Workforce Optimization (WFO) was conceived over ten years ago and envisioned to ensure the right people, supported by the right processes and technologies, were doing the right things to deliver an exceptional customer experience. This was to be achieved through a functional and technical integration of several complementary contact center software applications. Missing from the original WFO vision however, were strategies and software to help companies attract, select, and retain the right workforce to begin with.

Introducing WFO 2.0

WFO 2.0 overcomes this deficiency by emphasizing the “people” aspect of the equation – before and after they are hired. It encompasses technologies and processes that identify employees who are likely to be highly-skilled, motivated, technically proficient, and engaged before they are hired and to measure their level of engagement throughout their tenure. With WFO 2.0, companies make better selection decisions and create more effective retention programs, which help improve the probability of overall WFO success. Companies that have implemented aspects of WFO 2.0 report improved employee retention, better business performance, increased attainment of key metrics, reduced labor costs, and increased employee engagement.

Leading industry analysts have also begun to take a WFO 2.0 view as well. For example, in its latest “Magic Quadrant for Customer Engagement Workforce Optimization,” Gartner defines WFO solutions as those that “…contain complementary functions designed to improve the performance of customer engagement centers by means of optimized deployment of appropriately trained and motivated agents…” To satisfy that definition, it has included recruitment in its list of key functional domains and now evaluates vendors based on their depth of vision and ability to deliver those functions.

This informational white paper will describe five strategies that will help you deliver WFO 2.0 in your organization and increase your ability to attract, select and retain employees who will deliver a truly exceptional customer experience.

Download a PDF of this white paper.

Adopt a Holistic Lifecycle View

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The same is true when you endeavor to attract new employees. An agent’s tenure with your organization begins not with the day they first show up for training, but many weeks prior to that during the recruitment and screening process. And making an indelible first impression is just as important with potential employees as it is with your customers.

Academic research concludes that a job candidate’s impression of the hiring company is formed during recruitment and hiring. This means they have a pre-conceived – whether accurate or not – notion of what it’s going to be like to work for you based just on their recruitment experience. Therefore, creating an engaging, interactive, expeditious candidate experience during the early screening and interviewing stages will improve overall candidate quality and result in better hiring choices. It will also boost employee satisfaction and engagement in the long-term once on the job.

Emphasizing how rewarding the job can be – by reinforcing the positive culture of your company, describing the impact the candidate will have on your customers, and promising a gratifying work-life balance for example – are just some ways you can attract high quality, motivated candidates. Few companies do this really well, but those that do experience lower attrition and better overall operational performance.

Select for Success

All too often, contact center jobs are presented in the context of the skills and knowledge the candidate must possess to be qualified for the job. These minimum requirements are frequently provided as a mind-numbing list of conditions the candidate must meet in exchange for the $12.00 per hour job. Look at your own job postings and those of your competitors. Do they scream, “YOU want to work here” to potential employees?

It doesn’t take much additional effort to frame these jobs in terms of what’s in it for the candidate beyond just a paycheck, 401k, and medical benefits. And, let’s face it, the customary customer engagement center environment – strict adherence to schedule, frequent performance measurement, difficult or even abusive customers – are not exactly what many people look for first in a satisfying career.

Furthermore, you need to seek potential employees who share the values, behaviors, and skills that are congruent with your organization’s customer experience vision and ability to deliver. The best way to do this is to evaluate and model your current workforce to identify the traits of high-achieving, successful employees. Screening for these characteristics will help you select candidates who are more likely to be long-tenured, high-performing employees because they exhibit many of the same characteristics.

Move the Goalposts

Recruiting, screening, interviewing, and hiring new labor has long been under the auspices of the human resources organization. For many companies, these professionals also recruit for positions other than those in the contact center. And many recruiters find that hiring the next VP of Sales or CFO to be more rewarding – and career advancing – than hiring the next class of agents, especially when nearly 60% of them will be gone within 90 days. So, moving the screening and selection process closer to those who will have daily management responsibility for these employees makes sense. It also has the collateral benefit of relieving the recruiting staff from playing the role of outbound telemarketer for what they may view as marginal jobs and allowing them to focus on more value-added activities for the organization.

Contact center managers and supervisors have the best handle on what qualifies as a high-potential hire, but don’t have the time to live-interview hundreds of applicants. However, adopting virtual screening technology – an online software application that uses interactive voice response to conduct the initial screening interview – many candidates can be effectively screened in a fraction of the time it would take to conduct a live phone interview. More candidates can move through the initial screening stage more quickly, providing you early access to the highest quality talent.

This technology is very similar to call recording and evaluation software that contact center managers are already accustomed to using, so the learning curve would be very short. They can review and score a recorded interview in a matter of just a few minutes and get a first-hand, unfiltered perspective of a candidate’s language, communication, and critical thinking skills. Candidates can move through the screening stage much faster, resulting in better choices for the hiring managers. Those who satisfy the basic job requirements can then be invited for a more thorough interview.

Emphasize Engagement

The impact of highly engaged employees cannot be debated. According to the Gallup organization, which provides a comprehensive view of employee engagement, companies with engaged employees enjoy a 37% reduction in absenteeism, up to 65% reduction in turnover, a 10% increase in customer satisfaction, and a 22% lift in overall bottom line performance. Furthermore, it reports that 70% of American workers are not engaged and essentially sleepwalking through their work day. Some of those are actively disengaged, working hard to sabotage efforts to sustain a productive workplace.

When it comes to today’s customer engagement center, highly engaged agents perform at a higher level when they see the effect they have on the company and customers, and when they have meaningful and important work. On the other hand, highly disengaged agents are often fearful of losing their job, but do only the minimum necessary to retain their job.

Reflect back on high school or college psychology – Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is very much at play when managing the engaged workforce. Therefore, to get the most out of each employee, their engagement level needs to be measured regularly and frequently and coaching methods need to be customized to the engagement level of the individual agent. Managers still need to coach for performance and technical basics, but knowing where an employee is on the engagement spectrum will help add some helpful context for the coach in the approach he or she takes.

Get a Head Start

The customer interaction center is ripe for technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics: data are produced and collected at the atomic (i.e., individual agent level); are produced frequently and regularly; and represents an observed measure of performance. This is helpful not only in hiring candidates that are more likely to perform well, but also to identify individual candidate’s early-stage coaching and training needs.

These data can be compared against and correlated with an individual agent’s pre-hire performance to create a near-perfect foundation to predict any relevant metric: tenure, sales conversion rate, FCR achievement, you name it. And because these data are collected continuously, the resulting predictive analytic models improve over time, effectively raising the performance bar for subsequent candidate classes.

Predicting how each job candidate is likely to perform pays dividends in new-hire training and early-tenure workforce scheduling and monitoring. If a new hire demonstrates a level of proficiency and knowledge that is congruent with a current, high-performing employee, some of the more “entry-level” content can be minimized in training, for instance, or the new hire moved into a monitoring and scheduling profile better suited for a longer-tenured employee. This has the effect of increasing employee satisfaction and engagement, since more proficient new hires could be managed according to their demonstrated abilities.

Final Word

Integrated workforce optimization technologies have provided significant value since their introduction over ten years ago. The next evolution of workforce optimization – WFO 2.0 – will expand this definition even further to include the entire agent lifecycle all the way from attracting highly-qualified candidates to selecting the. This will include well integrated hiring and agent engagement tools as well as highly personalized coaching plans.

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