He’s having a laugh

Andy Moore meets a man charged with keeping call centre staff happy at work

You don’t have to be full of fun to work there, but it helps. Kwik Fit Financial Services (KFFS) now has – wait for it – a minister of fun to boost staff morale and performance at its call centre headquarters.

Yes – a minister of fun. And if you think the job title sounds a bit daft, think again.

The full-time position belongs to fun-loving Rob Hunter, who is charged with keeping the centre’s 972 staff happy and motivated in the workplace. Based at Uddingston, near Glasgow, KFFS appointed Hunter for the job from one of six of its call centre applicants earlier this year.

Far from being the joker in the pack, he doesn’t walk around the office pulling faces, telling gags and singing all day. Instead, he has a hectic workload, involving anything from liaising with the social committee to organising space-hopper races and fancy-dress days.

Creating the role

The idea of appointing a minister of fun came about two years ago when, faced with a 50 per cent staff turnover, the company invited employees to make suggestions on how it could become “the most fantastic place to work”. Among the thousands of suggested off-the-wall ideas were a rooftop helicopter pad, a pet cräche and a chauffeur-driven limo service. With so many ideas put forward, the company decided to harness them by appointing Hunter, who fitted the bill perfectly. In fact, the HR department couldn’t have wished for a more suitably experienced person for the job.

“Before I started at Kwik-Fit four years ago, I had almost a decade’s experience in events management and the entertainment business,” says Hunter. “My experience in this industry made me an ideal candidate for the position, and when it was advertised, I jumped at the chance.”

Hunter is no stranger to making people smile. He started in the business in 1991 working for holiday company Pontins. He then moved to Haven Holidays in 1993, where he was employed for seven years.

During this time, he gained a degree in hospitality management from the Glasgow Caledonian University. The happy-go-lucky 38-year-old was duly promoted to events manager at Haven. Hunter then worked as an entertainment manager for Shearings Coaches for four months before deciding to give his laughter lines a “rest”. And from there, he went on to sales at KFFS.

“When I first took up the minister of fun role, the job was like organised chaos,” he enthuses. “My desk disappeared under a mountain of paperwork, and my mind was buzzing with ideas on how I could make the call centre a fantastic place to work.”

Filling the post

To inject fun into the call centre, there are regular theme days in the office – for example, horse racing – in which departments come to work dressed in their finest regalia to win £250.

When not organising themed days, Hunter arranges regular social evenings, including trips to the theatre. Kwik-Fit staff can have cinema discounts, and there is also the annual five-a-side football tournament, involving 12 teams. But having fun isn’t all about exerting yourself – staff also have the option to relax and unwind at work through the Chill Out Club. For £5 a month, they have access to yoga, Tai Chi and salsa dancing classes as well as a masseur to take away the aches and strains.

But creating the minister of fun role was a steep learning curve for the firm’s HR director, Keren Edwards.

“It took me ages to work out a job specification,” says Edwards. “We put a jester on the front of the advert to grab people’s attention. Using Rob’s talent and other HR initiatives, staff appear to be more content, and turnover has reduced to 30 per cent.”

Being a new and rather outlandish position, the job description had to be tailored, but was largely left open for Hunter to define. One responsibility demanding his best compere skills is announcing the sales awards in front of all 972 staff. Donning a sparkly jacket, he stands on a podium, delivering “the chat” through a microphone. Taking any hecklers in his stride, he gives the audience as good as he gets.

“I’m viewed as a purveyor of daft and wacky antics,” he quips with a chuckle. “But people don’t make fun of me that much. Staff need to work hard and play hard to be motivated and productive.”

This rule-of-thumb is no exception for Hunter. The minister of fun will be pulling out all the stops to make this year’s Christmas bash go off like a bomb. For the first time in ages, all 972 staff are invited to a festive knees-up at a massive hotel in Glasgow. No prizes for guessing who might be the compere!

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