Workforce Management in 2021: Better than Ever

It’s the year of workforce management (WFM), despite (or maybe because of) the pandemic. Interest in workforce planning has picked up over the last few years as companies have looked for ways to improve employee engagement. Identifying methods for improving scheduling flexibility is an enterprise concern and opportunity, although contact centers have it toughest, with little apparent flexibility as they must maintain strict schedules to ensure they have the right number of resources with the necessary skills to respond to the projected volume of interactions. This is how it has been for the past 45 years. But maybe there is another way, one the pandemic brought home for enterprises.

New-Gen WFM Can Alter the Equation

DMG Consulting has been talking about the concept of new-gen WFM for 6 years. For this concept to work, contact centers have to be willing to change how they think about and treat their agents, essentially transferring scheduling decision-making to them. In order to make this happen, companies need a much larger pool of trained agents, which has been the limiting factor for the process, until recently. And, for the new concepts to be applied, WFM solutions need to be enhanced. 

During the past 4 years, WFM vendors have been enhancing their self-service capabilities. This served a variety of purposes for contact centers, including reducing the burden of data entry on WFM administrators and supervisors and increasing access to agents via mobility. The improvements also empowered agents to actively participate in the scheduling process and made it easier for them to ask for time off, swap shifts, and request overtime or voluntary time off. These capabilities are mission-critical for DMG’s new-gen WFM concept, as they give both companies and employees more flexibility and allow workers to take greater ownership of the scheduling process. 

When the pandemic forced companies to send their employees home to work to keep them safe, it helped eliminate restrictions on access to large pools of agents. Once employees are working remotely, it doesn’t matter where they are based geographically. This means that companies can recruit agents (and likely other employees) from anywhere in the world, although there are reasons why keeping them in-country may be necessary for certain types of businesses. 

There still are issues involving the need to train large groups of agents in order to have enough people available to fill all time slots, particularly for large contact centers, but this was a challenge that confronted these departments for years. When planning to hire a new group of trainees, managers have to take into account two types of “fall-off” or shrinkage – new hires who don’t show up on day one, and people who don’t make it through the training and onboarding process. These numbers vary by organization, but it’s common to see shrinkage of 20% – 30% on a combined basis. Using at-home agents makes it easier to address these challenges and is also expected to decrease the “fall-off” rate slightly. While there are still issues, using work-at-home (WAH) agents positions companies to more easily hire the agents they need, which will allow them to implement new-gen WFM concepts. 

More to Come in the Future

It’s going to be a few years before the new-gen approach can be put into action fully, as WFM vendors still need to alter the underlying architecture, workflow and processes of their solutions to make what is currently viewed as intraday management the core processing engine. But the rapid acceptance and adoption of enhanced self-service capabilities demonstrate the market’s interest in altering the traditional rules and approaches to the WFM game. DMG encourages contact center and WFM leaders to share their ideas for improving WFM process and systems with their vendors. WFM vendors are listening, and if your existing provider doesn’t listen what you have to say, reach out to the many new and emerging vendors who will. 

If you’re interested in improving your WFM environment and finding a new solution, please see DMG’s new industry report, the 2021 Workforce Management Product and Market Report. This Report is designed to help you find the ideal WFM solution for your contact center. And if you have questions about the market and offerings, please reach out to Donna Fluss at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.