An Introduction to… Workforce Management Applications

A photo of a red chess pawn being put into place

We introduce to the fundamental applications of workforce management (WFM), which you need to know if you are going to run an efficient contact centre.

Use of Workforce Management Applications

In a key piece of WFM research that we conducted a few years ago, we found the following results:

WFM Functionality Proportion of Respondents Using WFM That Use This Functionality
Measure adhere to schedules 68%
Forecast “What If” Scenario 64%
Agents able to request and view vacations and planned absences online 52%
Schedule multimedia task 21%

The majority of companies (68%) compare the forecasts with the reality, in order to learn and keep improving, which is vital to successful workforce management.

Without measuring adherence and understanding any errors, the business will be doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

In addition, 64% of respondents use “what-if” scenarios – hypothetical models that will give an idea of staffing requirements and service levels depending on whether certain events happen, such as a new TV campaign driving up calls, a flu epidemic keeping agents off work or a self-service option going live.

In 2008, 52% of respondents used workforce management to allow agents to request the shifts and holidays that suit them, a big step up from previous years.

Quite apart from the benefit of reduced management administration, this functionality helps to get direct buy-in for workforce management from the people whom it will affect (see question 2 in the figure below).

Employees can get defensive about change, and may perceive workforce management solutions as something which is being introduced to keep a tighter rein on them: explaining that the tool is there to help everyone get a fair amount of the right work, and point out the empowering aspects to it (e.g. the ability to request specific shifts/holidays) is more likely to get a positive response.

Only 21% of respondents use workforce management to help with multimedia tasks (down from 29% last year), which adds to the evidence that the multimedia channel is the first to suffer in a contact centre’s busy times, which does not help the customer acceptance of the channel.

Additional Workforce Management Applications

In a survey by The Forum, respondents were asked which types of extra functionality they would personally most like in their own workforce management solutions:

  • 16% of answers were around adherence, such as real-time adherence statistics and adherence at an individual level
  • 27% chose scheduling, particularly adding multimedia scheduling ability; the administration of schedule changes, vacation requests & overtime automatically, and by agents; intraday holidays
  • 36% were interested in more reporting capabilities: in particular, real-time reporting; measuring individuals’ output throughout the day and including all tasks (not just calls); relating sales conversion rate and performance
  • 21% wanted better forecasting abilities: better what-if and scenario testing; and long-term forecasting improvements.

Opinions on the Uses of Workforce Management

Wanting to access more information into how contact centres are using WFM applications, below we shares some research from ContactBabel.


There was strong agreement across the board that allowing an agent to register a preference for shifts and holidays was very positive for morale.

The ability to change schedules quickly was also seen as generally important, especially amongst large contact centres, where 85% of respondents said this was the case.

It is worth noting that 40% of small contact centres said that quick schedule changes were important for them, however, few of these have the technology in place to do this particularly quickly or accurately.

Generally, over-staffing was rarely seen as an important issue, unlike under-staffing, which small contact centres in particular found to be a serious concern.

17% of contact centres with a third-party workforce management solution said that under- or over-staffing was a problem, compared to 32% of operations which did not use this solution.

A significant proportion of all operations were also likely to think of workforce management solutions as primarily being about cost-cutting.

Thanks to Steve Morrell of Contact Babel for providing many of the insights that were included in this article. 

For more fundamental advice on contact centre WFM, read our articles:

Author: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 23rd Apr 2010 - Last modified: 11th Apr 2024
Read more about - Workforce Planning, , , , , , ,

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  • You have made some interesting points – do you have any updated numbers for the statistics? I bet your predictions are correct, but it would be interesting to see the stats.

    Travis 5 Feb at 04:33
  • To derive Headcount from Required Seats for a process, Seat Utilization is multiplied by No of Seats and from that number 1-non work shrinkage is been divided.
    Need to check whether I am getting the final number appropriate

    Shailesh Vernekar 23 May at 09:11