Why don't our casuals answer their phone?

leadership management Aug 25, 2020

I was working with a team who work in the retail sector.  They work hard.  Wow, they work hard.  

The team leaders or managers have to supervise a myriad of people (in their team) who all have their own quirky personalities and they then serve a myriad of people (their customers) who all have their own quirky personalities as well. 

People working in retail can tell you some really great stories about human behaviour - the good, bad and the ugly. They have seen it all. COVID has brought out even more extreme behaviours.  My hat is off to these people. Their job is way harder than what most of us see. 

So I was talking with a group of managers recently about their various challenges and for one team it was rostering, getting casual staff to fill the shifts when someone is away sick or if there is a sudden increase in demand.  They would complain if they didn’t get rostered on 'enough' but they didn’t answer their phone when they were being offered extra shifts. 

They talked about this problem at length for a long period of time.  They had lots and lots of theories; some of which boiled down to “young people are quite selfish and won’t answer the phone if something better has come up”.  And maybe they’re right. 

But what if in fact, the problem is not as they perceive it? What if the reason the young casual staff are not answering their phone is because of the way the managers have trained them to behave. 

We often want to say that the problem is because of 'them' not 'us'.  If only other people would change, do the right thing, the world would be a lot easier. 

We so often focus on the what (the casuals not answering their phones or turning down shifts) and not the why (what motivates them not to answer the phone or take up the shift). 

As it turns out these young casuals have 'been trained' to expect that if I don’t answer this phone call early in the week, they will usually be offered longer and better-paying shifts later in the week when the demand is even greater.   

Rostering is a major issue but the casuals have no awareness of how hard the job of rostering is. Equally, the managers don’t really understand what makes a shift more attractive to a casual employee.  

They haven’t had that conversation.  

So I suggested maybe instead of talking about how difficult it was to get casual staff to answer their phones, they could talk to them and discuss what is working well and what are each other’s challenges.  Maybe between them all, they will find a new way of working together that is more productive for everyone. They just need to hear each other.


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