Listen to Your Agents to Help Prevent Attrition
The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has done quarterly surveys of workforce management professionals for the past 11 years. Those survey results have provided great insight into workforce management’s role in agent satisfaction. Based on one of these surveys, we have found some ways that workforce management can play a significant role in preventing agent attrition. And it starts with listening to your agents.
Survey Your Agents
We asked if the respondents surveyed their agents on satisfaction with workforce management processes. A little over half of the respondents did not, and these folks are really missing out on an opportunity to understand if workforce management is contributing to attrition.
The survey asked those who do survey how often these surveys are performed, and almost half do this just as-needed, not on a regular basis. These organizations are losing out on an opportunity to get more input on issues related to attrition, especially important in a high-turnover environment. You should be surveying on a regular basis to identify trends and solicit information about agent satisfaction on a regular basis. But an “as-needed” basis is not always bad. If things really happen on an as-needed basis, it should be happening when it is needed. But sometimes “as-needed” just means that it is only done when it is mandated.
The survey also asked whether organizations survey about specific processes within workforce management, like the time-off process, the exception-handling process, and shift-bid process and what they thought the level of agent satisfaction was with these processes. The respondents gave authentic answers – they didn’t just say that the agents love everything. For example, the time-off process was rated at about 60% satisfaction, and 50% satisfaction for the exception-handling process and the shift-schedule process. The usage of both “very satisfied” and “very unsatisfied” responses was very low, which is good. We also asked whether they thought supervisors and managers were satisfied with the workforce management processes, and about 60% of respondents felt these groups were satisfied.
Making Changes Based on Feedback
After the surveys are completed, the next step is to decide if adjustments should be made based on the results, and over half of the respondents did this. Ultimately, the most important part of the survey is doing something with the results — if you’re not doing something with the results, you probably shouldn’t be surveying at all.
There are many changes that workforce management can implement to help with agent satisfaction. One easy way is to add new shift types. You can never be sure what schedules your agents are interested in working until you ask them. When you survey your agents, you need to ask them, “When would you like to work? If you could work on your dream schedule, what would it be?” You have to be careful not to promise that any schedule would be possible. But it is nice to know what their dream schedules might be, and if that’s something that will work for you, you can help each other!
There are about as many different shift types as there are agents who might work them. For example, there is a pyramid schedule. Think about what a pyramid looks like. Start on the bottom-left corner with the Monday schedule of six hours, then go up a slant a little bit for nine hours on Tuesday, and then come to a peak on Wednesday with ten hours. Then go back down the slope again with eight hours on Thursday and seven hours on Friday.
There’s a slant shift that starts with Monday at the very top with ten hours. Tuesday has nine hours, Wednesday has eight, Thursday has seven, and Friday has six. The opposite of that is called the slope shift. The week starts with six hours of work on Monday, seven on Tuesday, and eight, nine, and ten hours on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, respectively. In a hiccup shift, agents work 10 hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then work five hours on Tuesday and Thursday. Some of these schedules may work for your organization depending on what your center’s peak days and times are.
You can also add split shifts, which are especially suited for work-at-home agents. In a split shift for at-home agents, agents just log for two different shifts during a day, maybe once while the kids are at school and maybe once after the kids go to bed. Split shifts can really help companies cover peaks and valleys. It may not work as well for agents that would have to drive into the center twice a day, but again, it doesn’t hurt to ask!
The time-off request process is another area that can be changed for greater agent satisfaction. You may determine that your process is very manual and cumbersome, and look for ways to automate it and make it easier for the agents.
You can also vary lunch lengths, which is an interesting concept. Many people assume that everybody wants a 60-minute lunch or a 30-minute lunch. But if you don’t ask, you don’t know. Maybe some agents would rather have a 15-minute lunch or a 45-minute lunch.
Another approach is to vary break lengths and the placement of breaks. Unless you work with a union that requires a specific break length, breaks don’t all have to be the same length or placed at the same intervals. You can have a 10-minute break, a 15-minute break, or a 20-minute break. You can rearrange the breaks and instead of the normal break-lunch-break pattern, consider changing it up to break-break-lunch or lunch-break-break. Try something a little different. Again, you won’t know what break times work for your agents unless you ask.
And it all starts with listening to your agents!