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Getting Back to the Fundamentals of WFM Forecasting

by Heather Turbeville

Forecasting is a critical part of any successful contact center. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, or you’ve never used workforce management software before, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the basics of WFM forecasting as you prepare for a busy new year. 

It’s time to evaluate what’s working, what isn’t, and create a roadmap to better manage your agent pool for the most efficient and effective contact center.

Key Components of Workforce Management

Workforce management (WFM) is the process of forecasting, scheduling, and managing employee adherence/conformance to optimize workforce productivity. That means forecasting demand, creating shift schedules that meet that demand, and managing employee attendance and performance.

Forecasting involves using data to predict future agent requirements, taking into account factors such as seasonality, customer demand, and employee turnover. Scheduling involves creating shift patterns that meet the forecasted demand while also taking into account employee preferences and legal requirements. 

Managing employee attendance and performance involves tracking employee hours and absences, and providing feedback and coaching to ensure employees are meeting productivity targets. When done effectively, workforce management can help organizations to maximize their employee productivity and reduce operating costs.

How Can You Forecast More Effectively?

Forecasting future staffing needs is a crucial part of effective workforce management. By accurately predicting future demand, organizations can ensure that they have the right number of employees with the right skills in the right place at the right time. 

There are a number of different methods that can be used to forecast future staffing needs, and the most appropriate method will vary depending on the organization and the specific circumstances. However, some common methods include trend analysis, regression analysis, and time series analysis. 

The most important thing is to select a method that is well suited to the data available and the specific needs of your organization. With careful planning and execution, forecasting future staffing needs can help organizations to optimize their workforce and achieve their business goals.

What Challenges Does Forecasting Present for Contact Center Leaders?

While forecasting is an essential tool for managers, it can also be a challenge. Some of the challenges that forecasting presents include uncertainty, data availability, and changing conditions. One way to overcome these challenges is to use multiple sources of data, including historical data, current trends, and future expectations, and to constantly review and update forecasts in light of new information. 

Additionally, managers can use sensitivity analysis to explore how changes in assumptions can impact forecast results. By understanding the challenges of forecasting and taking steps to overcome them, managers can ensure that they are using this important tool to its fullest potential.

Best Practices for Creating Accurate Forecasts

There are a few things to keep in mind when creating forecasts in workforce management software. First, shrinkage should be taken into account when estimating future staffing needs. Shrinkage is the difference between the ideal staff size and the actual staff size, and it can be caused by things like absenteeism and turnover. 

Second, occupancy should be taken into consideration when forecasting workforce needs. Occupancy is a metric that shows the percentage of time agents are actively engaged in interaction handling activities compared to their total time logged in, and it can vary depending on the time of day, day of the week, and season. 

Finally, seasonal impacts should be accounted for when creating forecasts. Holidays can significantly affect customer demand, so it's important to make sure that you have enough staff on hand to meet increases in demand. By taking these factors into account, businesses can create more accurate forecasts and optimize their workforce management.

Advancements in WFM Technology

Workforce management is an increasingly important area of focus for businesses of all sizes. In a global economy, companies must be able to effectively manage their employee base in order to stay competitive. 

The rise of the gig economy and the proliferation of remote work has only made this more challenging. However, there are a number of trends that suggest workforce management will continue to evolve in the years to come. One is the continued growth of artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies can help businesses to automate repetitive tasks and free up employees for more strategic work. 

Another trend is the increasing use of flexible work arrangements. This includes things like part-time work, compressed workweeks, and telecommuting. As more companies embrace these types of arrangements, workforce management will need to adapt accordingly. Ultimately, the changes underway in the workforce are sure to have a major effect on workforce management practices in the years to come.

Workforce management is a broad term that encompasses many different aspects of an organization’s employee pool. By understanding the key components of workforce management and using forecasting principles and techniques, you can effectively and efficiently plan for your organization’s staffing needs in the future. 

While there are certainly challenges involved in forecasting, these can be overcome with careful planning and attention to detail. As technology continues to evolve, so too will workforce management practices. Stay ahead of the curve by getting back to basics this year and implementing sound workforce management principles into your business strategy.