workforce management

What is Workforce Management?

Workforce Management (WFM) is a set of business processes that contact centers use to ensure that staff can work in a cost-effective way. 

This includes forecasting contact volume, scheduling staff and analyzing performance. 

In other words, WFM involves studying the past, managing the present and predicting the future. 

Why does workforce management matter?

Resource planning is vital for any business, but contact centers are especially vulnerable to labor costs. 

They also face a very erratic demand, making it challenging to schedule staff effectively.

Effective WFM enables contact centers to:

  • Schedule the correct number of staff members at different times
  • Schedule the right mix of team members, based on their skills
  • Find opportunities to reduce costs or add value
  • Track the performance of individuals and teams

A WFM analyst will often liaise with other departments to understand activities that are likely to drive additional traffic. 

The central goal is to forecast traffic as accurately as possible for the smallest possible intervals, often 15 minutes. 

The workforce analyst will also often take responsibility for creating a business continuity plan.

Can anyone use WFM software?

Medium-to-large contact centers usually have software designed specifically for WFM tasks. 

This software can provide a lot of detailed insight and makes a number of planning tasks far easier. 

However, as a general rule, it still needs a WFM analyst to use the software. 

For comparison, imagine a detailed engine schematic. The schematic will make it far easier to tune up your car’s engine… but you probably need to be a mechanic to read it. 

The role of a WFM analyst

In the contact center, a WFM analyst is usually part of the operational and/or management team. 

The role can vary widely in different businesses but the core roles generally include scheduling staff, analysing current contact volume, forecasting future contact volume and tracking employee performance. 

In some businesses the work of a WFM analyst overlaps with human resource teams on staff wellbeing and training (key factors in productivity.)

In others, the WFM analyst may have a core operational role, designing and implementing new service processes. 

How do WFM analysts measure contact center performance?

There are a number of key metrics that matter in contact center workforce management including:

  • Schedule adherence
    • What proportion of their time agents spend on tasks they are scheduled for, versus tasks they are not scheduled for.
  • Occupancy
    • The amount of time that agents spend on contact-related work like answering calls or ACW.
  • SLA
    • How effectively the contact center is meeting its Service Level Agreement (often expressed as something like “80% of calls answered within 20 seconds”)
  • Shrinkage
    • The proportion of time that agents are being paid but are not available to handle customer conversations. This includes planned shrinkage like training, and unplanned shrinkage like sickness. 

In practice there are an enormous number of methods for measuring performance. 

In fact, the real skill of workforce management is maintaining focus on a manageable number of WFM metrics!

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