Released on DECEMBER 8, 2023
In Season 8 of The Office, Andy Bernard gets creative with an employee incentive plan to drive better profitability. His points system is met with apathy until he ups the ante with some pretty bizarre and embarrassing potential rewards. In typical Andy fashion, his plan backfires spectacularly.
Kory Kostecka, the Director of Workforce Solutions at Paramount Staffing, believes contact centers need to adjust to attract and retain top talent, but he wouldn’t advise using Andy’s method. Instead, he offers some relatively simple strategies that will make your talent management successful in 2024 and beyond.
• Post-COVID shifts in hiring criteria
• How companies can earn employee loyalty beyond pay
• How to communicate career path opportunities
• Big trends for 2024
• One thing younger workers want more than ever before
Connect with Daniel on LinkedIn
Music courtesy of Big Red Horse
Rob Dwyer (00:01.054)
Hey Corey, thanks for being next in queue. How are you today?
Kory Kostecka (00:05.758)
Hey Rob, thanks for having me. I'm doing good. That time of year is extremely busy for me, but I can't complain. Excited to be here. Thank you.
Rob Dwyer (00:14.646)
Well, thank you for taking the time. It is a busy time of year for you. Why don't we talk before we really dive into our topic today, why don't we talk a little bit about your background and what you do today?
Kory Kostecka (00:30.354)
Yeah, absolutely. So I'm Corey Costecca. Currently, I work with Paramount Staffing. I am the Director of Workforce Solutions. So we focus on contact center hiring specifically. And that's a little bit about my background as I've been in the staffing industry for about a decade now. Really my first job out of college. I think every company revolves around people, processes, and technology. And I have a passion for the people side.
As to why the contact center space. I think I am the only person in this space that grew up that said Or what you know when I was growing up said when I'm older I want to be in the call center space I think a lot of people kind of land there by accident But my family just has a big background in the space grew up around it Was always in and out of call centers growing up and I said, you know, I kind of like this line of work It's fascinating what's going on inside of these call centers. I want to be a part of it somehow
just didn't know exactly how. But like I said, I love the people side of the business. So working at Paramount where I kind of can combine the people side and the call center space specifically, it's a perfect home for me.
Rob Dwyer (01:42.434)
I will say, yes, absolutely. You're one of the few people who said, yes, this is what I wanna do when I grow up. You're 100% correct. For most of us, we fall into it. It was never a dream of ours, but you're not the first person that I've talked to that had that goal when they were younger. Similar story, right? Kind of grew up in the call center, family business, and they...
certainly wanted to be involved in it as, as they grew up. So we're going to talk about hiring and recruiting and some of the trends and what's different today and how things are going to be moving forward. But I think I'd like to get your perspective. If we just back up a little bit, uh, the last four years have. Really changed a lot of things. And so.
Can you take us back to 2019, maybe even very early 2020 and talk about kind of what things were like at that time both from what people were looking for and how difficult or challenging it was to fill roles in contact centers and maybe a little bit about the people that you were.
that you are bringing on board to your partners.
Kory Kostecka (03:14.502)
Yeah, how I look at it is it's really like the pre-COVID and post-COVID. I think that's, you know, everybody kind of says that's what's really changed the hiring. And I think there's some truth behind that where, you know, when you look at today where our unemployment is creeping up a little bit versus you look at a couple of years ago where we had some record low unemployment going into kind of that COVID is, you know, you have a smaller talent pool.
And I think companies really had to set themselves apart as to why they were attractive. You had to have good rates coming in. And it was a lengthy interview process four years ago. I think things have changed a lot where that's really speeding up and kind of what we're looking for in candidates has changed. But I would say pre-COVID was a lot of the hard skills.
that we're getting judged when you're coming into a contact center with some of these interviews of You know, I need to look at this previous experience. I need to walk you through this three interviews that process we need to test for X Y & Z do you have experience using this and It was you know, I'm trying to with this though with this low talent pool the small talent pool with a low unemployment rate I really have to be on the search for
who are meeting all these hard skill qualifications and let's make them jump through some hoops, to get this job where I think when COVID hit and everybody got sent home remote and there was this big frantic, how do we keep people working if we can't have them into the office, we have to change all of our strategies, which I think changed a little bit of that candidate profile people are looking for, where it's more so of some of these softer skills.
is I think became a big trend and then kind of leading into today it's you know the unemployment's creeping a little bit back up but it's now it comes down to money with inflation coming up and wage inflation of you know candidates are demanding more and companies are trying to pay less with all this technology coming out so if you look at the last five years it really shifted from
Rob Dwyer (05:05.628)
Kory Kostecka (05:27.882)
kind of a hard skill. I want to be picky. I want to make people jump through hoops. To nowadays, it's, I want to get somebody for this dollar amount and, you know, meeting some of these basic requirements that we have just to get somebody in the door. That's not going to turn over in the first 30 days. Um, there's just been a huge shift. I think of what kind of talent pool you're getting of, you know, used to be very local to now it's, Hey, I want somebody that can at least answer calls in these time zones.
And now because I'm hiring remote I can search across the whole country. I'm not looking in a 20 mile radius You know, those are just some of top of mind of really what's changed but really that interview process of hard skills versus soft skills I think is the biggest difference. I'm seeing over the last couple years
Rob Dwyer (06:13.914)
Yeah, that's really interesting. So let's talk a little bit about those skills that employers you feel like are really now focused on. What particular ways do you go about assessing those skills? And what are the specific skills that you're looking for when we talk about soft skills?
Kory Kostecka (06:37.45)
I think emotional intelligence or EQ is a huge piece of it. I think with all the technology that we have nowadays within the contact center, such as like a live assistant agent or any of these tools that can help give your agents a higher IQ, I think that everybody has access to that. We're seeing that being implemented every day, every week. It seems like something new is coming out, but more so of that emotional intelligence piece of...
you know, how well can you talk to somebody? How well can you empathize with your customer? We can tell you all the scripts and we can even, you know, it used to be here's a script and follow this and now it's something in the background is running, listening and transcribing what the customer is saying and it can pivot for you to say, hey, you know, actually follow this new script. So we can make somebody sound smart, but it's your ability to talk that talk track and really empathize with the customer.
I think that that's a huge piece of it nowadays is how friendly are you? What is that customer service voice sound like because we can give you all the other tools
Rob Dwyer (07:46.742)
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, knowledge is something that is easier and easier to gain in real time based off of the tools that the contact center can provide. But being nice is not something anyone can just provide you. You have to bring that to the table and it's ever more important too. I think as. Customers.
Number one, in some environments can be, I would say, overdemanding at times. I mean, there's a certain, I think, level of stress in the world today that causes people to behave in ways that aren't necessarily desirable. And being able to counter that with a really friendly demeanor and tone to
accomplish whatever needs to be accomplished is really critical in the contact center. Let's talk a little bit about both wages and kind of what people are looking for from a scheduling standpoint, both on the employer side and these potential employee sides. Have you seen a change in both what employers are looking for and what...
what these potential employees are looking for.
Kory Kostecka (09:16.778)
Yeah, in regards to wages, I think we're all aware of the wage inflation that's happening, where especially during COVID, I mean, a company down the road is paying 25 cents more and you're going to lose half your agents. And it really came down to money is what I'm looking for. And I think during that 2020-2021 time period, it was this battle over who can afford to pay the most, which really, really drove up those
wages and I think we're now at a point where it's can we drive those back down and is you know, it's very expensive to get somebody in here full-time and can we use technology to maybe make up for not having as much people. I think that that's a huge trend we're seeing so I think that trend from the employee side is shifting away.
I think when the unemployment was low, it was an employee market where they could demand more. When a company is making you jump through all those hoops and they found the perfect candidate, somebody would say, well, I need to make X or else I'm gonna go down the road because someone's willing to pay that. Where I think shifting into 2023, 2024, and even looking in the future is that there's a lot more ways that a company can earn an employee's loyalty other than money. So I think that that's gonna help it. And one of those things is schedule.
And what I will say is becoming a bigger trend is kind of this Uber model of scheduling or flex scheduling from the employee side. I think if you look at the younger generation, a lot of the jobs that people are taking are gig work, whether you actually want to be an Uber driver or you want to be on TikTok and you're a social media influencer, you can create your own schedules nowadays with this younger generation where that it's.
very attractive to them. Be your own entrepreneur, create your own schedule, run your own business. And I think that will continue to be an interest for the younger generation of that flexible scheduling of I want to work when I want to work. I want to create my own schedule. I want to be able to have a four day weekend so I can travel.
Kory Kostecka (11:20.458)
If I'm not working a hybrid position or even a 100% remote position, I want to give myself the opportunity because a lot of my peers are working those and they can go out and do the things that they want. I want that as well as an agent. So yeah, I want my own schedule. I think from the employer side, it's interesting because a lot of people hear that, but it's hard to implement it depending on the type of business that you have because...
When you have maybe 20 agents on the floor and your peak call times at 6 p.m. and everybody wants that time off, how do you address that challenge? Where there's that fine line between, I wanna listen to our agents, I wanna give them what they want, but it's becoming a challenge for employers to accommodate for that due to just the nature of your business. Now, if you're only open eight to five, that's fine, but if you have a 24-7 call center, it's very hard when you're looking.
Rob Dwyer (11:53.975)
Kory Kostecka (12:14.334)
from that workforce management standpoint and scheduling of how do we do this if people are creating their own shifts where there's almost this hybrid shift schedule where it's hey these three days you have to have those locked in these other two we're giving you the option to pick your schedule so I think that there's this happy medium where we're finding that equilibrium between what's going to work for the employer and what is the employee want. So it's very interesting to see how that's going to.
kind of evolve as we navigate into the next couple of years, as I think more and more of the younger generation is gonna want that flexible schedule. It's just what creative ways our employer is gonna be able to accommodate.
Rob Dwyer (12:56.382)
Yeah. You know, you hit on something that I think is maybe not all that well understood across both the industry and the people who are working the front lines in the industry. And that is that the workforce demand and scale drives a lot of what I'm able to do in terms of flexible scheduling.
Right? If I am open 24 seven and I have certain call arrival patterns, there are requirements for me to meet the expected service level to give a good customer experience to those people calling in. So they're not on hold for 20 minutes waiting just to have someone answer the phone. I have to have a certain number of people ready to take those calls. And.
While that may not be the most desirable shift, as a business, we have to meet our customers where they are. And the workforce doesn't necessarily align when they wanna be there to where the customers wanna be there. And that is a challenge that businesses have to meet. It's easier to do when you're talking about having...
thousands of agents, right? If I am a really large company with a really large workforce in the contact center dealing with customers, it makes it a little bit easier to deal with those kinds of fluctuations and give that flexible scheduling. But if I'm a really small contact center and I don't have a ton of agents, all of a sudden that becomes a real challenge. If I've got five people and...
three of them just don't want to work at a particular time. That puts all the onus on the other two and that may not be enough. And that becomes a real challenge, but there is technology out there to help you address that. And there are companies out there to help you address that. And maybe they're not direct hire employees. Maybe you're supplementing your employees.
Rob Dwyer (15:19.254)
with that. I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about, not even switch gears, I want to dig in. You mentioned that there are things that companies can do to differentiate themselves outside of pay and schedule was one of those things. What are people looking for today outside of pay when they make a decision about whether or not I want to...
go or stay at a particular company, particularly in the contact center space.
Kory Kostecka (15:55.978)
Yeah, so something that we're actually doing right now at Paramount that I think is awesome is we have over 500,000 candidates that are all call center that we are surveying to ask that exact question. But what I can tell you on some previous surveys that we have ran and data that we've collected, which I think it's always going to change. Right. And that's why we're always given these new surveys just to just to see how the market's reacting and what they're calling for. But what I will tell you outside of shift.
scheduling or flexibility is career opportunity and career advancement. I think especially when you're looking at this younger generation that's entering the workforce, it all revolves around instant gratification and it revolves around having an opportunity to continue to make more money and to advance your career and if I can't do that with an x amount of time which usually
You know, previously when you looked at someone's resume, they were at a job for seven years, that's awesome. We want them on our team, we don't want a job hopper. Where now, you're finding more and more people with a year experience or a year and a half before they're switching jobs. And I think that that's gonna continue to become more popular, or that's gonna be something you're gonna see more on resumes due to this instant gratification of career advancement.
So I think companies really what you can do to set yourselves apart in today's world, especially within your contact center is create opportunities to reward your agents daily, weekly, monthly, and really draw out what that career path looks for or looks like. I think a lot of people will say, you know, since COVID our attrition has been high and it's, if you've been in the call center space long enough, you know attrition has always been a problem.
and a lot of companies look at their frontline agents as disposable and that there's no real career advancement. Where, why I always say I grew up wanting to be in this space and I'm one of the only people, is I do a lot of networking and you talk to every call center leader out there and it's, oh, I started out as a frontline agent. So being able to paint that picture to your internal frontline team, I started out in that position and I made it here and I can get you up.
Kory Kostecka (18:09.15)
those steps and here's exactly what it looks like and here's the time frame and along the way you know it might take you a year to go from an agent to a supervisor but in between that year I'm going to give you little stepping stones and achievements to hit. I think that if that's something that you can offer your candidates, your agents, your frontline employees today you will notice a huge difference in attrition levels as well as being able to attract talent to your organization.
So between the flexibility of schedules and career opportunities and advancements mixed in with some sort of gamification, instant gratification system, those are the top three things, I think going into 2024, that you should be able to offer your agents. And if you're not, someone else out there is, and they're gonna steal all the best talent.
Rob Dwyer (18:59.542)
Yeah, and there's a lot to be said for being able to fill those roles from within, within your leadership team. Because in my experience, bringing someone from outside the company to fill a leadership role can be a real challenge, particularly if you're talking about that, that kind of frontline leadership, right? A supervisor, team leader, or maybe an operations manager.
Because in addition to having to onboard them into the culture and understanding all of the processes and policies that your organization follows, they have to learn the business as well. They have to become an expert because those agents are coming to them for the knowledge to ask the questions. We've talked about technology augmenting some of this. But ultimately,
that frontline supervisor is also the person taking escalations, right? And so they have to be able to do the job that an agent does in addition to the things that a supervisor does. And so having that pipeline and having people developed and ready to step into those roles is a huge benefit to any organization because of the cost.
Bringing someone in from the outside is going to be pretty significant
Kory Kostecka (20:32.442)
Yeah, I agree. And I just think even if you can't, you can't promise everybody a career opportunity. So, and I understand that, depending on what your supervisor to agent ratio is, you can't promote everybody, but giving them the ability to say, this is what it looks like, you know, if you can hit these things, we can move you up to it. But even if you can't move somebody up, giving them small rewards along the way will just make somebody, they're,
Rob Dwyer (20:44.396)
Kory Kostecka (21:03.658)
passion, I guess, of just wanting to work for a company, wanting to be a bigger, a part of something bigger, it's you have to provide that gratification along the way. So whether that opportunity is there for everybody or not, you still need to implement a way to at least show everybody, hey, your work matters here. And I'm talking way more than just a pizza party, of hey, we're throwing a pizza party for everybody, or hey, come on down and spin the wheel for your chance to get an extra 15 minutes of your break.
Rob Dwyer (21:21.582)
Kory Kostecka (21:31.746)
I just don't think that that's going to cut it. Once again, looking at the younger generation that's entering the workforce. But to your point, it does save you a lot of money, right? If you can run that from within, it's good for your company. That's the right thing to do, I think. But like I said, not everybody's going to have that opportunity. And I understand that. But you have to give them something.
Rob Dwyer (21:39.786)
You know... Yeah.
Rob Dwyer (21:52.939)
Yeah, 100%. You know, you just mentioned making sure that people understand that their work matters and you know, I recently had David Allison on the show and we talked about how values motivate people. And one of the things that he talked about, they did a study that for contact center workers.
One of the things that they value more than the average person is helping people, right? Doing work that is helping people and making a difference in someone's life. And while that can come through on specific interactions with customers, right? There are memorable interactions that you will have. Sometimes you just need a gentle reminder as an agent.
that you are helping people and that what you do matters, even though it doesn't always feel that way, because maybe you're dealing with challenging interactions on a regular basis. Maybe there's an emotional load that clouds your vision to see that and just making sure that people are aware, like what you do here really does matter. That can be a big motivator to people who
Kory Kostecka (23:25.682)
Yeah, absolutely. And it is tough. Not every company that's out there that has a call center is providing this great life changing service. You know, sometimes you might have somebody calling, you know, your agents are calling because you have to turn off somebody's electricity. Right. It's, you know, it's I think it's harder to paint that picture to those agents of, hey, what you do is making someone's life better. And it matters. But to your point, it's like whether it's.
I'm helping my customer change their life or I'm helping my company. And here's the bigger picture of how I'm helping my company. I think it's important to understand that maybe not everybody listening has a call center that's improving people's lives. Like I said, there's a couple different positions out there where they are very challenging calls, but just that reminder of, hey, this is how you are helping a customer or this is how you're helping our company. Just whether what side you fall on, depending on what your organization does. I think.
Rob Dwyer (24:09.231)
Kory Kostecka (24:20.638)
painting that picture is crucial.
Rob Dwyer (24:22.814)
Yeah, absolutely. So Corey, what other trends or interesting things are you see coming in as we enter 2024? I mean, we're very close to the end of 2023. What does 2024 look like for you? Do you have any predictions or trends that you are seeing that you think companies should be aware of?
Kory Kostecka (24:50.334)
Yeah, I think starting from the hiring process, you know, just start from before you even get somebody in the door, I think that is gonna drastically change in regards to speed time to fill your open positions. Once again, just you'll hear me say instant gratification a million times, but that concept of when I apply to a job, somebody should be reaching out to me within 24 hours to give me an update about my job application. And I don't wanna have to jump through.
You know, I'm getting paid $15 an hour and you're requiring a high school diploma from me and then I need to go take a 10 panel drug screen, but then it takes three days to hear back from my recruiter. I think that onboarding process, from the second somebody applies to your opening to I'm starting in my training class, is going to exponentially speed up. I think that companies, if you want to at least stay ahead of the hiring curve that's coming, is just.
having a very efficient onboarding and hiring process and minimize some of those hoops you're making your candidates jump through. Like I had mentioned at the beginning, is if you look at pre-COVID, there was a bunch of hoops that people were jumping through and then we kind of slowly got rid of those, but what I'm noticing is that there are a lot of companies that still have these very hard requirements to get your foot in the door.
And if you continue to have those going in the next year, you will fall behind on your hiring talent pool and you're gonna get a lower quality candidate because the ones that are good are gonna get picked up within 24 to 48 hours. So I think that is a big trend we're gonna see. I think once people are starting work, the other big trend, which is obvious, is just implementing technology and being able to utilize technology with your agents. I think...
There's a fine line between you need to pay your agents more if you want a better quality candidate or higher quality candidate, but there's also the should we invest in technology to help assist our candidates. So where you can maybe pay people less, but still get higher, better quality out of them because we're implementing some sort of technology. I think that is going to continue to be a trend that we see.
Kory Kostecka (27:06.99)
I think you're always going to need the agent there answering the call because if you're someone like me, I will press zero a million times to get a hold of a real person. But it's when I get that person on the phone, I don't want to be transferred over, you know, 50 different times. I want them to be able to have the technology on the back end to say, oh, you're probably calling about this because we saw you did this and I need to tell you X, Y, and Z. I just think speed to hiring people is a big trend we're going to see as well as...
Rob Dwyer (27:13.035)
Kory Kostecka (27:35.85)
you know, how well are you implementing technology to help assist your agents to be successful? Those are at least the two big ones for me.
Rob Dwyer (27:45.286)
Yeah, I love that. I mean, removing those barriers. I think we sometimes as companies, we think if I put all of these hoops to jump through, as you call them in place, the cream will rise to the top because I'm going to weed out my lesser skilled or lesser desired candidates. But the reality is.
that I may also be weeding out the candidates that I really want because they just say, this is too much and I can go over here and I have to do one tenth, put in one tenth of the effort just to get my foot in the door. And when someone is looking for a job, they need a job. They need a job quickly, right? There are bills to pay. I think we all feel that. And so
they don't want to wait around for a week to know what the next steps are because they may be in a situation where that week means I can't pay my rent or I can't buy groceries or whatever the case may be. And so the more responsive you are in hiring, the easier it is to grab the talent that you want as opposed to trying to.
put in those barriers to weed people out. But the other thing that I will.
Kory Kostecka (29:12.786)
Yeah, and I'm not saying don't, oh, sorry. I'm not saying don't speed up your process just to have some warm bodies coming in your door. I'm not saying you gotta let everybody in, but I guess this, finding the bottleneck in your hiring process to make it more efficient, just like once they get placed, can you utilize technology to help them be more efficient in their role, yes, and can you also use technology on the front end with your screening to say, how can I get these people through our process quicker? So.
I don't want people out there to think, oh yeah, I just need to every person that applies, I need to bring them in and give them a shot. But I think there are ways to say, instead of doing these five assessment tests, let's utilize technology to where we give them this one assessment test, it'll actually cover all five of these in the same amount of time as it would just to take one of them. And we can still, you know.
Rob Dwyer (30:00.837)
Kory Kostecka (30:05.438)
do those hard skills, those soft skills, but just utilizing technology on your screening process, I guess is a better way to put that. You need to be very quick with that response.
Rob Dwyer (30:13.352)
Well, and I think just being responsive, right? I mean, you talked about this a little bit, right? That waiting for the recruiter to response for three days, like. That just shouldn't happen in today's world. And you will lose candidates, good candidates if, if that's the case, because look, if they applied with you, don't think that you're the only place they applied, right? I mean, they applied a bunch of other places and often people will, will.
Kory Kostecka (30:18.75)
Rob Dwyer (30:45.966)
take or pick among the first few opportunities that they have. And if your process is really slow, then you're probably going to miss out.
Corey, it's been great talking with you today. Thank you so much for joining the show. Is there anything that you want to share that we haven't had a chance to talk about just yet?
Kory Kostecka (31:13.486)
Um, the only last point is really, and I brought it up multiple times, is this instant gratification beast with the younger generation. I want everybody to keep that in mind of the generation that's entering the workforce. If you want attention, they post something to Instagram and you get a bunch of people commenting and liking. If you want to order something online, you can get that delivered same day with Amazon Prime.
If you participated in sports growing up and your team came in last place, you received a trophy. In that mindset of I want this now, from every single piece of your business that revolves around your workforce, you have to keep that in mind as you're going into 2024, 2025, and as we continue to have that younger generation that's been growing up with technology comes in of your interview process, very quick response. Your-
you they come in you give them this career advancement opportunity. Well you need those rewards along the way because you just have to think about the mindset of that generation coming in as it's everything I want I can get it now and companies need to be able to offer that. So if there's one takeaway from this conversation it's that of accommodate for the generation that's coming in and I think that's how you do it is providing that instant gratification.
Rob Dwyer (32:38.79)
I love it. Cory, thank you so much.
Kory Kostecka (32:41.822)
Thank you, appreciate it.