Workforce Scheduling Agent work schedules or shifts are generally allocated via an automated bid or preference process.
Agents may change schedules by requesting a change through the automated channel or by swapping schedules with another agent comparably trained. The objective is of course to reduce administrative time while ensuring the planned numbers of agents are on duty by interval.For scheduling agent personnel, three practices have been proven to be highly effective in providing employees with flexibility, reducing organizational angst over schedule changes, and reducing supervisory time lost to attendance/compliance related discussions:
- Shift bids changing an agent’s work schedule are disruptive to the agent’s personal life and are a source of workforce anxiety. Reducing the number of times an agent must alter their shift generally results in a more engaged and satisfied workforce. Firms with multiple sites can reduce the shift bid frequency by staggering shift bids so that scheduling changes do not occur simultaneously across the call center network but are isolated to single sites with different sites bidding at different intervals. For example, a prominent hotel chain with six call center locations conducted shift bids across the network six times a year, every two months. The firm switched to a model where each site bid shifts twice per year with each two month shift bid involving only two sites. There were sufficient agent resources within the two sites to provide network flexibility, and the reduction from six to twice annual shift bids greatly improved call center agent morale.
- If a shift bid process results in a hardship for an agent, management can allow the agent a grace period (four to six weeks generally) to make personal accommodations (e.g., adjust child care arrangements, modify school classroom schedule if a student) before beginning the new shift. This approach recognizes employee hardships and provides employees with flexibility to adjust their personal life situation to match the new work schedule. Again, a very positive impact on employee morale.
- Flex schedules have proven to be a positive approach for meeting and acknowledging an employee’s unplanned need to report later than scheduled. Flex adjustments to schedules are viable in 24 hour operations but can also be made to work in operations with limited hours. An employee can for any reason be late for their shift and request a schedule adjustment of no more than 30 minutes on either side of their shift
- The WFM team will adjust the agent’s start/end time and there will be no late occurrence reported. This concept was proven viable in airline call centers and demonstrated that agents did not seek to change their shifts since their general preference was to report and leave work earlier than scheduled. The flex option was rarely used and was not disruptive to the general operations. There were minimal flex adjustments, with the few agents working later offsetting the lost time at the start of overlapping shifts. Additionally, this approach reduced the need for supervisory tracking and coaching of “late” occurrences based on the attendance policy.