Self-scheduling or shift bidding is not a new concept. In fact, it has been around since the 60s in various guises, especially in the healthcare industry.
The idea behind shift bidding is simple, shift patterns that both suit business needs as well as colleagues are published allowing agents to bid in an eBay style auction.
Adoption however in contact centres has been slow. However, many are starting to explore this method of scheduling as the need to balance the agents needs outside of work vs business/customer needs become ever more important.
Most contact centres tend to adopt either a bidding, a preference based approach or fixed lifestyle approach in recognition of the need to provide a more equity based fairness (fairness in every situation) over an equality based fairness (giving people the same thing equally), find out more about the difference in this article – click here. Any of those options can be effective but in recent years there has been a trend towards the lifestyle/preference based scheduling.
What’s sparked my interest is the concept of using self-scheduling for Home-Workers. With their computer being their only vehicle to work they tend already to be a contact centre’s most flexible workforce. First to take up overtime or operate voluntary bank hours they can be a real asset to any workforce planner. Often however, shift optimisation opportunities for Home-Workers are over-looked.
How is Self-scheduling or Shift bidding offered?
Shift bidding is a concept where agent schedules are published without assignment to any particular agent, allowing agents to make a bid for the shifts that they want in an eBay style auction. This often is undertaken using a point system where the agents are allocated a set of points during each schedule release that they can use to bid on the shifts that make the most sense to them.
I have seen many variations of this system including; making the perceived more popular shifts more expensive to bid on, and/or awarding larger amounts of points to agents based on tenure or performance.
Shift bidding can be a difficult things to get right, and in some case if not carefully deployed, can do more harm than good.
For example larger amount of points allocated based on tenure or performance can result in some agents accumulating so many points that for other agents it becomes impossible to ever get the popular shifts they want. It is this risk that drives me to advise against awarding points based on tenure and performance, as you are likely to alienate a section of your agent population.
Another challenge can be that a popular shift will not always be the shift each individual wants because each agent will have a different set of circumstances inside and outside of work, and thus there preference on what shifts they want will also be different.
However there are many cases of successful deployment where point allocation of has been balanced well. The benefits should be obvious – staff retention, employee autonomy and decreasing staff absenteeism should all be seen as result of employees being able to choose the shifts that suit their particular lifestyle.
This is of course is also true of a preference/lifestyle based approach which I personally believe is the best method for larger contact centre populations. However the weakness of this approach is that it offer little flexibility to meeting changing customer demand, which can leave a contact centre suffering from boom (over-staffing) and bust (under-staffing) periods intra-day with little ability to respond agilely.
This why I believe combining home-working and shift bidding has the potential to offer high levels of optimisation. Split shifts & shorter blocks of hours to fit around gaps in coverage (without overlapping over-staffing) should be palatable to home-worker because of the lack of commuting.