Should a WFM team communicate directly to agents?

Below is an interesting extract taken from the WFManagement Telegram community group – if you have an interest in Workforce Management and are interested in joining here is link with further background and joining information WFManagement Telegram Group

I leave my thoughts at the end…..

Have been thinking how other businesses manage agent queries and would love some feedback/input
I’ve worked in contact centres where agent queries are sent to the team leader who liaises with WFM, but also worked in places where the agents could approach WFM directly. Which is better direct from agent or fed through Team Leader?

For agent communication I have an outlook scheduling mailbox. Agents send messages to the mailbox and copy in their supervisor. I do indeed communicate directly with agents verbally but because I’m on a unionized environment I listen but ask them to kindly send in writing to the mailbox. Turnaround time for a response  is 24/48 hrs . I like to have 1:1 discussions but minimize it at my organization as some agents perceive it as favouritism.

For me it depends on what the change or communication is for. As a fallback answer and as a people manager I think it is important the team leader is involved in some way. However that can be achieved without everything being fed through the Team leader. Also there are some things that are just better discussed 1on1 directly with the agents.

Where a team leader become involved it often creates a dirty lens or filter and corrupts the message context. From previous experience, if it is team leader led, the communication can go astray/be misunderstood and sometimes just comes across as Resource Planning saying no. And automation for transactional information snips can really help in this space freeing up valuable resource planning time.

So I guess the question is, if TL led communication is not working, do you train/manage communication with them or just allow agents to contact WFM directly?
My view is both. I loved the direct communication with agents, it made you seem more human but wondered if anyone had any other views?

Again depends on what it is you are communicating, in some occasions it will be better to go direct to an agent – for example scheduling preferences, other times it is better for the team leader to manage the message as they know their people best. Whatever the method if it is not working try to work out why, because you sometimes a dose of education or even a realignment of the WFM process itself is what is needed.

I personally liked it best when going through the leaders and also doing some group checks directly with the agents. I normaly get all agents in a room so I can directly communicate with them to avoid missing communication and educate them now and then when needed. 

For me it should always be through the TL first but if I feel like they not making it clear to the agents I get involved.  In my opinion the WFM team should have good relationship with agents however WFM team should convey all messages through Team Lead. Especially during Real Time Management and scheduling.

Management need to be aware but, if you involve the agents in the decisions/reasons I believe they will feel more included and understanding.

My take on this topic is that a lot depends on what you are communicating and the format/channel you intend on using – Any type of communication can prompt emotive reactions from the recipients or misunderstandings that create confusion that can be harmful in the long run. I dont think there is broad brush approach that can be applied, and instead each instance needs be carful through with prior engagement and agreement sought with operational colleagues on style & format. What I am clear on is that communication is vital element of WFM best practice and always something that is better to “overdo” vs “underdo”. If you would like to read further on this subject I wrote about this in WFMtip3 which you can find on linked with this link: WFMtip3

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