Streamlining Workforce Planning for Your Call Center

workforce planning

Planning and structure are essential elements of any business today. Workforce planning is just one of those elements, but it is one that is becoming a central focus for the modern contact center. After all, you need to have the right people in the right place, at the right time, and with the necessary skills to benefit your organization. That can sound like a tall order, but with proper workforce management and planning, it can be done. The first thing that you need to do is to learn about this process and what it entails, as well as why it is so critical to your business.

Everyone knows that a business is only as successful as its operations. If the company cannot operate efficiently, or manage the often-fluctuating workloads that come and go in the call center environment, they are not going to succeed. Contact centers have complex scheduling needs and a unique set of requirements that may call for more planning than the average business. However, with the right tools, it’s easy to achieve.

In this guide, we’ll cover all the details that you need to know about workforce planning, including what it is, who it helps, how to create your own strategy for your call center, and more. We’ll also talk about the value of investing in high-quality software that can help you manage your call center workforce and automate tasks like scheduling, to streamline operations and take work off your plate. First, let’s talk a little more about what workforce planning is and why your call center needs it.

What is workforce planning?

This is a general term that refers to the process of planning and allocating all the resources related to your call center workforce, including agents and other employees. In a contact center, having a streamlined and well-structured plan in place for managing the workload can make all the difference in the success of your brand. This includes analysis of the workforce to determine what steps are necessary for future staffing demands, as well as for deciding whether to hire people in-house or to outsource the work, based on the various elements of the task at hand.

In the process of workforce planning, it will be necessary to conduct a full audit and assessment of the workforce and its issues, as well as to determine exactly how to take action to respond to future needs of the business. The plans put in motion and decisions made may be a result of both internal and external factors, including things like skill requirements and the age of your workforce. This can help brands decide whether future skill needs can be met by fostering current talent, recruiting and training new hires, or outsourcing the tasks or work entirely.

The four tenets of workforce planning

Workforce planning can be integrated as part of the business plan or handled as a separate process. It’s important to know that workforce planning is more than a staffing tool. It will help your business in several ways. Essentially, the process involves resolving four major areas of focus:

  1. The content and composition of the workforce (your employees), which will be required to help strategically position your brand to deal with future business objectives and goals.
  2. The gaps that are found between your existing structure and the future models or goals that you have in place for both your business and your workforce, including any special skills required or desired.
  3. The plans for recruiting and training, as well as ongoing support and agent growth, for both temporary and permanent staff to address all the gaps mentioned above.
  4. The decision of which outside sources are needed (such as workforce planning software) to meet the needs or functions of the process or roles to be outsourced.

Some people look at workforce planning as a static tool that is purely designed to anticipate call center staffing and employment needs. However, it can also be a critical part of your training and development planning, and can help build and grow your business.

Furthermore, this assessment should be conducted regularly and periodically to ensure that staffing needs can be measured, and new training and development goals can be established. Then, you will be able to employ the right tools to create the optimally staffed and ideal workforce for your call center operations.

How it can help your business

When you integrate a solid strategy to manage your workforce and plan for potential workloads, you will do several things for your company. First, it will ensure that your workforce is aligned with the goals and intentions of the business. It will allow you to choose the goals and future potential that you will strive to achieve by improving your workforce. It will also help you see where you might be wasting or losing valuable resources in your current efforts.

Workforce planning ensures that your business can continue to benefit from having the right workforce in place, and it encourages employees to better themselves for the good of the business. For now, the main point to know is that this type of planning isn’t just an option—these days, it’s essential.

Managing teams and agents in a post-COVID world

people connecting together 

With many more people going remote for good, managing resources, including employees, is presenting a whole new set of challenges. It’s also making the case for better workforce management an essential discussion. After all, managing teams and agents in a remote world is very different, and will require a different set of goals and rules to assist you along the way. The pandemic has changed the way that people live and work, creating a greater demand for teams and agents that are flexible and capable of working independently.

Managing teams and keeping a sense of cohesion has proven to be a bit of a challenge for some business owners in the post-COVID world. With the right workforce planning tools in your contact center software, you can address many of those challenges by taking a proactive approach. That’s what today’s customer wants and that’s how you need to build your workforce: proactively with deliberate thought about what the customer needs.

Building your process: tips and steps to get started

If you want to succeed with workforce planning, you have to take these factors into account:

  • Designate specific key players to manage the workforce planning process
  • Find high-level executive(s) to lead the plan and involve key stakeholders along the way
  • Make sure that the plan aligns with all the company’s strategic business objectives and development initiatives
  • Coordinate your plan with workforce training and development, along with a plan to improve your agents for an improved customer experience
  • Make this an ongoing activity, not a static or one-time event, and continue regular evaluation of all processes that may require internal or external changes as time goes on

The best workforce planning strategy is an agile one, as with most things in business these days. When you do it well, it can have several beneficial outcomes for your brand. Here’s a glimpse at the five steps involved in effective strategy development and workforce planning.

  1. Set the Strategic Direction. This involves making sure that your workforce management plan aligns with the overall business plan and goals, as well as setting a direction for the activities that will help achieve the goals and outcomes for both short- and long-term planning.
  2. Analyze the Workforce. This is where you will identify skill gaps, analyze the workforce as a whole, and figure out what resources are lacking, which need further cultivated, and how you can fill those gaps.
  3. Develop a Plan. Once you have an analysis of where your workforce stands and where you want it to go, it’s time to turn those ideas into a solid workforce management plan. Include in your plan any software resources or other tools that you will use to improve or streamline your workforce.
  4. Implement the Plan. After you have reviewed the plan with key stakeholders and relevant parties, it will be time to implement the plan by setting milestones and goals, turning the actionable steps into tasks, and starting to improve the workforce.
  5. Monitor and Revisit. Every part of your business is constantly changing and evolving, including your workforce. That’s why the final step of the process will be to continually monitor and evaluate your efforts. That way, you can adapt and revise over time to meet the needs of the changing business and your ever-changing workforce.

The components of the workforce planning process

If you want to develop a strategic plan to improve the quality and efficiency of your workforce, be sure to include these points.

  • Performing a skills inventory to see what type of employees you have and what they are capable of so that you can help fill roles and help improve employee potential at the same time.
  • Leadership development, including coaching, mentoring, and rotating employees throughout projects in the workforce to cultivate their best skills and assets.
  • Career path goals and resources to assist employees in moving up and becoming better assets for your company.
  • Performance management strategies that include some kind of ranking system or how it will be determined when someone needs to be managed out of the company.
  • Assessment and forecasting, including estimates of supply costs, labor expenses, company revenue and growth rates, and other related components.
  • Succession planning in designating key positions and the progression of their career path, as well as what happens when people leave.
  • Recruiting estimates that include the need for specific positions, the timing of necessary hiring, and the number of people that may be needed to fill gaps and potential vacancies in the future.
  • Retention and turnover rate forecasting to identify which agents are at risk and how to keep them on staff.
  • Backfills and contingent employees, who may be needed at a more urgent notice than your regular workforce, but are critical to plan for, just in case.
  • Forecasts of environmental factors and industry trends that could impact your overall planning efforts.
  • Metrics that are identified as being useful to help determine how effective your workforce planning efforts are.

Ultimately, the components of your plan will include all the necessary factors involved in your business and workforce. You will want to use this insight to create a comprehensive plan of attack that will allow you to build the workforce that your brand needs now and for the future.

Important features and benefits of workforce planning tools

architecture design 

The best workforce planning tools and resources have a host of features and benefits to offer, which is what is making this such a relevant topic of late. It’s time to toss the spreadsheets and take a leap into the next level of scheduling and forecasting for total call center management from a single platform, and that platform is NICE CXone.

The NICE CXone solution includes integrated tools and software to provide flexible planning and management power for all aspects of your workforce. With CXone, your brand will have access to advanced forecasting algorithms that can increase accuracy in tracking and analysis with time-series methods and “what-if” and other predictive modeling. Essentially, it will account for all possibilities to provide a better picture of what your business needs.

Concurrent schedule optimization ensures that you can improve staffing efficiency when compared to manual scheduling by using AI and smart technology to generate agent schedules. This guarantees no gaps in scheduling coverage and that the right workforce is in the right place at the right time. Also, there is multi-skill and multi-site support to help generate forecasts from a higher level while providing location-based management for each.

You will be able to use the CXone platform to combine your agent preferences and business rules for “if, then” scheduling to create an efficient plan that works for all agents and the business in general. For example, if you know that calls are high during a certain week, and you want your top staff on the lines, you’ll be able to predict that and plan.

You’ll also enjoy the agility and scalability of a true cloud solution for workforce planning and total business management. The lower total cost of ownership also comes with the continuous delivery of new tools and functions without having to spend a fortune on upgrades or membership plans. One of the best features is access to agent and supervisor portals.

These portals give every agent and supervisor the tools to self-manage their own overtime, scheduling exceptions, voluntary time off, and other areas of their scheduling and availability, all within a simple platform that is integrated with the rest of your tech stack.

So, with all of these great features in mind, you can probably already start to see the benefits. Just to be sure you’re on the same page, here are a few big perks to keep in mind:

  • Workforce planning with NICE CXone allows you the flexibility that your business needs to manage its contact center operations easily and effectively. It allows you to generate accurate forecasts and schedules based on a robust collection of data and your overall goals as a business.
  • You can generate efficient schedules that work for all agents and reduce the risk of human error or missing schedules. It will also allow you to eliminate waste and stop double-paying employees.
  • Workforce planning with an integrated technology solution allows brands to proactively optimize their day-to-day schedules, daily activities, and performance metrics.
  • These tools empower your agents to self-manage their scheduling and availability, check for inconsistencies, and become accountable for the management of their own work.
  • Easy setup and integration; no huge tech investment or any special staffing on your part. Just implement and integrate the CXone platform and choose the tools and features that you need, including the suite of workforce management tools and resources.
  • Cost optimization by planning recruitment efforts, managing turnover, and increasing employee productivity throughout your contact center. When you take the time to analyze your workforce, you’re likely to find several areas where you can improve.

Take workforce planning to the next level with NICE CXone

The Workforce Optimization suite from NICE includes resources and tools to help improve planning, scheduling, forecasting, and more. This is a unified solution that can help ensure that operations are seamless and streamlined across all departments. The suite includes applications that are designed to improve agent productivity, deliver targeted coaching tips, identify gaps in performance, and forecast workloads for effective staff scheduling.

With Workforce Management, Quality Management, CXone Recording, Performance Management, and Sales Performance Management tools and applications, the WFO suite from NICE delivers all that you need and so much more.

Even if you’re just starting to think about upgrading your tech stack to include workforce planning solutions, we’re ready to help.