The Workforce Management Budget Approval Challenge – Tactical Funding
Although workforce management (WFM) is recognized as critical function to the effective operation of contact centers, it is generally treated as a cost center (much the same as finance or human resources) – a function that is necessary overhead for the business, and paid for as a cost-allocation to the business P&L.
Because WFM is a highly specialized area that most non-WFM employees don’t fully understand, it is difficult for a workforce management organization to secure incremental funding unless it is self-financed from the WFM cost center – e.g., something that that can be paid for by reducing WFM staff. Even if such a business case can be developed, these types of investments tend to be viewed by company executives as tactical versus strategic, generally receive lower priority, and in most cases, are only even considered once a year as part of an annual budget planning exercise.
A great example of a dilemma WFM organizations may encounter is in securing funding for intelligent agent mobile app technology that empowers agents with the ability to preview and select preapproved schedule changes with instant confirmation and that can substantially improve the staffing agility of workforce management organizations by effectively transforming agents into active WFM partners who can reduce staffing variances by up to 50%. (View the Sutherland case study here.)
Because the deployment of intelligent agent mobile app technology may not drive significant reductions in WFM organization head count, however, it may be difficult for WFM organizations to secure funding for this type of technology – tools your WFM organization really needs – despite the clear benefit to call center operations in terms of agent-utilization effectiveness.
The Workforce Management Budget Approval Solution – Strategic Funding
The best way to secure funding is to map the business case to a top strategic priority for your company. The good news is that there is already a top strategic priority for your company that already has budget allocated for agent retention, for which intelligent agent mobile app technology provides an ideal solution.
WFM Budget Approval Roadmap Step 1 – Align the Investment to a Top Strategic Priority
According to a US Department of Labor research study, the majority of Millennials consider schedule-change empowerment more important than a pay increase and three out of four consider schedule-change empowerment to be a key criterion for their next career choice. With 70% of the US contact-center workforce now Millennials, this translates into over 1.2M of the approximately 3.5M contact-center agent workforce. With the gig economy (think Uber Lyft, Taskrabbit) siphoning off approximately 50% of the traditional contact center agent pool, it is no wonder that the majority of companies responding to a recent member survey by the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) survey reported increasing agent turnover. One third of companies responding to this same survey indicated that providing agents with schedule-change empowerment technology would have a greater impact on agent retention than a 2.5% pay increase. For an agent making $15.25/hour (the average contact center wage in the US) this translates into ~$60/month. With the cost of agent turnover already the single highest contact center cost (after agent payroll itself) it is no surprise that 2 out of 3 companies have a strategic initiative to improve agent empowerment.
Hence the business case for intelligent agent mobile app technology can be directly tied to a top company priority – improving their ability to recruit and retain an engaged and productive agent workforce. This technology comes under the rubric “Tools Your WFM Organization Really Needs.”
WFM Budget Approval Roadmap Step 2 – Align the Investment to an Existing Approved Budget
Virtually 100% of companies already have an agent retention budget in place. It is called “annual payroll increase,” the sole purpose of which is to help reduce agent turnover. For a 1000 agent contact center with an average hourly wage of $14/hour, a 2% annual wage increase translates into ~28 cents an hour or an annual retention budget of ~$560,000.
Recognizing that a substantial percentage of your agent workforce values schedule-change empowerment over pay increases, if you reallocated one-third of your annual retention budget to schedule-change empowerment, you could still allocate $375,000 toward wage increases (18 cents an hour, and establish a budget for schedule change empowerment technology of $185,000, or about $15/agent/month.
Assuming the value of schedule-change empowerment for agent retention is ~$60/agent/month the ROI on this schedule-change empowerment portion of your agent-retention budget is ~4:1.
WFM Budget Approval Roadmap Step 3 – Actively Promote Operations Benefits to Realize WFM Benefits
Working with your operations counterparts to promote investment in agent schedule-schedule empowerment technology based on benefits of improved agent retention (a strategic company priority, but not something that WFM organizations are directly measured on), budget approval can be secured more quickly and WFM organizations can enjoy the benefits of improved staffing agility – something that they are directly measured on.