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What is Workforce Management?

What is Workforce Management? 

Workforce Management (WFM) in its simplest form is about assigning the right person with the right skill at the right time, ensuring that staff are optimally positioned in order to meet demand.

Advancements in Workforce Management tools now provide the ability to enhance an employee’s work–life balance using features such as gamification, shift trading and mobile apps with the capability for employees to view upcoming schedules and request changes. The goal being to reduce attrition and absence ensuring staff are happier which feeds into improved customer service and a better bottom line!

What is Workforce Management important? 

Workforce management is important because it helps an organisation ensure that not only do they have enough staff available to service their customers, but that they have the skillset necessary to do so.  For example, in a contact center, WFM helps ensure the right number of agents are available by forecasting the volume of calls, messages or emails, and scheduling the correct number of agents to handle the expected volume of transactions.

Moreover, it also helps track employees’ daily performance and quickly pinpoint areas of improvement.

What is Workforce Management

What does Workforce Management encompass?

The main functions of Workforce Management software include:

Workforce Management Staff Scheduling

Scheduling is a really important aspect of WFM. The main objective of staff scheduling is to create schedules that meet all legal and contractual requirements, as well as taking into account employees’ qualifications, personal working time preferences and availability. Workforce Management tools assist in meeting these requirements and can allow employees to participate in the planning process, leading to happier, more motivated staff.

Tip: Optimisation options within scheduling are a feature of most top performing workforce management tools; allowing touch of the button re-optimisation and agent notification without set boundaries when the unforeseen occurs i.e.: higher than expected on the day sickness or a high volume of calls caused by an outside event

Workforce Management Forecasting & Budgeting

For workforce planning to be successful, you must be able to predict your short, medium and long-term staffing requirements. Remember – if the forecasts are inaccurate then the schedules are too! Workforce Management provides you with a set of tools that help you forecast the business at its usual baseline whilst also factoring in future events using historical data in terms of volume and profiling, helping you create an accurate and efficient schedule. 

WFM also helps with your capacity planning, allowing you to optimise staff recruitment and balance workload as needs dictate. This allows companies to budget in a streamlined manner with reduced wastage costs.

Tip: Some workforce management tools allow you to run “What If” scenarios which will dramatically improve your risk level in the long and short term.

Performance Management

Performance Management is a means of ensuring organisations and staff fulfil their potential and effectively meet the targets and goals that they have been set. When applied properly it can help organisations develop their workforce and staff, providing them with specific goals and objectives to aim for. This also enables them to track their progress over time.

For an organisation to implement any kind of performance management programme, they must first identify what it is they want to measure. Workforce Management helps organisations track these KPI’s, by providing organisations with a good understanding of employee engagement levels.

Examples of possible performance metrics include:

  • Quality scores
  • Customer survey scores
  • Percentage of calls answered within an agreed time
  • Percentage of time a customer is on hold
  • The number of first-time resolution calls handled

Tip: The best Workforce Management tools now come equipped with gamification modules where agents can compete in targeted games based on imported metrics; with the agent able to view the progress you can help drive positive behaviours (read more on gamification further down!).

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement can help contact centres deliver high levels of customer service as well as decrease agent turnover and reduce overall operational costs. With generation Z and millennials now widely employed in contact centre roles; employee engagement is a ‘must have’ requirement rather than a ‘nice to have’.

Some examples of tools within Workforce Management which can allow agents to feel more in control of their schedule include:

  • Mobile application – Generation Z and millennial workforces expect to have flexibility to check shifts, book holidays, etc. The impact of being able to do this has been shown to reduce attrition and absence. Some workforce management solutions allow you to do this through a mobile app where agents can:
    • Submit overtime availability
    • Trade shifts
    • Request holiday or absences
    • Receive swift authorisation which helps increase employee engagement and loyalty
  • Shift trading with this feature, a request is sent to the agent’s colleague for approval or denial with instant notification and schedule updates. With shift trading, business rules can be set up by the planning team ensuring agents can swap as they please – without affecting service levels. Some WFM tools even include a ‘shift trade board’ where agents can post their available shifts for trade!
  • Holiday Requests – A feature such as this within a Workforce Management system is designed to handle holiday requests as well as any other type of ad-hoc request or absence such as TOIL (Time Off in Lieu) – this can be with or without elements of automation.  The requests can be manually handled or left to the system (based on pre-set allowances or service level targets), freeing up valuable resources. This feature can allow agents to:
    • Receive instant feedback on requests e.g. has their holiday been waitlisted, approved etc.
    • View their remaining allowances for multiple absence types e.g. annual leave or personal days allowing access to reports detailing booked and planned absences
    • Based on pre-set allowances, it allows agents to see what the probability is of getting their request approved. Where a request cannot be approved options can be made to waitlist a request on a first come first served basis - improving engagement levels.

Thought: Providing agents with the option of flexible working patterns may be met with resistance. Managers or Team Leaders may fear logistical headaches and hours spent trying to figure out time and attendance spreadsheets.

However, with the right tools in place to help you manage flexible working, contact centres can boost employee engagement, save time, reduce costs and improve employee retention. Seems worth it to us!

  • Gamification - Gamification is the application of game like processes that reward high-value behaviours completed by employees. Having a gamification module within a Workforce Management solutions means contact centre agents can be players of a game. The game rewards employees based on performance. These rewards can be traded in for prizes e.g. holiday bid or an iPad. As a result of gamification, agents are encouraged to hit certain targets and improve their performance. This will ultimately reduce agent turnover and agent absences.  

Payroll, Time and Attendance records

The results of implementing an integrated Workforce Management system can be seen in all areas of the business. By allowing you to automate and standardise routine recurring tasks, Workforce Management gives you time to focus on what’s important.

Let’s take for payroll for example or time and attendance records. WFM reduces manual payroll and benefits administration with the availability of audit-ready custom reports. These reports make payroll processes quicker and easier. Workforce Management also allows the syncing of timesheets to payroll, allowing for instant payment options and an overall more efficient payment process.

What is Workforce Management so popular? 

In order to hit targets and continue to improve the level of service provided, Contact Centre Managers need to ensure that sufficient numbers of agents, with the right level of skills and experience are available at any given time, regardless of traffic volume fluctuations. In order to do this, planners need to understand availability and take into account planned and unexpected events as well as agent preferences.

Taking all of these aspects into consideration and making these changes manually, requires a significant amount of time ,can be a complex process and is prone to human error. Workforce Management systems automatically compile highly detailed and sophisticated traffic forecasts that can be adjusted to reflect known events as well as the ability to amend forecasts using ‘what if’ scenarios. 

Workforce Management does not simply manage the current labour needs but plans for future needs as well, building in contingencies so that organisations can adapt with changing requirements as they occur.

Workforce Management also helps keep your staff engaged and motivated. According to statistics, companies with happy employees means profits and productivity are 20% higher and staff turnover and absence are lower*. 

What are the benefits of Workforce Management software?

1. Aligns Schedules and Boosts Efficiency

Workforce Management is used to best align your resource to demand, providing an optimum customer experience across the different channels your customers choose to contact you on.

2. Provides Detailed Reporting

Workforce Management allows you to make informed decisions based on reliable, data-driven information. The report covers areas within operational analysis such as forecasting and planning performance in terms of service levels, abandon rates and speed of answer. Reporting functionality also allows you to gain insight on overtime, absenteeism and employee request statistics.

3. Plan for Different Possible Futures/Scenarios

What-If scenarios allow users to view different potential scenarios thus giving the ability to plan proactively and make informed business decisions. For example, what-if you added a promotion onto the end of each call taking an extra 20 seconds, what will be the impact, are we in a position to handle this?

4. Uses Historical Forecasting to Drive Service Levels

Workforce Management uses historical data trends and other variables such as singular events to create staffing forecasts that will align with business needs. This allows your organisation to meet service level requirements and agreements.

5. Uses Real-Time Analysis to Optimise Schedules and Skills

Workforce Management allows you to compare a real-time feed of scheduled activities to actual activities. Alarms can also be set up which alert you instantly if the schedule is off track allowing you to act faster on schedule deviations. The goal is to eliminate wasted/unused time through monitoring contact volume queues and staff resources. Using real-time analysis also reduces the impact of unforeseen changes, allowing you to re-deploy available staff with the correct skills to deliver the optimum customer experience at the current time

 Which industries can benefit from Workforce Management?

Workforce Management can be applied to all organisations and industries who have a contact centre.  From our experience, here are a few popular industries which have benefitted from Workforce Management:

Tip: This is not to say these industries are the only ones who can benefit. We’ve also found insurance, utilities, government organisations and many more can also benefit! Remember: Regardless of the industry, if the organisation has a contact centre, then WFM can be the perfect fit!.  

  • Hospitality Industry

Related article: Customer service – the key to success in the hospitability industry

  • Retail Industry
  • Financial Industry

Related article: Workforce Management within the Financial Services sector

  • Public Sector

Related article: How the public sector can optimise the workforce and reduce cost

In general, recruitment and retention are the two most important challenges facing some of these industries today. In particular retail, healthcare and hospitality with more than half of businesses stating how hard it is to recruit and retain staff which can have a detrimental effect on growth and productivity.

When is it time to move on from using spreadsheets?

Deciding on which planning tool is best for your operation can be tricky. If you’re in a small contact centre, then using excel spreadsheets for scheduling might work quite well. For simple, single skill environments, excel can provide ready to use formula’s and a wide range of charts for reporting.

However, it’s important to remember that when your agent count goes up costs and service-levels will too. Much of a contact centres cost is related to staffing - and this is where workforce management comes into play.

If scheduling is not synced with workload volume, employees will be overworked and burnt out. The opposite is also true. If employees are underworked, they will be demotivated, bored and idle. Neither scenario is good for a contact centre. Agents might also want more flexibility. With the vast majority of contact centre staff consisting of millennials, providing real work-life balance is crucial. The cost of high attrition and low service levels will translate into poor customer service and lost business.

When deciding whether it’s time to move away from excel spreadsheets, as well as considering the size of your operation, it’s important to consider the overall cost to your business in terms of attrition and engagement. Here are 13 simple questions to help you decide which planning tool (excel v’s WFM) is best for your operation.

Most established providers will be able to demonstrate what your return on investment may look like moving forward; savings can often be surprising when moving from an excel based or a limited workforce management tool.

Best Workforce Management solutions available on the market

There are many workforce management solutions available depending on the organisation’s needs.  

Some of the most popular ones include::

How do you choose the right Workforce Management solution?

Choosing the right software vendor can be daunting. As independent providers of workforce management technology, here are 4 quick tips we advise you to consider when it comes to choosing a workforce management solution and vendor:

  • Choose a supplier who can provide and deliver workforce management training and who will select the very best person to run this -  those who have lived and breathed WFM for many years and within many different contact centre scenarios. This will mean you gain from real-life experiences and reap maximum return on your investment.
  • Choose a supplier who will stay with you throughout your WFM journey: from pre-implementation to post-implementation.
  • Choose a workforce management software solution that is known for its ease of use and intuitive user interface.
  • Choose a vendor who has been around for a long time; at least 2 decades. They will have specialised experience in WFM and this experience will translate into sophisticated features, enhanced security and advanced algorithms for scheduling.

As independent providers of workforce management, let’s take a look at some of our user cases:

Zen Internet

Zen Internet were looking for a workforce management solution that would support their growth strategy and improve their staff and customer experience. Zen were using a number of excel spreadsheets to plan, schedule and forecast staff. They found this became time consuming, complicated and was having an impact on the customer experience.

Zen were looking for a workforce management system that was simple for both the management team and their agents to use. Voted the Sunday Times’ Top 100 companies to work for, they wanted a solution that would help maintain this and make it easy for agents to:

  • Check shifts
  • Request shift changes
  • Book annual leave (and get an instant response)
  • Offer the flexibility to organise their outside life with their work commitments

Zen chose Teleopti Workforce Management. For Zen, having the right number of people in the right place at the right time was a game changer for their customer experience. They are now able to run forecasts quickly providing them with visibility into their current situation.

They can also create ‘what if’ scenarios. For example, they can run a scenario to look at what would happen if the volume of calls rose by 10% or 20%. This ensures they can still meet their expected service levels if this happened. Zen is also using historical data; for example, they take the data from the last 5 bank holidays and look at the volume of calls and the profile, helping them to schedule and forecast for the next one.

Download the full user case history here >

Equiniti Group Plc

Equiniti were looking for a flexible solution that would improve employee engagement, especially around shift patterns. In order to achieve this, preference-based scheduling was introduced. Preference based scheduling means the agent is able to input their shift preference via MyTime – a mobile app. Once preferences are entered, the workforce management scheduler measures this against required service levels. The scheduler is then able to produce optimal schedules based on this increasing both staff and customer satisfaction.

As well as this, Equiniti are now using a re-optimisation function which allows flexibility throughout the year when the unexpected happens. The re-optimisation function identifies skill gaps and will re-schedule to ensure the best level of service is available with the current amount of staff.

Moreover, Equiniti are also using the skills summary feature. Skills summary within workforce management allows businesses to view incoming traffic, performance and staffing. This can be viewed at an individual skill level as well as collectively. The skills summary shows statistics down to intraday level for the grouping of skills. It highlights issues within each skill that makes up the skill summary.

Download the full user case history here >

Re-cap - Creating a Driven Workforce with Workforce Management

The world of Workforce Management is constantly changing. With the availability of feature rich technologies becoming available including the steady rise of WFM automation and better advanced algorithms, WFM has become a pivotal point in making the employee and customer experience a priority.

Regardless of the industry you operate in, there are changing expectations from consumers as well as employees (Generation Z and Millennials). Smart businesses have come to realise that the employee experience is vital to keeping their business moving as it should.

Happy employees will in turn deliver business success. And this is where workforce management software comes in – a tool designed to help elevate your business with considerable time savings and operational efficiencies.

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a replacement workforce management system or whether you are starting off on your journey, our team of experienced consultants are from Workforce Management backgrounds and include analysts, planners and managers will be able to help, so get in touch with us today.

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References

*Source: Engaging Works