The call center at a medical clinic was falling apart. Many patients were complaining that when they called to schedule appointments, no one answered. Other patients were put on hold for 20 minutes at a time. Those who finally landed an appointment were often scheduled with the wrong doctors.
I was asked to diagnose and solve the problem. After two days of observing and interviewing employees, I made a startling discovery: 92 percent of the employees joined the company because they were hoping to pursue careers in healthcare as nurses and doctors. They needed to pay bills and support their families while they were applying for the relevant education and training, so they chose a call center at a medical clinic. Since not a single leader or manager was aware of this, the employees never gained any exposure to medical knowledge, and they felt frustrated, devalued and burned out.
Armed with this knowledge, we were able to create a reward system around developmental assignments. Employees who eliminated missed calls, reduced hold time and scheduled accurately could gain opportunities to shadow nurses, do internships with surgeons, attend educational sessions with medical experts, rotate jobs with front desk representatives and earn promotions to more specialized patient service positions.
This was a powerful change, but the entire problem could have been prevented during the first week that the employees joined the call center.
The solution? Conducting “entry” interviews.
Instead of waiting for exit interviews to identify problems and missed opportunities, managers at organizations such as Canara Bank, Safmarine, Northeast Delta Dental and Designer Blinds interview employees shortly after they have been hired. During these entry interviews, employees share information about their interests, values, preferences, knowledge, skills and career aspirations.
Entry interviews have two primary benefits. First, employees feel valued from day one. Research by Wayne Boss and his colleagues demonstrates that when managers conduct these types of interviews, they build stronger, more productive relationships with employees. In addition, Francesca Gino and I demonstrated in several experiments that when employees feel valued by their managers, they are more willing to go above and beyond to contribute.
Second, managers gain valuable insights for motivating employees. Armed with knowledge from entry interviews, managers can design more meaningful jobs for employees and support them in modifying or “crafting” projects that are developmental and engaging. As studies by Amy Wrzesniewski, Jane Dutton, Justin Berg, Carrie Leana, Eileen Appelbaum and Iryna Shevchuk have shown, this process can enable employees to find greater fit, experience higher satisfaction and achieve better performance. And when multiple managers conduct entry interviews, they can identify common patterns and design jobs and projects that cater to the interests of multiple employees. I am currently working with several companies to design entry interviews and test their impact on motivation, satisfaction and performance, and I hope to see more companies adopt them in the future.