Thinking About WFM Certification?

Thinking About WFM Certification?

By Michele Borboa, CWPP, Contact Center Resources

After many years in the call center field, including more than one stint in Workforce Management (WFM), I heard about something interesting that the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) was introducing: a WFM certification. Other fields had certifications, like HR, Finance, and Accounting so it was only fitting that Workforce Management cement its credibility with a certification of its own. And I was eager to see if I could pass the muster.

Over the years, I learned the WFM function the informal way, like most people do: by taking a variety of classes, reading the trade journals, attending webinars, and attending user conferences hosted by the software vendors. And for the last 10 plus years, there have been some great learning opportunities at the SWPP conferences as well. And now, I can say that I am a Certified Workforce Planning Professional (CWPP).

Introduced by SWPP almost nine years ago to provide a professional development opportunity and recognition for the workforce management community, this program is available to any and all interested workforce management professionals. Membership in SWPP is not a pre-requisite, but SWPP members do receive discounted pricing. Here is an overview of the certification program, but more information is available on the SWPP website at www.swpp.org.

The SWPP Workforce Management Certification program consists of three exams, which cover the core workforce management competencies of Planning and Strategy, Staffing and Scheduling, and Managing Daily Staffing and Service,  followed by a project. The exams test our workforce management knowledge, and the project requires us to demonstrate our knowledge in practical application. From the time a workforce management professional registers for Workforce Management Certification, he/she has two years to complete the entire process.

Competencies

If you decide to undertake Workforce Management Certification, reviewing the workforce management competencies is the best starting point. They were developed by thought leaders in our field, and cover virtually every knowledge area  required of a workforce management professional. Split into three categories, there is a separate exam for each area. The Planning and Strategy area covers things like workforce management roles, responsibilities, and key processes, the tools and technologies that support those processes, and the development of workload forecasts. The Staffing and Scheduling area covers the calculation of staff requirements and telephone resources, the creation of workforce schedules, and related items. And the Managing Daily Staffing and Service area covers the main elements of intra-day management, attendance and adherence, and reporting. There are over 100 competencies/sub-competencies in all, and a copy of them is posted on the SWPP website. I can tell you from personal experience how important it is to study these prior to taking the exams!

Exams

Certified by a psychometrician, each multiple-choice exam is taken online and must be proctored. A copy of the proctor guidelines and signature page is available at the SWPP website. (Exams are not “open book.” ) There is a two-hour limit  per exam, although most participants have been averaging one hour each. Exams can be taken back to back, or one at a time. Results are provided via email for each exam individually, and show the percentage of correct answers for each  section of the exam. The requirement to pass is 80% correct, and, if necessary, re-testing is available.

Project

Once an applicant has successfully completed all three exams, it is time for the project portion of Workforce Management Certification, the purpose of which is to demonstrate a practical application of the workforce management knowledge just tested for on the exams – and the ability to communicate that knowledge well to others. Applicants present their projects via teleconference to a Certification review board, which consists of SWPP Advisory Board members and other  workforce management professionals who have already achieved workforce management Certification.

This project can be selected from a list of pre-approved projects (the list is posted on the SWPP website), or an applicant can create his/her own project idea and submit it for approval. The project can be pulled from the “real world,” taking advantage of work already completed, but care should be taken in these instances to omit any sensitive or proprietary information from the presentation. Project feedback is provided via e-mail as soon as possible after the presentation, often within an hour.

After many years in the call center field, including more than one stint in Workforce Management (WFM), I heard about something interesting that the Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) was introducing: a WFM certification. Other fields had certifications, like HR, Finance, and Accounting so it was only fitting that Workforce Management cement its credibility with a certification of its own. And I was eager to see if I could pass the muster.

Over the years, I learned the WFM function the informal way, like most people do: by taking a variety of classes, reading the trade journals, attending webinars, and attending user conferences hosted by the software vendors. And for the last 10 plus years, there have been some great learning opportunities at the SWPP conferences as well. And now, I can say that I am a Certified Workforce Planning Professional (CWPP).

Introduced by SWPP almost nine years ago to provide a professional development opportunity and recognition for the workforce management community, this program is available to any and all interested workforce management professionals. Membership in SWPP is not a pre-requisite, but SWPP members do receive discounted pricing. Here is an overview of the certification program, but more information is available on the SWPP website at www.swpp.org.

The SWPP Workforce Management Certification program consists of three exams, which cover the core workforce management competencies of Planning and Strategy, Staffing and Scheduling, and Managing Daily Staffing and Service,  followed by a project. The exams test our workforce management knowledge, and the project requires us to demonstrate our knowledge in practical application. From the time a workforce management professional registers for Workforce Management Certification, he/she has two years to complete the entire process.

Competencies

If you decide to undertake Workforce Management Certification, reviewing the workforce management competencies is the best starting point. They were developed by thought leaders in our field, and cover virtually every knowledge area  required of a workforce management professional. Split into three categories, there is a separate exam for each area. The Planning and Strategy area covers things like workforce management roles, responsibilities, and key processes, the tools and technologies that support those processes, and the development of workload forecasts. The Staffing and Scheduling area covers the calculation of staff requirements and telephone resources, the creation of workforce schedules, and related items. And the Managing Daily Staffing and Service area covers the main elements of intra-day management, attendance and adherence, and reporting. There are over 100 competencies/sub-competencies in all, and a copy of them is posted on the SWPP website. I can tell you from personal experience how important it is to study these prior to taking the exams!

Exams

Certified by a psychometrician, each multiple-choice exam is taken online and must be proctored. A copy of the proctor guidelines and signature page is available at the SWPP website. (Exams are not “open book.” ) There is a two-hour limit  per exam, although most participants have been averaging one hour each. Exams can be taken back to back, or one at a time. Results are provided via email for each exam individually, and show the percentage of correct answers for each  section of the exam. The requirement to pass is 80% correct, and, if necessary, re-testing is available.

Project

Once an applicant has successfully completed all three exams, it is time for the project portion of Workforce Management Certification, the purpose of which is to demonstrate a practical application of the workforce management knowledge just tested for on the exams – and the ability to communicate that knowledge well to others. Applicants present their projects via teleconference to a Certification review board, which consists of SWPP Advisory Board members and other  workforce management professionals who have already achieved workforce management Certification.

This project can be selected from a list of pre-approved projects (the list is posted on the SWPP website), or an applicant can create his/her own project idea and submit it for approval. The project can be pulled from the “real world,” taking advantage of work already completed, but care should be taken in these instances to omit any sensitive or proprietary information from the presentation. Project feedback is provided via e-mail as soon as possible after the presentation, often within an hour.

Designation

Upon successful completion of all three exams and the project, applicants receive the right to use the CWPP designation after their names on business cards, resumes, professional correspondence, etc. An example would be Jane Doe, CWPP. Hiring managers who wish to verify the designation may contact the Executive Director of SWPP, Vicki Herrell, via email at vicki.herrell@swpp.org.

Associate Certification

In recognition of the many workforce management specialists in the field, and to offer them a substantial development opportunity, SWPP offers Associate Certification. This requires successful completion of one exam, along with a project to demonstrate knowledge in the same competency area as the exam. This is a great alternative for someone who has spent years as a Scheduler, for example, and who might not have a strong interest in overall certification. This might also be an alternative for someone who prefers to certify in one competency area at a time, or over a longer time period than two years. Once Associate Certification is achieved, the designation would appear as Jane Doe, Associate CWPP, or Jane Doe, Associate CWPP – Staffing and Scheduling (or whichever of the three competency areas applies).

Continuing Education Requirements

Once certified, there are annual requirements to maintain the designation. Using a points-based system similar to that of other professional certification programs, certified professionals need to accumulate 40 points per year to keep their CWPP status. Associate certification requires 25 points per year. Points can be earned for attending (or even presenting at) the annual SWPP conference, for submitting “Tips of the Week” and articles to the SWPP newsletter, and for a variety of other workforce management-related activities. A full list is posted to the SWPP website.

Certification Fees

Full CWPP certification is offered at $250 for SWPP members and $350 for non-members. Associate certification is offered at $100 per competency for SWPP members and $150 for non-members. There is a $50 fee per exam for any re-testing.

Resources

For those people who are interested in pursuing this opportunity, there are many resources available, all of which are referenced at the SWPP website. There is a practice test, which would be a helpful exercise to see what kind of questions to  expect in terms of multiple choice structure. And there are over a dozen articles and/ or white papers posted on the SWPP website which address many of the competencies.

Suggested Action Plan

If you think Workforce Management Certification is right for you, the process is pretty straightforward. Just register online at www.swpp.org, review the competencies, determine any gaps you might have, and prepare using the resources mentioned above. Take the exams, submit your project, and then maintain your certification. Looking at those who have certified to date, there appear to be three critical success factors: experience in more than one competency area, experience in more than one call center environment, and test preparation.

Conclusion

My own personal experience with certification is a positive one. In spite of my years of experience, I did study hard for the exams. I read the Call Center Staffing book by Penny Reynolds, and also read most of the articles posted on the web site. I passed all three exams the first time around, but one of the three was pretty close. What I should have done more of was review the workforce management competencies. I should have looked at each one and really asked myself if I “knew my stuff” in that area, studying up whenever I felt a weakness. Because I didn’t do that, I was surprised by some of the questions. If I had reviewed the competencies more closely, I would not have been!

Because of my role at work, there weren’t any pre-approved projects that matched up to anything I was already working on at the time. For that reason, I think I spent a little more time on my project than most people would. But now that it’s done, I have something on the shelf that I probably will use in the future. As I presented it, I tried to remember that I was explaining it to a panel of people who didn’t know anything about the call center operation in which I worked. I avoided jargon and acronyms as much as possible, and tried to answer their questions while remaining aware of my allotted time.

As a workforce management professional, I am glad that SWPP has created this certification program. It elevates the workforce management function and recognizes the professionalism required to achieve success in this part of the business. When I was a hiring manager, I knew that a resume that includes the CWPP designation really meant something. It also provides some direction for the professional/career development of all of the workforce management professionals working in call centers all over the world.

Michele Borboa is a Certified Workforce Planning Professional (CWPP) and serves on the Advisory Board of SWPP. She can be reached at mborboa@contactcenter-resources.com.