Archive for the Motivation Category

Apr 15 2013

Collectors: Efficiency or Knowledge Workers?

I found this TED talk by Dan Ariely to be very interesting.  My favorite quote:

The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their work in front of their eyes.

Food for thought, there.

Another thing that caught my eye came at the end of the segment when Dan Ariely made a comment about efficiency work (like factory workers) vs knowledge work.  I’ve wondered on several occasions, are collectors considered efficiency workers, applying the same skill to a task again and again? Or are they knowledge workers, applying their knowledge and skill to each challenge as it arises?  Or are they something in-between?

I’ve seen them managed both ways (though more often as efficiency workers), but I don’t really have a set answer.  What do you think?  Should collectors be considered knowledge workers or efficiency workers? And how should that affect their  management?


Apr 2 2013

Do collectors know the value of what they do?

In 3 sentences, could you summarize the value of debt collection?  You probably could.  In fact, you could probably write many more than 3 sentences.  However, could your collectors do the same thing?

According to Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory of motivation, feeling value in your work is one of the most powerful and effective motivators.  Since a motivated collector is generally a good, productive collector I would ask, can your collectors feel purpose in the value of their work?

Being a collector is difficult enough without the extra negativity being heaped on them by the media these days.  You and I know that, in most cases, it’s unwarranted to take shots at our industry.  You and I know how to handle that brief hesitation that comes when telling someone you work in debt collections.  You and I can handle all that weirdness and more because we can write those 3 sentences.  But what about your front-line collectors?  How well do they carry their collections mantle?  Even on a thick-skinned collector, the cumulative effect has to take a toll.

Collecting debt is important to your clients, and important – even vital – to our economic way of life; but do your collectors know it?  More importantly, do they feel it?

I’ve been to many call centers over the years, and have met many excellent collectors.  The best seem to be passionate about their work largely because they understand its value.  We need confident, passionate collectors to both improve our top lines and to weather this storm of negativity.  We should be able to help them achieve this.

My open question to you is, how can we help collectors understand, and feel, the value of what they do?


Mar 27 2013

Motivating Collectors – The Herzberg Continuum

One of the most important theories in managerial motivation comes from Frederick Herzberg (1923-2000). For many years, his “Two-Factor” theory of job satisfaction has largely defined the landscape of modern business motivation.

In short, Herzberg explains that there are two factors affecting employee satisfaction (and by extension, productivity) which he terms hygiene and motivation.

“Hygiene Factors” are the baseline standards of the employee/employer relationship. These include company policy, supervisor relations, work conditions, and salary. Fair hygiene factors create satisfied workers.

Once these hygiene factors have been met, however, and an employee is satisfied, increasing emphasis on them creates little or no return in motivation. Another set of tools is needed to move an employee from satisfied to motivated.

Herzberg’s second area, “Motivating Factors,” includes achievement, recognition, feeling a value in work, and responsibility. Unlike hygiene factors, which have diminishing returns on greater investment, motivating factors have no upper limit. A greater investment in motivation has the increasing potential to lead greater motivation in employees.

I’ve created a little chart illustrating what I call the Herzberg Continuum and applied it specifically to managing collectors. You can download a page-sized version by right-clicking on the image and choosing download.

The Herzberg Continuum

Because motivating factors work on satisfied collectors and hygiene factors only work on poor collectors, it’s important to know where your people are on the continuum before applying a good motivational strategy.

Poor Collectors

  • Are absent more frequently,
  • Steal time (they are late to start, but great at leaving on time),
  • Have a lot lame excuses,
  • Generally exhibit poor performance,
  • And take up an inordinate amount of managerial time.

Satisfied Collectors

  • Are good workers, and okay performers,
  • Are disinterested in extra work or responsibility,
  • Are ambivalent to rewards (monetary or other),
  • View work as a contract, meaning they do exactly what is asked, no more and expect the same from their employer,
  • And when faced with a problem, they look immediately to others to solve it.

Motivated Collectors

  • Are generally on board with whatever program or policy is in place – they don’t complain,
  • Go the extra mile when required,
  • Feel satisfaction from the work that they do,
  • View their work relationship in a “If I work hard for my employer, they will stand by me,” attitude,
  • Are generally positive and productive,
  • Respond well to contests and bonus programs,
  • And when faced with a problem, they act and do everything they can to solve it.

Ultimately, true motivation comes from within which means that some will excel despite their environment and others could be working in the best conditions possible and still perform poorly. The best we, as employers and managers, can do is create an environment conducive to a motivated attitude and either work-with or let go those who choose to choose to not be engaged.

About the author

Shaffer ButtarsShaffer Buttars has 20 years experience in the collections software industry ranging from product management to installations. While visiting hundreds of collection centers, he saw the need for improved collector focus and motivation to help both supervisors and collectors work to their potential.  He founded CollectorTech to provide tools and services that improve focus, visibility, and motivation to collection operations.
When not communing with a computer screen, Shaffer is an avid backpacker, hammock camper, Tenkara fisherman and stunt kite flyer. He loves music and has performed in a capella bands as both bass and vocal percussion. He lives in the beautiful Northwest US with his wife and four children.