At the heart of fair trade principles is the core belief that trade can be a force of positive change in the world. In the outsourcing industry, a call center can become a force of economic and social good for the agents when employers integrate these fair trade principles into their corporate policies. Aside from affecting socioeconomic changes, a fair trade outsourcing strategy makes good business sense because of several reasons.
#1 When fair trade call center agents receive fair living wages, they worry less about money and focus more on their work.
Employees who receive a monthly living wage that’s far above the minimum wage are healthier, happier and more productive. This is supported by evidence from an extensive review of literature that covered 30 years of research from the academic and private sectors. The study revealed that paying a living wage has resulted in the following:
1. Employees are motivated to work harder.
2. More experienced and skilled workers are attracted to a higher pay.
3. Employee turnover rate is lower, which reduces the need to hire and train new workers.
4. Absenteeism and disciplinary problems are minimized, if not eliminated.
5. Higher wages may lead to better employee health, greater productivity, greater job satisfaction, and enhanced reputation with customers.
What’s even more surprising is that there’s little need to monitor employee behavior. Companies that pay more tend to have a strong culture of integrity and accountability at work. Their employees develop a sense of ownership and pride over their jobs. They know they have a good thing going, and losing their job will be devastating not only to them but also for their families.
#2 When fair trade call center agents feel safe at work and know that their rights are protected, they can accomplish anything, regardless of where they live.
Make your employees feel that they can be as creative and authentic as they want to be at work. Assure them that they won’t be made to feel fear or shame in being different. This creates a psychologically safe work environment, which drives them to excel at their jobs. And, this creates exceptional results. The sense of pride and accomplishment they get has a greater value to them than pure monetary gain.
Employees who are overly criticized or publicly ostracized lose their sense of self-worth. They lose confidence in themselves and begin to doubt their capabilities. And so, they lose focus, miss small details, and end up sending late reports or turning in incomplete work, thereby slowing progress.
A fair trade call center has built a work environment that’s based on trust and strengthened through peer and managerial support. These companies are more successful than others in inspiring their employees to go the extra mile. They succeeded where others failed because they:
- give credit for good work that is being done, instead of blaming each other.
- take responsibility rather than making excuses.
- believe that people will never improve if they didn’t make mistakes. They support each other when mistakes are made. They help each other in figuring out how to do things differently in the future.
- openly share information.
- collaborate on important issues.
- speak in terms of “we” rather than creating “us and them”.
- focus on the common purpose. They do not get sidetracked by differences in the details.
- respect organizational structures and roles and do not use them in undermining ways.
- value each other’s background and experience and do not discredit each other’s level of competence.
- openly voice concerns, criticisms, and conflicts.
- speak positively about their work, their organization, and the future.
#3 Highly motivated agents have a tendency to seek out challenges, to extend and exercise their capabilities, to explore, and to learn.
Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory proposes a way for human beings to self-actualize. Their three universal, innate and psychological needs must be met. These needs are competence, autonomy, and psychological relatedness.
This is also one of the cornerstones of fair trade outsourcing principles, which highlight the importance of developing the life, leadership and peer support skills of employees to help them grow as people and as professionals.
A call center that has adopted fair trade outsourcing principles has the capabilities to harness and develop the potential of skilled workers in developing populations. This leads to greater rewards for those employees who did well at work. These rewards not only include bonuses and other compensatory benefits, but also the opportunity to move into a higher position or into another team where the job is more challenging and the pay is higher in comparison to their previous position within the company.
Fair Trade Call Center (FTCC) Principles
In line with our efforts to improve the social and economic welfare of our employees, Rethink Staffing has developed the following FTCC Principles that will govern the way we manage our teams in the Philippines.
1. Create sustainable job opportunities and skills development for people in the developing populations.
2. Openness, honesty, and accountability in relationships between and among management and employees. Address issues freely, thoroughly and objectively.
3. Raise the economic and social welfare of employees.
4. Secure payment of living wage and benefits at the beginning and all throughout employment.
5. Operate in total obedience to the rule of law. Abhor under-aged and forced labor.
6. Respect diversity, uphold fair opportunity, and honor fundamental human rights and freedoms.
7. Ensure peace of mind with workplace safety regulations, health care, and accident insurance coverage.
8. Develop life, leadership and peer support skills.
9. Educate prospects and clients about fair trade outsourcing and promote its principles.
10. Campaign for individual and company contribution on energy conservation and waste management.
With the integration of fair trade principles into your outsourcing strategy, you can expect the following strategic benefits:
- Assured continuity of your business operations.
- Improved team productivity and longevity.
- Up to 40% savings on your payroll and other expenses.
- Reliable, talented staff who speak fluent English.
- Timely and exemplary delivery of customer service.
The way Rethink Staffing has been operating and managing their employees is a good test case. It shows the long-term impact of outsourcing, with fair trade standards in mind. Agent happiness has been at the forefront of our corporate objectives. And, the happiness and gratitude among our employees are apparent every time that our CEO comes to visit our offices in the Philippines.