Cornell University

Global Call Center Project

169 Ives Faculty Building, 607-254-4437


National Country Report

Sørensen, Ole, and Nadia El-Salanti.  2005.  Call Centers in Denmark 2004: Strategy, HR Practices, and Performance.  Report for the Russell Sage Foundation.

The Danish call center sector is growing rapidly. Managers have experimented with a wide range of work and human resource practices. This survey is the first scientifically based benchmarking study of the Danish call center sector. The results draw on the responses of general managers in 128 call centers, with a response rate of 65%.

Market and Organizational Characteristics

The Danish call center sector comprises about 300-400 call center units employing roughly 20,000-25,000 workers. It grew rapidly at the end of the 1990’s, but since then has slowed to around 10%, and the sector seems to be consolidating.   The typical call center in this study serves the national market rather than a local, regional, or international one; and the typical center is small -- with an average of 60 seats.

In-house versus Subcontractors

In-house centers in Denmark constitute 75% of the market while independent centers comprise 25%.  Compared to in-house centers, subcontractors have lower investments in training, lower discretion, lower pay, and higher turnover rates.

Education, Training, and Staffing

Call center jobs are often viewed as low skilled and clerical, and the workforce is portrayed as young and unattached to the labor force. According to our survey, however, the education profile of call center workers is considerably higher.  The typical call center worker in this survey is a woman (68%) with a vocational education degree.  In 67% of the call centers, the typical employee has more than a secondary school education. Call centers provide an average of 22 days of training for new hires, and it takes, on average, about 17 weeks – or over 4 months – for a newly hired employee to become proficient on the job.   This suggests a moderate to high level of firm-specific skills that are required for call center work, and that on-the-job learning is essential for workers to perform effectively.

Danish centers make relatively little use of contingent workers, with about 6 percent of the total workforce in temporary contracts. In addition, 16% of the temporary workers are transferred to permanent positions each year. In other words, employers to some degree use temporary work as a screening device for new hires. Temporary workers are mainly employed as buffers for peak and odd hours of work.

Work Organization and Teams

Call center employees have relatively low levels of discretion regarding technology use, daily task assignments, and the pace of work. However, problem-solving groups are used in 50% of call centers, while 30% make use of self-direct work groups.

Turnover Rates

Total annual turnover (including quits, layoffs, dismissals, and retirements) averages 15% among call centers in this study. (This is about half of the corresponding figure in the US survey). The average quit rate is 10%. The highest quit rate is found within the IT and telecom sector (13%) and the lowest within the finance sector (6%). The large centers have a much larger quit rate (13%) than the small ones (5%).  Outbound centers have a much larger rate (22%) than inbound (6%).

Union Presence

50% of call centers negotiate wages and working conditions with trade unions. Independent and outbound call centers have less presence of unions than in-house and inbound centers. There is no dedicated trade union for call center workers.  Call centers with collective agreements pay core employees 10% more than non-union call centers.  Centers with collective agreements also provide more time for training and spend more money on recruitment, selection and training of core employees.

Danish Research Team

Niels Møller, Associate Professor,
Dept. of Manufacturing, Eng.,& Mngt.
Technical University of Denmark
DTU, Building 423
DK - 2800 Kgs. Lyngby

Ole Henning Sørensen, Researcher
NRCWE (National Research Centre of Working Environment)
Lersø Parkalle 105
DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

Co-Sponsors of the Report: Russell Sage Foundation

For more information, contact: Ole Henning Sørensen,, +45 39165306.