With some of the latest contact center tech talk focused on chatbots and eliminating the need for human agents, it might seem strange to think about automation and employee engagement going hand in hand (and thank goodness because I would much prefer to resolve issues with a friendly human versus a robot).

In a recent post, we shared how workforce efficiency and employee engagement are key to meeting the increasingly complex and dynamic nature of the contact center. Leveraging advanced automation to address these issues is at the forefront of many executive’s thoughts.

Seems obvious to migrate towards automation for millennial agents, but it can’t just be a shiny new piece of technology. It has to align with their core values and satisfy the need for regular feedback as well as aid their professional development.

And, let’s be honest, regardless of the generation, one is more apt to be engaged with and loyal to a company that is run more efficiently, offers greater career development opportunities and promotes a better work/life balance. But contact centers are different. The fast-paced, ever changing environment makes it tough to engage with employees, while running more efficiently. Well, it was difficult – prior to advanced automation.

So, here are five different ways you can meet the challenge (or take advantage of the opportunities if you’re a glass half-full kind of a person) within the contact center:

1. Diversify the Day

Handling call after call can be dreadfully monotonous for agents. When the workforce management team uses automation to route back-office work, or moves agents to different channels (i.e. chat or email), it helps break up the routine. Variety is the spice of life, and it’s nice to have variety at work.

2. Offer Training and Coaching Consistently

Your agents want to learn, and they need to see learning is a priority. If your training and coaching sessions are getting rescheduled over and over again, like a playlist on repeat, they will begin to feel unmotivated and unimportant. One can only hear Pharrell’s “Happy” so many times before realizing it’s just a song. If you’re not following through with investing in your people, they will not invest in your company.

3. Provide Professional Development

Encourage your agents to explore opportunities within your company. Provide them with career path options with chances to learn and and to grow on their own by utilizing your library or knowledge base. Opening new possibilities for your employees helps build loyalty, increases their confidence, and lets them chart their own course.

4. Leverage Incentives other than Pizza (But Please Don’t Stop Offering Pizza)

When you use a rules engine to analyze agent performance, skill profiles and call volume, your contact center starts to operate at optimal levels. This means that you can actually afford to offer extra breaks (gasp) to surprise and reward your best agents.

At recent Forefront events, workforce management and contact center operations peers unleashed their creativity and shared their thoughts about how to leverage automation to incentivize agents by offering time to work out, spend time in the massage chair or have lunch with a friend.

About the pizza now. One participant shared how they leverage automation to send a message with a little bit of sunshine when call volume is unrelenting saying, “We know it’s busy, but please enjoy free pizza during your break.”

5. Give a Real-Time Work/Life Balance

To create satisfied,  loyal customers, it’s important to balance strict operational constraints of the contact center with people investments that yield a great customer experience.

We’ve already discussed four ways to help boost engagement that tie directly to the agent. Adding efficiencies behind the scenes helps the workforce management team deliver this balance as well. Eliminating manual tasks and leveraging automation help the WFM team ensure agents take their breaks and lunches on time and have to work less overtime. Writing the rules that monitor current conditions helps to balance real-time work with life. By finding the right balance, you will have well-developed, happy and engaged agents, who in turn, create satisfied and loyal customers.