Series: Contact center planning

Workforce management (WFM) is the art and science of ensuring the right staff is in the right place at the right time to handle customer interactions within performance objectives. While this definition sounds simple enough, the reality is far more complex. In every contact center, a wide range of universal and unique factors influence the contact center’s staffing requirements and available staff.

While every workforce management team sets their own processes and priorities, most workforce management teams focus their efforts on these four activities:

  • Forecasting requirements to determine the number of agents and associated skills needed for proper staffing.
  • Planning work schedules to ensure that staff is in place at the proper times throughout the day/week to meet performance objectives.
  • Managing employee time and adherence to ensure that staff is in place at the right times to meet the performance objectives.
  • Monitoring and analyzing to make adjustments to ensure the team meets objectives in real time and improve planning efforts.

Workforce management technology can assist with all these activities. By optimizing and automating many aspects of the planning process, contact centers can schedule the appropriate employees for tasks at the appropriate times to facilitate business goals.

Workforce management is all about planning. To plan effectively, allocate skilled workforce management professionals for the functional process and ensure they become intimately familiar with the patterns of their customer contacts.


Discuss the following questions with your team:

  • Do you have sufficient human resources for this role?
  • Did you establish accessibility performance objectives for each queue/interaction type?
  • Are the interaction queues aligned properly to ensure interactions route down the appropriate path to an efficient, properly staffed pool of properly trained agents? One consolidated agent queue is more efficient than multiple, smaller pools of agents. Careful planning to create efficient routing paths and queues is essential.
  • Has the WFM team gained full buy-in from all levels within the operation to support a planning-oriented culture and a planning-based environment? Agent adherence is a key performance objective, and the WFM team has influence and authority over scheduling contact center activities and agents’ time.


Take the following actions before moving forward in the planning phase:

Preparation Assigned to Complete date
Define WFM team member roles and responsibilities and the required number of resources in each role.
Ensure that you establish appropriate and meaningful accessibility metrics and that all levels of the contact center agree upon the metrics.
Document the shifts offered to agents, including start times and break/lunch times. Identify ways to create practical flexibility (for example, start times between 9–9:30 am versus a fixed start time of 9). 
Train WFM staff on WFM technology and role-specific responsibilities. Ensure a consistent understanding of WFM concepts and principles. 
Document WFM processes to determine how to manage forecasting, scheduling, real-time monitoring, time off, and training time.
If necessary, communicate the implications of changes in workforce management processes to all levels, most importantly to the agent level. Carefully position why the changes are necessary and the benefits to customers, the contact center, and agents. Gaining buy-in at all levels is critical. 
Look for patterns that cause variability while analyzing historical data. Ensure that these patterns are incorporated into forecasting.
Build a Service Level Recovery Plan, which identifies the options or levels available — in real-time and in advance — when it’s apparent that the contact center is over- or understaffed.