Workforce Management FAQs


We answer four of the most common questions that our readers put to us, all regarding the topic of contact centre workforce management (WFM).

What Is Workforce Management?

Put simply, workforce management is all about assigning the right staff to the right job at the right time.

Although that might sound simple, it is in fact a complex business challenge, because there are many factors that come into play. Many companies use different pieces of specialist software for resource planning, customer record management and HR, but still rely on simple spreadsheets or even pen and paper when it comes to staff scheduling. In even a small contact centre this can result in expensive overtime payments, unproductive idle time, poor customer service, high attrition rates and untapped revenue potential.

That’s where workforce management can help. By optimising and automating staff planning you can make sure you assign your employees to tasks in accordance with your business requirements.

Workforce management allows you to:

  • Forecast your requirements – so you know how many employees with what skills you’ll need in the future
  • Plan your work schedule – so you have exactly the right number of employees to meet your needs
  • Manage your employees’ time – so you can determine your employees’ work time accounts
  • Monitor and analyse your results – so you can see whether you are meeting your targets, and take quick action if not.

Why Can’t You Do This With a Spreadsheet?

Planners have to take into account a whole range of different factors when setting up a staff schedule. Many constraints have to be considered at once, including legislation, local agreements and employee contracts, as well as budgets, individual employee qualifications and employee availability. And, of course, schedules must conform to the rules, but they must also match your staffing needs.

Too many staff means extra costs, too few could compromise customer service. Setting up a schedule is therefore essentially a combination problem, but the number of possible combinations is far too large to be handled in a simple spreadsheet; it requires a system with considerable power and mathematical sophistication.

Do I Need a Third-Party WFM Solution?

Although 75.5% of contact centres use a third‐party licensed or hosted workforce management (WFM) solution, that leaves around a quarter who don’t. If you are one of those, how can you decide if it is the right investment for your organisation? Here are a few basic questions you can ask:

  • Ask each supervisor and/or line manager how much time they are dedicating on a weekly basis to staff scheduling and vacation planning activities.
  • Analyse how much contact centre time is lost because agents are late in signing on. Conduct a four‐week study.
  • Ask agents if they are satisfied with how scheduling is handled and if they believe they are given enough advance notice to be able to modify their personal routines when their work schedule changes.
  • Ask agents if they believe that vacation planning is handled fairly.
  • Determine if the perception of poor scheduling is a key reason why agents resign.

What’s the Difference Between Occupancy Rate and Utilization Rate, and How Do They Reflect on Agents’ Productivity?

Horses for courses, different terms for the same thing. Seat productivity is another. It means the actual time an agent is productive OR the time a seat is productive (if hot desking) during opening hours.

Now this may not directly relate to any call handling metrics at all, especially if there are back-office or email functions associated with the role.

An agent is also ‘productive’ if you have them off the phone for coaching or training, however, in these cases their seat isn’t.

For more on this distinction, read our article: What Is the Difference Between Occupancy and Utilisation?

The answers to these questions were put forward by WFM Expert Dave Appleby and the team at injixo.

For more simple tips on improving contact centre WFM, read our articles:

Author: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 14th Mar 2010 - Last modified: 10th Feb 2020
Read more about - Workforce Planning, , ,

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