In the beginning of February, I finished the last article in a series of 10 about the Agent Bill of Rights (ABOR) at Rethink Staffing (RTS). In that series, I explore the individual agent stories that inspired the rights of the founding document of RTS — the rights upon which we built our own little society within our company. This society is where we have created the world as we think it should be, instead of the world as it exists outside of the walls of our facilities.
Today, we embark on the next phase of the exploration of the should of our world — the things that we do that make us different from the rest of the outsourcing centers that exist in the world. If the first series was about the rights that our Agents can expect, this new series is about the rules (policies, really) that make us different.
As we explain the rules that make us different, we are obviously implying that our different rules make us better. For the time being, we will leave the reader to interpret for themselves a priori whether or not we are right. In the months to come, we will collect the data and will further publish if we are, in fact, better than is typical in the outsourcing industry.
I can assure the reader that if our data shows that we are not in fact experiencing better outcomes than is typical, we will so state when the data is in and the analysis is complete. We are comfortable achieving some of the same outcomes as our competitors in this industry, as long as we can continue to achieve our mission and vision, and live by the values we have set for this business.
Money, Transportation, and Time
We start with the basics. On a daily basis, money, transportation, and time are the three factors that dictate how someone will live. The amount of money, not just that you earn but that you have saved and invested, directly impacts how much time you have, as well as how you get back and forth through transportation to the activities you must do, as well as the activities you want to do.
RTS thinks about how money, transportation, and time interrelate to create a quality of life for our Agents that enables them to achieve the mission and vision we seek for them.
We do this through the Compensation Policy we have created and enacted — which seeks to move people into the middle class from poverty or low-income within their respective society. While this transition is happening, we work hard to get them into higher paid work, as well as providing them a COLA to ensure they won’t lose economic power over time through inflation.
Since we value their time — meaning we are both putting a value on it when we resell to clients, and we know that they use some of it to build their own capacity — we know that reduced time spent commuting, as well as easy access to the office, is critical to help them achieve peak performance and have time to grow. RTS will only put offices in centrally located parts of the cities in which we operate, because we know how burdensome long commutes can be.
Finally, we try to attack the lack of control Agents have in their lives when they rely on public transportation, by moving them into private transportation, with our zero-interest motorcycle loans.
These three things work together to create a foundation for how Agents can be successful over the long term in their lives, providing significant benefit to RTS and its clients.
A Culture of Justice
As a business, RTS is unique because it has been designed from the ground-up as corporation dedicated to social justice for profit. When we seek to achieve social justice, we receive profits in return, because of how a meritocratic culture produces peak performance in its employees.
There are three key features that promote this culture of social justice:
- ABOR — The Agent Bill of Rights — is a core document, given on a handy 2-inch by 3-inch card that everyone wears under their security badge. This ABOR governs Agent and Management actions alike, and protects agents from bad management. The transparency, omnipresence, and simplicity of these rights ensure that our core values are known, embraced, and that everyone’s behavior is unambiguous against these rights.
- Ask anyone working for RTS that has previously worked for other call centers, and you’ll hear as many stories of favoritism as you have coins in your pocket. Cliques and cabals, innuendo and exploitation, favoritism is rife within the unjust societies of the developing world. Their call centers mirror this culture. The ABOR, employee handbook, and HR policies enshrine absolute fairness in our environment — and the long line of terminated, unfair, exploitative, bad managers, whose removal many have witnessed, are proof that company ownership takes fairness seriously. The drive for profit shall never undercut absolute fairness in our society.
- University degrees and credentials are nice, but skills that can be proven are really the only thing we use to judge ability. We have built deep assessments into the way we evaluate talent, and « prove that you can do it » mentality, such that if we can’t reduce someone’s skills to a number, we prefer to defer a decision until we can accurately measure.
Possibly the largest difference between RTS and the rest of the industry is in the way we think about our Agents’ future.
True, every company thinks about employee development and knows that employees who see a clearer path to progress within their company are more likely to stay and produce better work and more value for their company.
RTS takes this to the extreme. We do this in four ways:
- We largely ignore standard job-specific training as an investment in our people. This is not to say we don’t do it at all, but we create for ourselves a higher standard by building agent capacity, and not just train them to do a job where we make money.
- We promote Agents’ exiting our company for reasons that create long-term economic stability in their lives, like entrepreneurship, higher value work (if we cannot provide it), and software development.
- We grant zero-interest small business loans to Agents, to help them start, re-capitalize (usually with equipment), a business, so that, in accordance with our vision, will make them capital owners in the long-run.
Each of these will be explained in detail as a part of this series.
Reducing Risk with the Power of the Firm
It was Marx and Engles in the 1840’s, that first explained to global society how powerful capital and the free market could be to shape and control lives. Almost 200 years later, the power of the capitalist today continues unrivaled. Thomas Piketty, in his landmark 2013 book, “Capital in the 21st Century” shows with two centuries of research how income inequality is threatening human societies.
At the micro level, if you are a capitalist like I am, it’s pretty easy to see the power you have over the lives of your employees. This exists in both the developing world and the developed world, though it’s most extreme in societies that are the most unequal.
At RTS, we’re always thinking about how we can transfer some of the economic power of the firm to our Agents. This may seem counterintuitive for a capitalist. The reason why a capitalist becomes a capitalist is for the capture or generation of economic power and what it can do for their lives. However, as Piketty shows, this is unsustainable. I believe in using the free markets for good not evil, and that’s why I’m in the BPO business.
All people living in poverty or low-income live very risky lives. This includes BPO Agents. Thus, one of the core ways we can use the power of the firm for good not evil is put policies into place that de-risk the lives of our agents. We do this in primarily three ways:
- We all know that health is wealth. We guarantee health care for every employee, and for some of their families. We believe healthcare is a human right,and we pay for it completely.
- We have put in place a catastrophic fund, such that when some tragedy befalls one of our employees or their family, they will have some money to help deal with that tragedy. To the firm, the amount is small, but to our Agents, it’s a huge help — especially since it’s a grant, 100% free.
- Agents can easily stagnant for years within the outsourcing industry, jumping from center to center in the same job, because their job is so often tied to the account on which they work, instead of the company for whom they work. ABOR #1 guarantees to the Agent that they won’t lose the stability of working for the same company, as long as RTS has the work for them.
Conclusion — What Should Be
The four groups of policies that make RTS different create a complete system, in our experience and thought, of what should be inside a BPO company. While I have organized each of these four areas according to their conceptual proximity and ease of digestion, they all live both alone and with each other within the small society we have created for ourselves.
At times, people within our company/society shall care about or use one, any or all of these policies to progress in and hopefully enrich their lives. As important to us that they do that, we care deeply that we have in fact done it. That we are using our talents, skills, and time to help others using the greatest power humans have ever created — the free market.
Happy reading as you get into the details of each of these policies, and hopefully, within each and with all, you will learn how to use the free market for good and not evil.
Iloilo City, Philippines, June 12, 2019.