Workforce Management practice in its present guise has really only been around for the last 20-25 years, although you could theoretically date its roots back to when employees were entering factories punching their entry/exit onto to cards in order to record what hours were worked.
It has however in the last couple of decades seen huge transformation, becoming ever more connected with various functions within a business to help inform the forecasting process or provide insight and solutions into ever more complex customer scenarios as businesses digitise.
Over the last few years, the shift toward a better employee experience has been one of the biggest trends in workforce management, involved in creating better experience for employees through more aligned scheduling practice that accounts for an employee’s life outside of work, and leading to greater efficiency by increasing attendance and reducing employee turn-over.
We have also seen Workforce management process and solutions develop to create a more communicative relationship between management and employees, helping employees to communicate and share information with one another in real-time, no matter if they’re working from home or at a separate location. Both of these trends are set to continue but improving your workforce management process is a never-ending goal for all businesses, so what are the ‘bigger’ trends I see emerging as a focus for WFM over the next 2-3yrs?
WFM to WFO to WEM and back to fix the PAST
WFM system vendor for the last couple decade have been focussing product development expenditure on developing a more holistic system that integrates under one roof WFM, QA, & Analytics. More recently the latest buzz word has been Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) with system focus on questions like; How do I develop a homeworking strategy which provides greater flexibility and maintains service levels?, How can I still react to changes fast – and be proactive in anticipating demand remotely?, How do I empower staff at home? How can managers measure and adjust performance on a more agile basis? This product development focus has however left some glaringly big holes such as:
1. Customized staffing models for every skill and channel type do not exist
2. Capacity Planning is still on the whole completed in excel
3. The ability to reconcile SL variances has to be done manually
4. Integration with the financials and automated reporting does not exist.
I am however seeing some signs of new players focus their product development in this direction. Read more about this topic here
Forecasting & Planning for Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, Line
Asynchronous messaging or fire-and-forget conversations via Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram ect certainly provides customer convenience that matches today’s hectic life’s. The challenges to the contact centre lie in leveraging context, duration/timing, and business rules to determine if a message is part of an existing dialog, enabling seamless transitions between automation/bots (AI and directed dialog) or delivering the entire asynchronous messaging conversation to an agent. Once you have overcome these technology & process challenges, planning for these new channel types can be very similar to how you plan for Email (which in its self is a form of asynchronous messaging when you think about it) but there are some key differences that need to be considered…. read about it here: Forecasting & Planning for Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, Line
Workforce Management to Workforce Intelligence
Due to technology and the use of data, the field of workforce management is shifting more and more towards workforce intelligence. Technology supports the entire cycle: from scheduling to day management and from reporting to forecast. We know already that the planning process itself can be monitored and improved through data. The next step is the smart combination of data, operational insight, scenario planning and operational decisions.
Gig Economy Growing
In the last few years, the gig economy has skyrocketed in terms of popularity and its becoming increasingly popular for businesses to utilise as part of the business operations. With this comes the need to develop WFM process and practices that increase workforce flexibility but also improve the work-life balance for their employees by giving them more freedom to choose when and where they work. Read More About Gig Economy Scheduling here
Greater System Integration
There seems now to be an application designed for nearly every business challenge encountered these days. With this being the case integration of workforce management solutions with various systems such as Payroll, Learning Management Systems (LMS), quality, marketing, CRM, customer surveys, and omni-channel systems (to name but a few obvious one) would advantageous to create automation opportunities. This could also include integration with external systems to gather weather influences (good weather, less volume and vice versa), traffic on the roads the opportunities are endless. Whether an internal or external source the aim will be to create two-way synchronization of data and more importantly automated action as an opportunity for greater benefits.
Forecasting, Scheduling and Real-Time Management With AI
Using artificial intelligence has started to become popular for workforce management software but is still fairly limited in ability. However, I see this trend continue to grow over the next decade as businesses strive to use AI to cut down and automate on time-consuming and improve the accuracy on complicated activities. Additionally, the opportunity to use WFM AI in the real-time space is particularly interesting especially as predicting customer interactions is becoming ever more volatile due to the digital revolution requiring workforce plans to also become ‘agile’ in response. It is already possible to predict “near real time” via predictive modeling . Traffic management then becomes automated scenario planning with predefined response strategies. A supermarket can adjust prices in real time based on current supply and demand figures. If you translate that into WFM, real-time supply and demand for work and people can also be coordinated. If you would like to learn more about what possibilities AI can bring to workforce management, then check this video out where I talk about how WFM can be applied to Real-Time.
Empathy & Communication skills becomes No1.
With advancing technology, and a changing relationship between agents and the business, it is clear that workforce management must adapt. It is already no longer enough to be the analytical type that likes to sit in a dark room with the spreadsheet. McKinsey predicts that by 2030, employees with technological skills and social-emotional skills will be the most in demand skillsets. As greater parts of the workforce management process are automated you will need WFMers who understand how technology works and people with skills that cannot be replaced by technology: things that involve emotion, empathy and feeling. Read more about why I believe Empathy becomes the No1 skil of the future