What the Heck is an FTE?

The following article is an edited re-post (with permission) written by Dan Rickwalder  – you can find the original HERE


As a baby WFM’er I was having a hard time explaining staffing to my contact center managers. They had traditionally hired full time employees and just recently started hiring part timers to better fill coverage gaps.  They were fine talking about the number of people working in a day, but as we got to budget planning and hiring things got confusing fast.  To them, an FTE was a “Full Time Employee” and if I was ever going to get part timers to work, I had to teach them the real meaning:  Full Time Equivalents.
On the surface, the definition of an FTE is easy: One FTE is the equivalent of a full time employee’s hours.  In most contact centers a full time employee works 40 hours.  So two part timers working twenty hours each is equal to one FTE.  Whew! That was easy…talk to you next week!
Well…not quite…
Counting people in a contact center gets complicated quickly. We need to look at monthly budgeted headcount, weekly staffing requirements with shrinkage, daily staffing, and even “bums in seats” by half hour.  All these different timeframes and qualifiers make the answer to “How many people do we need?” pretty complicated.
For example….
We pay a FTE for 40 hours, but…
We allow 2 weeks of vacation, we have absenteeism and other out of office time equaling about 6 hours a person (about 15% all in) so now we have 34 hours we expect an employee to be in the building.
Then we need to subtract for off phone time for meetings, coaching, projects, and etc. etc. etc, Let’s call that 2 hours per person (or about 5%)
And then there are breaks…also about 2 hours a person (5%)
So now we are down to 30 hours on the phones.
Finally we have to subtract for non-compliance (hours the agents were supposed to be on the phones but weren’t) and availability (the time agents sit available between calls).  I’m going to assume a total of about 15% of those remaining 30 hours or 4.5 hours.  That leaves us with 25.5 hours talking with customers or wrapping up calls
Wow! We really weren’t done yet!  So how do we deal with all that from an FTE perspective?
My choice is to simplify to just 2 definitions and reconcile them.  I use both the Paid FTE and On Phone FTE for planning. 
Paid FTEs are good to use for longer term planning down to the daily level, but they do not extend easily to the interval level because you do not typically look at vacations by interval.  Paid FTEs tell you how much servicing your customers will cost and exactly how many FTEs you need. This is a critical number for budgeting and hiring.
I then use On Phones FTEs for short term planning because this tells you exactly how many “bums in seats” you need to hit your Service Level goal.  It can roll all the way up to budget level and be as detailed as interval level.  This is the number of FTEs needed to cover phone only work.  It includes talking to customers, hold time, wrap or ACW time, and time waiting for the next call. This is also the number represented by most Erlang calculations and WFM software.
In any given week, a Phone FTE will equal about 30 hours while a Paid FTE will give you 40 Hours.  But they both equal 1 person’s contribution to that week, just at different levels.


Well that hurt my head so I think we’ll stop here for now.  If if however you want to hurt you head a little more, and are dying to understand the matter a little better then you can check this post out.  More FTE Maths.

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