Is Your WFM Team Suffering From a Lack of Empowerment?

In the contact center world, we talk a lot about the need for agent empowerment. When customer satisfaction is the goal, a proven way to get there is by giving our agents greater levels of authority and autonomy so they can serve our customers more effectively. But what isn’t discussed is the need for empowerment at other levels of the organization to do the same.

For example, why isn’t WFM team empowerment a topic of discussion? Is it because everyone assumes that the members of workforce team already have a high degree of authority when it comes to managing the said workforce? Well, we all know what happens when we make assumptions. Truth be told, in my personal experience and in that of many WFM folks I work with, the members of the so-called WFM “in-charge desk” are not as “in-charge” as one might think.

How empowered is your workforce management team really?Here are 3 common, real-world examples of WFM team empowerment (or lack thereof):

  1. WFM is responsible for forecasting agent resource requirements, but they are not empowered to set the service-level targets that drive those requirements, nor are they empowered to decide how many agent resources are actually hired to meet those targets. Service-level targets are established by…(does anyone even know?). And hiring decisions are usually made via a consortium of HR, finance and members of operations, often with little-to-no input from WFM. Go figure.
  2. WFM is said to be about making sure the proverbial “right agents are in the right place at the right time.” But in reality, WFM folks are not empowered to decide who works when. HR policies, governmental regulations, union rules and operational leadership “philosophies” are what drive the scheduling constraints a WFM team must work within. Yet who gets the blame when agents don’t like their schedules? You guessed it…WFM.
  3. WFM is also responsible for explaining why intraday services levels aren’t met. But they are often not empowered to hold people accountable for ensuring the plan they spent so much time creating is actually followed. Unplanned events like training and team meetings routinely take place without anyone consulting the WFM team. Supervisors commonly make ad-hoc changes to agent skills and turn in after-the-fact schedule changes all while referring to members of WFM as “Big Brother.” Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

There are, of course, exceptions to these examples. High-performing contact centers treat the WFM team as the heart of the operation and rely heavily upon the expertise and insight of its members. In these centers, hiring decisions are not made without the historical analysis and forecasting input of WFM. New scheduling strategies and policies are formed via joint task forces, which are initiated by members of WFM, and include agents, operations and HR. And no intraday staffing decision is ever executed without securing a prior “thumbs up” from the WFM team.

Does this sound like crazy-talk? If so, then perhaps your WFM team is suffering from a lack of empowerment. And guess what? If your WFM team is suffering, it’s highly likely that your contact center (and your customer) is suffering, too.

Consider this: if your center’s individual operational teams and supervisor groups are allowed to act as if they are islands instead of part of an inter-connected whole, your WFM team is rendered powerless and unable to do the job the team members were hired to do. I’m not advocating some kind of dictatorship with WFM members running around yelling “I’m the boss of you!” No, they are not the boss, but they do have a directive role to play that goes beyond trying to catch agents coming back late from break.

Every contact center requires a central point of coordinating control with the authority, as well as the responsibility, to ensure the needs of the business, the agents and the customers are being met as effectively and efficiently as possible. If this is the role WFM plays at your contact center then- congratulations! You are among the fortunate few who have an empowered workforce management team.

-Guest post contributed by Rebecca Wise Girson, Founder of Wise Workforce Strategies, Inc.

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