if call centers screen for skilled performers, they can get higher-quality candidates on the job who attrit less.

At the end of the day, candidate quality wins over candidate quantity. Better screening at the top of the funnel ultimately leads to better stickiness after a job offer has been made.

A Healthier Way for Businesses to Think About Throughput

The scenarios above describe the harsh realities of hiring. If your team could know pre-interview who has the skills to be successful at the job - would you still opt to interview more people for throughput?

From this point of view, it makes sense to be more selective during the hiring process. While throughput may serve as a means to an end, it does so at a cost that becomes magnified in volume recruitment. 

Revenue throughput, a method that only adds staff as needed according to real data (not projected that can lead to layoffs!) is a healthier metric for high-volume hiring teams to focus on than just throughput itself. 

Don’t discount throughput entirely though. It can be a good measure of efficiency when broken down by stage in the hiring process. For example, if drop-out rates are high during the screening stage it could indicate that there is an issue with the job description. Throughput can be helpful but should never be the sole focus for recruiters.

Hiring teams with high-volume mandates need to selectively move candidates through the top of the hiring process to spare resources down the road. 

Honing in on the Right Hiring Scenario

There are many hiring metrics to aim for, and the right one for each business depends on its unique hiring scenario. Throughput in call centers can become a way to survival. Keeping up with the demand for good customer service, sales, IT support, and other customer-facing roles keeps hiring teams hiring around the clock. That said, throughput shouldn’t be the answer, it just leads to greater inefficiencies later on. Hiring teams with high-volume mandates need to selectively move candidates through the top of the hiring process to spare resources down the road. 

TLDR: Throughput needs to be thoroughly thought through (yes we went there) lol!

Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash/Arno Senoner

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