Call Centre Workforce Management Myths
Working within operational divisions of many organisations and in discussions on challenges with various people in many industries during my career, I’ve encountered many workforce management myths surrounding people logistics and Workforce Management in the call centre industry.
Often Workforce Management (aka WFM) is seen as a bit of a black magic, or perhaps as the group that always seem to take the fun away from working in the contact centre.
You know, the team responsible for watching every minute of work, controlling the annual leave rosters, deciding who gets the best shift and so on.
But of course, there is a lot more to call centre workforce management that just that.
I’d like to share the most common workforce management myths I’ve come across that disable an organisation’s ability to perform at it’s best.
10 Workforce Management Myths that are holding organisations back
1. Purchasing and implementing a new workforce management solution will ensure an optimised operation
While new technology gives the ability to improve call centre operations, it can be impeded by various influences.
Some of these include organisational structure, software components purchased, abilities/ training of your workforce management team and other restrictions of an organisation in fully optimising their workforce.
For example, an organisation has purchased workforce management software allowing optimisation of shifts and their components; however has a culture of setting shifts and wants to avoid change, resulting in reduced staffing optimisation benefit through arranging staff shifts and their components where customer demand exists.
2. Workforce Management isn’t scalable
Overall benefits can be higher in large teams that haven’t been optimised due to the pure scale of staff.
While this is often true, the practices and thought process can still be applied to smaller teams and in many cases the lower staff number and lower sporadic demand necessitate smarter workforce management practices.
3. We have busy times/ peak periods every year that are very challenging
Peaks and troughs in demand exist in almost every industry and business.
They exist in cycles spanning a year, month, week, day, hour and to smaller interval levels dependent on the organisation.
Enabled effective Workforce Management is all about putting the right people in the right place at the right time.
Where demand can’t be met at ‘peak periods’ analytics delving into why labour supply isn’t meeting demand should be undertaken.
Has demand or supply greatly changed compared with the plan originally approved? Are the workforce inputs performing as per assumptions built into planning?
Did the budgetary process facilitate adequate staffing for the given period?
Peak periods really don’t exist in a workforce planning sense; only periods where demand is higher and lower than a given average for a period.
Unrestricted Workforce Management allows adequate supply to demand, resulting in a seamless experience for customers.
Accurate planning for higher demand periods is crucial to an organisations success at these times.
It’s important not to bend the plan to fit other expectations, resulting in unpredictable performance.
4. Continuous increases to the skill sets of our staff will mean less and less staff required
Increasing staff skillsets/ capability is important from a career path sense and for the growth of an organisation.
Positive impacts from upskilling and/ or cross-skilling your workforce can be found up to a point.
This threshold can vary organisation to organisation; beyond it, staff may struggle to be effective moving from task to task, error rates can increase/quality reduces and morale can be impacted.
5. Offshoring/ outsourcing your call centre workforce management function will be as effective an in house function
Outsourcers regularly miss the mark in terms of delivering a seamless workforce management experience due to several factors.
Every organisation has its own intricacies, so providing an out of the box function is difficult.
This lends itself to the organisation teaching the outsourcer how to operate within an existing process, down to providing instructions in many cases.
Without hands-on involvement in the day to day running of the operation, an outsourcer can find it difficult to deliver improvements and offer solutions that are practical and acceptable within the environment.
On the other hand, an in house workforce management function can build face to face relationships horizontally and vertically throughout an organisation, be a part of the culture, have a deeper understanding of the potential ramifications of decisions and know-how and when to take decisive action outside of an adopted process or outsourcing agreement.
These factors tend to outweigh any cost-benefit.
6. Process has no impact on staffing outcomes
Organisational process always has an impact on staffing outcomes.
Where process is not efficient, more staff will be required to complete the process.
Process can be impacted due to many factors including technology, regulatory factors, product or service and legislation.
When these items change, impacts to staffing will also be evident.
7. Culture doesn’t have an impact on workforce management effectiveness
Culture can have either a positive or negative impact on the influence and effectiveness of workforce management within an organisation.
As an example, one organisation may see the workforce management team as an interference; another may see them as critical to meeting business objectives and outcomes.
It’s not difficult to understand which workforce management team would be more effective and be enabled to assist with providing benefit to the organisation from an executive and strategic level, right through to tactical.
8. Utilising enterprise agreement and legislative workplace award flexibility will have little or no impact meeting business demands
Enterprise agreements and legislative workplace awards allow for staff flexibility with the aim of enabling an organisation to meet it’s changing customer demands.
They allow an organisation to make needed changes to its staffing model in order to satisfy changing customer demand.
When the customer needs change, organisations need to adapt.
Without enough staff to meet demand; timeliness, quality and staff burnout are some of the inherent risks. Flexibility in your staffing model helps to address this.
9. Workforce management should be able to meet customer demand regardless of finance budget
This is a concerning but common myth and can often find an organisation short of staff when they are most needed.
Besides other assumptions built into industry-specific workforce planning; overarching expectations are usually set for thresholds in the areas of quality, timeliness and customer satisfaction, for example.
These expectations have impacts to an organisation’s workforce plan; as such if the budget doesn’t allow for assumptions in line with these thresholds then the plan will be inaccurate – leading to performance outside of expectations.
10. Once optimised, Workforce Management is a matter of set and forget
The modern organisation is in a constant state of change, as a result of the environment they operate within.
Call centre Workforce management is also a constant cycle of planning, monitoring, analysing and improving.
As a result workforce management teams shouldn’t be seen as something that is established and then just set and forget. Workforce management teams should be always looking for improvements that can be made to organisations.
Optimisation is something that needs to constantly be reassessed when the business environment changes; so it’s definitely not a destination, more a constant state.
Recommended further reading: 4 Great Tips for Call Centre Workforce Management