Improving Group Productivity the National Call Center Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Improving Group Productivity

The National Call Center for the Veteran's Administration (VA) Education Department employs over 700 people, which can be called upon to answer incoming calls from veterans. Within the four regional offices, there are employees of various positions, including Case Managers, Educational Liaison Representatives, application processors, and leaders who verify compliance, productivity, etc. With all employees being called upon to answer incoming calls, each employee needs to be aware of changes on an immediate basis, which can incorporate over 50 changes on a given day. As a result of work demands on all employees in different roles of the organizational structure, adequate training programs are of extreme importance in ensuring employees are properly trained, contain clear definitions of expectations in the various roles, and support teamwork within the groups to provide for efficiency in operations as well as performance goals and objectives.

A key component to the process is the accuracy, privacy, and the way personal information is accessed and transferred. The Call Center's information system is set up with automated functions that provides information, call back options when call volumes are high, and scheduled call back for callers to schedule appointments, as well as system generated messages with scanning and digital copying options for paperwork (GI Bill, 2013). The veterans are required to provide continually updated information. In the information collection process, information is required to be accurate the first time, every time, therefore how information is received by each employee is extremely important. The privacy of the information, how it is accessed, and transferred can affect the benefits received by the veteran as well as identity theft, etc.

The key issues identified within the VA's Education Department consists of role conflicts within the groups, communication problems among group members, lack of cohesiveness in groups with diverse members, and excessive intergroup conflicts. Role conflict can come in various forms. A supervisor may be a friend and mentor to another employee and forced into decisions concerning the leadership of the employee vs. being a friend, causing a disagreeable situation within the group. Work and family balance can also create role conflicts in meeting family needs conflicting with work hours, causing absenteeism. Employees may be attending school themselves and work hours may contradict class schedules, also causing absenteeism if the employee feels school is more important at the time. The absenteeism of employees causes stress in the work groups in meeting performance demands and may cause a reduction in employee morale and performance with resentments in expectations to pick up someone else's slack.

Communication breakdown in groups causes conflicts with misunderstanding, misinformation, and perceptions. Employees may not fully understand job expectations, which can cause low morale, feelings of frustration, and job dissatisfaction, which in turn causes low productivity. Misunderstanding job expectations causing a waste of time that slows productivity. Misinformation can also cause loss of productivity in having to do corrections that would not necessarily have to be made if information was adequate to start with. Employees may develop their own perceptions if communications are not clear, which causes conflict in expectations required to meet performance goals.

Lack of adequate cohesiveness in diverse work groups cause conflict with misunderstanding other group members, and can cause loss of team spirit and team performance in the group as a whole. Group members may not understand cultural diversity and how to utilize the diverse skill sets to optimize group performance. It can cause members to feel isolated and feel there is no value in the group for them, reducing team spirit. It leads to individual skills not being adequately used and low performance of the group as a whole. It could also cause a high turnover in group members where they don't feel valued and seek the desired value elsewhere.

Excessive intergroup conflict creates competition between groups and causes low productivity as groups compete against each other, losing focus of the corporate mission and goals. The competition between the groups can cause dysfunction, or confrontation among groups that hinders the organization from meeting goals or objectives as well as low employee moral across the organization as a whole. Different groups may not have the same qualities, values, or unique traits and the differences may cause defensive responses to outsiders who offend a group attribute. As a result, it reduces morale among groups and slows productivity.

For recommendations in addressing the problems, individual training, training materials, performance evaluations, and goal setting needs to be a big part of role conflict resolutions. The assessment for training needs should be done in an elaborate, comprehensive, and methodical manner (Training Needs Assessment -- An Important HRD Function, n.d.). Basic training needs consist of new skills, upgrade skills, new technologies, and, in promotional situations, managerial and leadership skills. A check list of employees and the matrix of each employee training needs can help organize training to meet all training needs. A gap analysis should be done to incorporate gaps between employee identified needs and managerial identified training needs into the matrix. The comprehensive training plan needs to incorporate individual training needs based on organizational goals and missions.

Link training programs to specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound goals (SMART Goals) (Linking Training Programs with Organizational Goals, n.d.). The training programs need to meet specific needs with specific focus. The goals need to be realistic in skill enhancement and be done on a periodic basis for learning retention. When training is conducted on a continual basis, employee skills are built on a continual basis and builds job satisfaction and value, not to mention the benefits to the organization in meeting specific goals and objectives of adequate productivity levels.

Cognition training also needs to be incorporated into the training processes, both employee and leadership training, to build awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment into the knowledge processes (Archibald, 2013). Cognitive skill training allows leaders to learn how specific roles and complementary skills and talents can be aligned with the organizational goals to gain a common purpose. Cognitive skills training for employees can equip them to learn how to use the skills and roles of other group members to meet goals without supervision and enhance the group productivity levels. It builds a devotion to the purpose to the point of doing all that is humanly possible to bypass barriers and achieve goals. Employees become highly skilled and capable of role interchangeability within limits of authority. Leadership can be supplied by various individuals according to need at the moment within realistic limits of scope and authority. The cognitive training should provide models of conflict resolution to prevent roadblocks, clear focus and intense energy, shared norms and values, strong sense of accountability, and high levels of mutual trust towards each other.

When an employee maintains cognitive readiness, they have the capability of adapt to and quickly address new, unpredictable, unforeseen changes, as well as act dynamically and proactively with self-efficacy. They learn to demonstrate, to a high degree, a core capability of adaptive expertise and reactiveness in the management of assigned tasks. This includes being empathetic towards other group member's problems, a positive attitude, and strong focus on goals, as well as the enjoyment of work.

Leadership training should include skills to identify, build, maintain, motivate, lead, and inspire high performance. It includes interpersonal skills that provide opportunity for high performance, individual effectiveness, confidence development, and drive. The leader should be able to manage the influence of stakeholders in relation to the organizational goal requirements and ensure successful outcomes. This includes the provision of accurate, clear, and comprehensible job descriptions (Martin, 2007).

Poor relationships is the top cause for leadership failure and should be a strong focus in leadership training efforts (Poor relationships top cause for leader failure, 2011). Leaders need the ability to enable group members to work together to meet goals in an appropriate and timely manner. This includes understanding of cultural differences that can cause ethical issues among group members and weaken communications. It also includes motivation to drive employees and meet basic needs, the need for recognition and the need to actualize one's vision and reach the highest stage of personality (Importance of Motivation in Human Resource Management (HRD), n.d.). Taking care of needs at each level enables employees to climb the ladder in a more efficient way. The use of individual skills incorporated into group efforts boosts performance and adds a sense of value in employees.

Training materials should be based on increasing the skill levels of employees. They should incorporate testing at the end of the training to evaluate for understanding and perceptions within the training itself. The tests should be used as measures of the effectiveness of the training and the understanding of the training perceived by the employees.

Performance evaluations should consist of objectives that include clarification of roles and responsibilities, constructive feedback to members, discovery of unknown or unresolved issues, development of individual training plans, and development of specific goals for future time periods. This includes 'best practices' and 'next practices' to show…

Sources Used in Document:

Bibliography

Anthony, L. (2013). How do I Improve Team Communication? Retrieved from Chron: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/improve-team-communication-3077.html

Archibald, R.D. (2013). nlocking a Project Team's High-Performance Potential Using Cognitive Readliness: A Research Study Report and Call to Action. PM World Journal, vol 11, issue XI, 1-46 Retrieved from http:/;/pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/pmwj16-nov...unlocking-high-performance-FeaturedPaper.pdf.

Fisher, R. (2005). Intergroup Conflict. Retrieved from Colorado University: http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/example/fishint.htm

GI Bill. (2013, Nov 22). Retrieved from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: http://gibill.va.gov

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