18 Tips for Optimising Workforce Management

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Our readers share their best tips on optimising workforce management in the contact centre.

1. Plan your schedule using smaller 15-minute intervals

We have seen an improvement in our WFM scheduling by looking at smaller intervals.

Looking at 15-minute planning instead of 30-minute planning has helped us identify the extremes of our shift patterns.

With thanks to Alex

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for staff input on schedule preferences

When we were struggling with covering new night and weekend shifts, our business leaders were reluctant to ask staff if they were willing to change their existing shift patterns.

However, once they started asking, they were surprised to find out their staff’s actual preferences.

Simply communicating the business needs to staff and allowing their input into schedule preferences has helped cover the gaps we were facing. Two-way communication is key!

With thanks to Jill

3. Don’t automatically give everyone an hour-long lunch break

Giving your agents some flexibility over how they take their lunch break can help you cover demand during this tricky time of the day.

For example, some agents may wish to take their break as 15 minutes/30 minutes/15 minutes throughout the day, while others may want to take the full hour at midday.

With thanks to Emma

4. Try offering existing agents your more unusual shifts – before recruiting!

When trying to cover some new weekend and evening shifts recently, we found we were able to move a lot of existing staff around to cover some of the gaps – without recruiting.

This also gave our staff a better work/life balance too. Win-win!

With thanks to Jill

5. Remove spikes in data that are impacted by non-demand factors

Inspect your historic data.

It must be adjusted to remove spikes in data that are impacted by non-demand factors (e.g. system issues), otherwise the trends will not show correctly.

With thanks to Alex

For more tips on how to better deal with spikes contact volumes, listen to the following episode of The Contact Centre Podcast, with John Casey, a Resource Planning Expert.

The Contact Centre Podcast – Episode 14:

Wfm Tricks That Will Get You Through Busy Periods

For more information on this podcast visit Podcast – WFM Tricks That Will Get You Through Busy Periods

6. Don’t group all call types into one calculation


Split out different channels with different call drivers, so the fluctuations can be seen and not hidden.

Don’t group all call types into one calculation.

With thanks to Emma

7. Parents may be keen to take on evening shifts to spend their days at home

I find that hiring parents works quite well when it comes to covering evening shifts.

They seem to appreciate the work/life balance of spending their evenings at work and their days at home with their children.

They also are well suited to split shifts which allow them to pick their children up from school.

With thanks to Rosanna

8. Make a note of “noise” issues that are out of the ordinary

Be sure to make note of “noise” issues that impact volumes – upward or downward – that are out of the ordinary.

For example, the weather.

With thanks to Cindy

9. Remove fixed-hours contracts to deliver on agent preferences

Consider removing fixed-hours contracts from your contact centre.

They play a major role in not being able to accommodate fully flexible agent preferences.

With thanks to Matt

10. Don’t ignore the needs of your agents

Your business needs should be top priority when scheduling your agents.

However, if you have high attrition due to schedule issues, it will have a dramatic impact on the business.

With thanks to Cindy

11. Recruit students on a part-time basis for weekend and evening shifts

We had an issue with evenings and weekend scheduling.

To resolve this, I specifically set out to recruit students on a part-time basis for whom those shifts would be more desirable.

I have also found that students are a joy to train, as they pick up things so quickly.

With thanks to Andy

12. Tell the board the financial cost of poor WFM


Provide the board with ROI (Return on Investment) information on good forecasting, scheduling and WFM best practice.

The decision makers will sit up and listen once they realise how much money is being lost through poor workforce management.

With thanks to Christine

13. Asking your agents what they want could lead to creative solutions

Ask your agents what they want. You may be surprised by the creative ideas they have concerning their own schedules.

The ideas generated from this sort of communication can lead to a better work/life balance for agents, while creating some flexibility and better coverage options from a scheduling standpoint.

With thanks to David

14. Students only solve the problem if you have a short training programme

Hiring students to cover the more unsociable shifts can be a great scheduling solution.

However, there is a concern with how long they’ll stick around.

If you can train them very quickly, it’s a good idea. If you take a month to train them up and they leave three months later, it isn’t very cost effective.

With thanks to Matt

15. Hire casual staff that can come in at short notice

Having some casual staff – people who will come in and work within an hour’s notice – on back-up can be a good idea.

This only works if you have enough of them, though.

With thanks to Matt

16. Floating working patterns can help deal with spikes in call volume

We have recently trialled floating working patterns.

It has helped us cope better with employee sickness and spikes in call volumes.

[Editor’s note – Trialling floating working patterns can be as simple as reducing the working week by one hour and using the extra hours as “floating time in lieu” instead of overtime.]

With thanks to Amy

For more on various working patterns, read our article: The Best Shift Patterns for the Contact Centre

17. Communicate to your agents the reasons behind your schedule choices

I think sitting and explaining to your agents the way your WFM is calculated helps them understand why the schedules are shown as they are.

This has certainly helped me. Communication is key!

With thanks to Nikki

18. Don’t make assumptions about schedule preferences

Never assume anything!

With thanks to Emma

Here is some more excellent advice for improving workforce management in your contact centre:

Author: Megan Jones

Published On: 25th Mar 2015 - Last modified: 11th Nov 2022
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1 Comment
  • 7 – This doesn’t match to our model. We find most parents actually want to be here during school hours and need to be at home in the evenings to look after their children, the opposite of what is being said here.

    Ivan Routledge 12 Oct at 10:05