7 Deadly sins of WFM


Effective use of workforce management can be a difficult balance to find, and to get the best from it, you’ll want to avoid these deadly sins of WFM.

Sin 1. Lack of engagement between the planning teams and the key operational stakeholders

It is crucial to involve the key operational stakeholders with every aspect of workforce management (WFM) from selection of vendor, to deployment and business-as-usual activity.

A WFM application will only be successful if there is a mutual understanding of the benefits for the business between operations and the planning function.

Failure to engage and include operational colleagues in the procurement and delivery stages results in a misunderstood and underutilised piece of technology.

It is a deadly sin to focus solely on the strategic benefits of WFM such as long-term forecasts and budget setting and ignore the self-service and operational benefits at team manager and agent level.

Sin 2: Reporting service level performance by averages

Too many call centres rely on the averaging approach when looking at their workforce management numbers. But looking at averages can mask some real problems.

For example, most call centres measure service level achievement or ASA by a number at the end of the day. A call centre may have a speed-of-answer goal of 80% in 30 seconds, and will then average together all the hours of the day and celebrate when that average percent at closing time hits the 80% mark. However, there may be no cause for celebration.

Most centres have peaks and troughs of calls. The staff schedules result in some hours of the day being covered just right. But some hours are overstaffed during periods where the call volume drops, while the busiest hours of the day are understaffed.

However, if the key metric is the average service level for the day, these problems are being masked. It’s like having your feet in the freezer and your head in the oven. Your average body temperature might be normal, but it doesn’t say anything about how uncomfortable the two extremes are.

A better measure of workforce management success is to look at the percent of half-hours where the goal was attained, perhaps within 5% – so if the goal is 80% service level, anything between 75% and 85% for the half-hour would earn a check mark, but above or below would be counted against the goal.

Sin 3: Improper analysis of forecast accuracy

Getting a good schedule plan in place depends on having an accurate workload forecast at the beginning of the WFM process. If the workload forecasts are inaccurate, then it’s impossible to match up the workforce accurately to the workload and achieve service goals.

One of the biggest obstacles for many call centres in getting a better forecast is the way in which forecast accuracy is measured and analysed.

Creating workload forecasts depends on two things – past call history to predict trends, patterns, and volumes of calls, and an understanding of an organisation’s unique business drivers.

Simply looking at a month’s forecast of calls versus actual volume doesn’t tell the story of weekly distributions within the month, day-of-week patterns, or time-of-day variations that are integral to predicting staff requirements. If you are looking at the overall forecast to actual volume for the month, break that down into a weekly analysis.

Sin 4: Agreeing to every shift change request

All too often resource planners have a different shift type for each individual employee, despite the fact that employees are on so-called “flexi” contracts.

Employee satisfaction is an important consideration for every business, but organisations shouldn’t be afraid to challenge the reasons for people wanting their own custom shift. If the reason is for family/childcare, then you should be sympathetic and accommodating.

For other situations, ensure that the reason for the change is strong. It is likely that employees are trying to ‘opt-out’ of something that is inconvenient, to make life easier for them.

WFM tools offer the contact centre the ability to undertake ‘what-if’ analysis. This lets you understand the business implications of any shift change before it is agreed. Before agreeing to any new custom shift pattern, you should run it through your WFM tool first.

Sin 5: Failing to adopt the operational strategies that make WFM work

Many companies stay with manual systems because they’ve tried WFM and weren’t satisfied with the results. Often, however, the problem wasn’t with the solution. Many companies make the mistake of putting the burden of results on the software itself, instead of adopting the time-proven operational strategies that help make WFM work. Workforce management is about having the right business processes and a solid workforce management methodology as much as it is about technology. Even the most powerful solution can’t make up for deficiencies in these areas.

Sin 6: Sticking with spreadsheets

Many companies assume that a robust WFM solution will be difficult to implement, consume many scarce resources and will interfere with operations. However, implementing today’s WFM solutions isn’t as daunting as one might think. The key is working with the solution provider to create and follow a comprehensive plan, including:

  • A survey of the current staffing process and what improvements are desired
  • Business process improvement (where necessary)
  • A thorough list of technical and business requirements based on business needs
  • A detailed project management plan
  • A customised WFM solution

Sin 7: Failing to train staff properly

A common problem with sophisticated software solutions is the learning curve. If employees aren’t trained properly, not only does productivity suffer, but frustration can affect performance and can increase attrition – all of which have an impact on the customer experience.

While WFM solutions are powerful, sophisticated tools, they are not necessarily difficult to learn to use effectively.

When considering a WFM solution, businesses should look for a training plan tailored to each individual user role in the organisation.

Thanks to the following for their contributions to this article:

  • David Evans, Consultant, Business Systems (UK) Ltd (www.businesssystemsuk.co.uk)
  • Chris Dealy, Sales Director, injixo (www.injixo.com)
  • Claire Richardson, Director of Workforce Optimisation at Verint (www.verint.com)
  • Simon Angove, CEO of GMT Corporation

Published On: 9th Mar 2011 - Last modified: 13th Nov 2018
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