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The Uberization of Workforce Management

In 2015 DMG introduced the concept of adaptive real-time forecasting and scheduling to the market to help companies begin the process of rethinking their contact center staffing challenges. We called this concept the “uberization” of workforce management, as it was conceived with the intent of balancing the “power” between companies and their employees.

While many in the market blame the Millennial generation for high rates of employee attrition, this issue has confronted call centers for as long as they have existed. Though the demands of Millennials for work/life balance and a greater say in creating their schedules appear to be forcing executives to examine their staffing practices, as they should have done years ago, they are not the cause of the high attrition rates in contact centers. The cause is and always has been poorly conceived staffing and salary practices, exacerbated by managers who do not listen to their employees. For example, few people want to work every weekend and the graveyard shift during the week. While these “shifts” are presented to a job candidate as an entryway into a company, it is highly probable that whoever takes these time slots is likely to move to a new job as soon as they find one.

Fixed Shift, Breaks and Lunches are the Problem

Fixed work schedules are a major issue with the current generation of contact center WFM solutions, as are fixed lunch times and fixed breaks. Employees in many other departments can typically take a break when they need it, and even if scheduled to go to lunch at a specific time can change it when necessary without going through many layers of management and obtaining permission from the WFM system. This is not the case for contact center agents who literally have to account for every minute of their day and who can’t swap their lunch time or schedule with a colleague, with their manager’s permission, if they need to go to a doctor appointment, are called into their child’s school, or simply want to leave early to attend a concert. It’s hard enough to be in the line of fire all day, handling inquiries from the public without the additional burden of scheduling restrictions. It’s well past time for this to change, and this is where adaptive real-time scheduling fits in.

What is Adaptive Real-Time Scheduling?

The idea behind adaptive real-time scheduling is to create a work environment where there is a balance of control between an enterprise and its employees. This represents a major shift, as enterprises are accustomed to telling their employees exactly when they have to work; instead, adaptive real-time scheduling creates a scheduling scenario where the company and its employees can reach a consensus that works for both of them. Scheduling flexibility, which is an important consideration for Millennials, is an essential element of the new concept, and one that enterprises are going to need to get accustomed to.

A second component of the new adaptive scheduling approach is that it gives employees the opportunity to bid for the times that they want to work, and the hours don’t have to be the same each day or week. Salary arbitrage will be used to convince people to take on less preferable hours or overtime, instead of forcing employees to work 10 – 20 extra hours each week, as too many companies have a habit of doing. If a company cannot get someone to work a graveyard shift, they’ll need to increase the salary paid during these hours until someone agrees to do it. (If it works for Uber, it’ll work for a contact center, particularly if agents feel empowered.) Employees will be invited to respond to schedule changes and input their requests via their mobile devices, which is their primary form of communication today. Additionally, agents will be allowed to change working hours, breaks and lunches at the last minute without being penalized. There will still be rules about what is and isn’t acceptable, but the idea is to create a positive work environment where employees are encouraged to come to work instead of suffering in a negative workplace where there is little to no scheduling flexibility.

Final Thoughts

The concept of a sharing economy has caught the attention of the workforce and needs to be integrated into contact centers if they want to reduce attrition rates and possibly become employers of choice. Many managers agree with this approach in theory, but few companies have adopted the best practices and systems needed to implement adaptive real-time scheduling. The WFM market is in need of a major refresh cycle, and adaptive scheduling should become a standard feature in the solutions of the future.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at