Spring 2016 Survey Results

Survey Results

Each quarter SWPP surveys the workforce planning community on critical workforce planning topics. Almost 200 call center professionals representing a wide variety of industries participated and provided insight into this quarter’s survey on training and development for the WFM team.

Survey Participants

Forty-three percent of the respondents in this survey work in centers with over 500 agents. The rest are representative of a wide variety of sizes from under 50 up to 500 agents.

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The insurance and financial industries drew the largest number of participants, but all other industries are also well represented.

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New Hire Training

Respondents were asked what kinds of training a new hire in the WFM team receives (and could select more than one answer.) Nearly everyone chose in-house/on-the-job training. However, far fewer indicated that the new hires receive training on the company offerings and even less receive either vendor training on the WFM system or third-party training on principles of WFM. Training on the WFM systems from existing employees risks that errors or minimal understanding of the capabilities of the systems will be passed down, reducing the effectiveness of the investment in these systems. Lack of understanding of the company’s offerings, procedures, and services may limit the WFM team’s empathy with the work done by the frontline staff. Everyone needs to be focused on the same-end goals and that can be difficult when the groups are not in synch.

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Ongoing Training

The respondents were asked what ongoing training is offered to the WFM team. Once again, internal training on either WFM or other topics were the leading answers. Leadership development and upgrade training for WFM products by the vendor tied for next choice. This access to upgrade training may help to overcome the potential shortfall of vendor training for new hires. Only a small group noted third-party training on WFM processes and best practices. Given the free web seminars offered by SWPP to its members, this should be a relatively easy gap to fill.

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Vendor Annual Conference

The survey further explored whether team members are able to attend the WFM software vendor’s annual conference. There were nearly equal responses that no one attends or some team members attend each year. About one-quarter of the respondents indicate that only management level team members attend and 2% send all members each year (although this may be organizations with only a small number of WFM staff).

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When asked about other development opportunities, the most frequent choice was the SWPP Annual Conference followed closely by participations in a project team, membership in local call center groups and attendance at SWPP Regional Meetings. SWPP is pleased to provide these opportunities to the WFM community and is thankful for the participation.

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Apprenticeship or Internship Program

When asked if there was an apprenticeship or internship program for other company employees interested in joining the WFM team, more than half indicated that they do not have such programs. However, 16% indicate that they do have a program while another 30% indicated that they have used the technique on occasion. This has proven to be an excellent way to recruit for the WFM team and for possible candidates to try out the position without making the full commitment. When a job opening is available, both sides are in a better position to make the right choice.

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Career Workforce Planners

Respondents were asked what percentage of their WFM team would consider themselves to be career workforce planners. The responses suggest that many view this as a career with 18% responding that more than 75% of their team, and another 28% indicating 50-75%, are career WFM professionals. Another 23%, however, indicated that less than 25% view the role as a career and another 5% said none did.

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Most Important Development Opportunity for Team

The survey gave respondents the opportunity to provide a free-form answer defining the most important development opportunity for the WFM team. The answers are widely varying, but the most common follow these themes:

  • More training on the WFM software tools in use, including reporting capabilities
  • Better understanding of WFM fundamentals and best practices
  • Data analysis and understanding the numbers including advanced Excel training
  • Building relationships with the teams they support and who support them
  • Keeping up with industry trends and networking with other WFM professionals
  • Ability to align WFM strategy with company strategy
  • Sending more attendees to the SWPP Annual Conference and Regional Meetings

Closing Comments

Based on the responses above, the overall training and development plan for WFM teams varies widely. Too few are taking advantage of training on basic WFM principles and best practices. Knowing why things are done the way they are is important as knowing how to do them. Broader knowledge supports new ideas and opportunities to be of value to the company as a whole.

Many would benefit from formal training on the software tools provided by the vendors. While this is generally not free, planning it in the budget for all new hires and for any upgrade projects is vital to maximizing the value of the investment in these powerful and expensive tools. Too many systems are replaced because they are thought to be inadequate for the job when often it is simply a lack of training and utilization of the full system capabilities at fault. Some WFM departments assign a person to learn one new capability each month and share it with the team, and this has worked well.

Building the relationship between the WFM team and the rest of the organization is critical. Developing a “we are all in this together” attitude will go a long way to finding the best balance of customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and cost.

Of course, SWPP’s mission is to provide as many development opportunities to the WFM community as possible. Annual conferences, regional meetings, webinars, and the newsletter represent a few of these. For those who view WFM as a career, the Certified Workforce Planning Professionals (CWPP) program through SWPP provides a certification opportunity that provides that important credential that enhances a career in this important field. As one expert said, “WFM is the key discipline in call centers. Without the right number of trained personnel in place to answer an accurately forecast workload, there is little chance of success.”