Creating a Team Environment

Editorial

“It’s not my account” How many times in collections have we heard a collector respond to a criticism of sloppy or no real collection attempt on an incoming call with this attitude of apathy? I know from my experiences through the years, it’s one of the most irritating statements a collector can make. It demonstrates a clear lack of concern with a collections department or organizations larger goals. Quite obviously this problem can be dealt with through corrective actions but, using the “carrot and stick” analogy, sometimes using the stick is only band aids on bullet holes when in reality the focus should perhaps be placed on the carrot.

In the desire to create incentives for higher production, most collector bonus programs are based upon an individual clearance ratio or a set dollar goal. While these metrics are obviously important and work well with seasoned collectors who understand the big picture, every department seems to have one or two who are just a little too self centered to share the common goal without an incentive. To circumvent such ambivalence to the organizations goals, sometimes the creation of a shared department goal is necessary.

There are several tactics that I’ve found can be utilized successfully to develop an atmosphere of teamwork and camaraderie.

An extremely important thing to have is goals and benchmarks. If you don’t have a team or department goal, you need to. I like a mid-month goal and an end of month goal. Knowing your average clearance ratios for the beginning and end of the month helps you in knowing what is achievable. From this average you can start increasing the ratio for the desired effect.

On important note in this, there is a tipping point. You’re only going to get some much cleared and eventually you will need to hold it flat. If your goals are out of reach, no one will buy into them and they become counterproductive.

Once you established your goals, they must be known by everyone. Broadcast them daily and always let them know exactly what is needed to achieve them. With the end of the month always being the most critical day of a lending collections department, I like to have the collectors report every balance collected and broadcast it to the entire department. Let’s face it, everyone wants to have their accomplishments recognized and what better way to show everyone just what they are contributing to the department goals.   

When you reach your goals, celebrate them immediately. Recognition for achievement is practically lost if it is left for a later date. I once knew a department that was frequently a quarter or more behind in their bonus payouts and the staff morale was pathetic. Keep a stack of gift cards handy or, if your company will allow, have checks cut quick. There’s no better way to celebrate success than a simple pizza lunch and a ceremonial bonus payout. The sooner they get their payout, the sooner they’ll start working hard on achieving the next goal.

If you want to step things up to a nice dinner, go for it. Just make sure it’s not stuffy and allows the staff to interact with each other. Don’t make it feel like work. Do not, under any circumstance make it a bar. Don’t turn it into a “drunk-fest.” Nothing good can come of it. I can tell far too many stories why not, but I’m sure you can figure that out too. This isn’t 1965 and this isn’t “Mad Men.”

 

A room full of myopic collectors only concerned with their own results creates a boring and dysfunctional department with high turnover. A team of connected and motivated collectors makes for a fun work environment, high employee retention and lends itself to success.

Kevin Armstrong

Editor

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