Origami fortune teller on laptop in office concept for work life balance choices

What your agents wish you knew: How schedule management impacts employee engagement and attrition

Employee engagement—the emotional commitment an employee has for the organization and its goals—is critical to contact center success. Engaged workers are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity, and the organizations they work for are more profitable by a factor of 21%.

However, employee engagement can be hard to achieve, and remote work isn’t making it easier. According to Gallup data, the overall percentage of engaged workers during 2022 is only 34%, down from 39% in 2021, representing the first significant drop in 10 years.

And yet contact center employees aren’t ready to come back to the office full-time. According to NICE’s WFM Global 2022 survey, 43% of contact center employees want the flexibility to work remotely or be a hybrid employee, and 47% want flexible scheduling with 24/7 access.

With the same survey showing that 62% of contact centers are putting effort into retaining agents, leaders should consider the enablement of hybrid working, combined with flexible scheduling, a key piece of the retainment puzzle. Previously viewed as a tactical must-have, new flexible scheduling methods can lower costs, improve staffing management, reduce attrition, and boost employee satisfaction.

The key is putting your agents at the center of your schedule management strategy. Here are three things top contact center talent might ask for from their scheduling systems:

Make it worthwhile—and easy—to accept less desirable or critical shifts.

Consider providing incentives and rewards for those that opt into harder-to-fill shifts. In order to do this effectively, contact centers must balance long-range forecasts with daily absenteeism-related net staffing shortages. Solutions like NICE Employee Engagement Manager (EEM) solve for both long-range opportunities and day-of emergencies by first identifying and promoting incentives for less desirable holiday, night, and weekend shifts to encourage agent opt-in.

Critical intraday scheduling opportunities should also be strategically promoted and incentivized to avoid net staffing shortages and excessive overtime. As agents report unplanned absences, next-generation workforce management systems can instantly forecast net staffing shortages and promote resulting shift openings to the right agents, avoiding overtime and targeting those most likely to opt-in based on their self-selected preferences. This type of long-term forecasting coupled with emergent issue solutioning provided by NICE EEM has been shown to increase acceptance of shift change offers by 34% and reduce overtime hours by 36%.

Let me dictate when and how we communicate when I’m offline.

While remote and hybrid work can enable greater work-life balance, employees can feel “always on.” Adopt a system that allows employees to set their communication preferences and better control the boundaries between their work and personal lives. While NICE EEM’s engine for automated staffing optimization already takes scheduling preferences into account when offering new schedule change opportunities, employees can also select the days/times at which they are willing to be contacted while they are off the clock and the communication channel (email, mobile app, and alert pop-up) by which to be notified. When hybrid or remote employees are not working, they can ensure that they have the space they need to recharge while remaining updated on scheduling opportunities.

Help me feel like an integral part of a team while allowing me to define my work-life balance.

Truly flexible scheduling requires robust rules and interconnected, real-time staffing analysis. This gives agents autonomy over their own schedules and encourages coordination between team members. Foster an environment in which self-swaps and schedule trades are enabled by rules that optimize net staffing, agent skills, declared preferences, fluctuating business needs, and internal work rules. Solutions like NICE EEM eliminate the administrative middleman and empowers teamwork amongst employees: Any trade is a voluntary exchange, and both parties feel they gained an advantage.

The transition to a hybrid work environment will require a new technological framework that applies robust rules to optimize human engagement. The right workforce management system should not only facilitate flexible scheduling but also drive greater employee engagement, boosted attrition rates, and agent autonomy and accountability.