SWPP Announces Finalists for 2019 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award
The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has announced the five finalists for the 2019 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award, which recognizes a workforce management professional who has shown outstanding leadership in the industry. The finalists are Scott Boyd from Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, Tate Conrad from Nationwide, Andrew Gilmer from Comcast, Paul Rodde from LanguageLine Solutions, and Caryn Yurkstas from Paychex.
“These five workforce management professionals are truly representative of the ‘best of the best’ in our industry,” said Vicki Herrell, SWPP Executive Director. “They have all demonstrated great leadership and ability in the field, and have shown measurable results for their companies. We are pleased to present them as finalists for this distinguished award.” The winner of the award will be announced at the SWPP Annual Conference, which is held in Nashville, Tennessee on April 23-25, 2019 at the Omni Hotel.
The SWPP Board of Advisors selected the five finalists from nominations submitted on the SWPP website. The Workforce Management Professional of the Year award is chosen from the five finalists by the Board of Advisors and announced at the 2019 SWPP Annual Conference.
Scott Boyd is Director, Workforce Management for Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and has been with Guardian for 11 years, and in the workforce planning line of business for 22 years. The company operates in 10 locations with 600 contact center personnel and 2400 back office employees on a 6AM to 9PM EST basis. They handle 1.5 million contacts per month including calls, emails, chat and transactions. The centers utilize Verint Workforce Management along with Recording/Quality Management, Desktop and Process Analytics, and Speech and Text Analytics.
When Scott started with Guardian in 2007, there were three workforce planning analysts supporting 300 contact center agents. But Scott realized that the contact center was only 20% of the total staff with the remaining 80% working in back office processing units. By putting Guardian’s back office operations under the WFM umbrella, the team could help the organization better understand employee availability, quantify productivity, and support downstream financial planning.
But this wasn’t an easy task. They met with resistance from all levels of the organization in the back office. Scott and his team had to build an extensive change management program to educate and build relationships in the back office. This started with getting senior executives on board. They found an executive in their Customer Response Unit who understood the value of WFM, and started in this business unit. They used this group to convince the other business units that WFM would help them achieve their goals. This is a testament to Scott’s perseverance and strategic approach to workforce planning.
The first thing the team realized was that due to a lack of planning, the back office units were incurring extensive overtime. With planning in place, they were able to vastly reduce overtime by 30%, which saved millions of dollars. The organization also benefited from immediate productivity improvements by automating vacation time-off requests. So instead of “firefighting,” trying to figure out how to fill overtime needs, or spending time adjudicating vacation time-off requests, Guardian can now focus on business-critical activities such as driving efficiencies and coaching and developing employees.
Following the rollout of Verint WFM into back office operations, Guardian has seen better and more consistent performance overall. More specifically, Guardian has increased productivity up to 20% across every area, and reduced shrinkage from 30% to as low as 13%. By staffing to requirements curves, Guardian has decreased its overall staffing requirements by 8% and as mentioned earlier, reduced overtime by 30% – saving millions.
Today, there are nine people in the workforce management team which oversees planning for Guardian Life and its four subsidiaries as well as Guardian India. They support 26 million clients, 3000 employees, 24 different units, 98 capacity plans, 270 forecasts and 4 unique entities. “As a visionary, Scott has not stopped there. He has set his sights on expanding Workforce Planning into non-traditional areas (i.e. Sales Support, Underwriting, etc.) and tackling lack of visibility into back office by implementing new technologies,” according to Mary Lou Joseph, Director, Content Marketing from Verint Systems Inc. Scott is a United States Marine Corp veteran who puts his workforce planning skills to good use managing a family of five children as well.
Tate Conrad serves as Consultant, Process Management for Nationwide, a property and casualty insurance provider operating in 10 locations with over 5000 agents handling phone, chat, email and back office transactions on a 24/7 basis. The centers handle nearly 2 million contacts per month, utilizing IEX and i360 for WFM, Genesys email, chat and call routing, AWD and eFile for work distribution. The WFM team includes 47 personnel.
Tate will celebrate 15 years of service this June. He began as a call center representative, providing service for commercial insurance agents. Prior to joining Workforce Management 10 years ago, he also held roles in quality assurance and as a call center supervisor. “Like most people in WFM, Tate has a passion for solving problems and in his supervisory role he helped solve some staffing and scheduling issues that led him toward WFM,” according to Deb Allison, Director, Workforce Management.
Tate’s first role in Workforce Management was an analyst position that quickly transformed into a long-term forecasting role. One of Tate’s most impactful accomplishments was to build consistent practices and models for most of the service centers at Nationwide. Those practices are now used over all service centers that total more than 5,000 agents. Tate then continued in WFM as project lead, manager, and on to his current consultant role.
In addition to the forecasting and analytics, Tate’s team is responsible for a core set of reporting referred to as Heath Checks, monthly reports generated for each of the 22 business units and 42 unique forecasts they support. With the vast amount of change they were experiencing, the content was no longer robust enough and it required over 400 hours each month from the WFM team to manually create the material using Excel and PowerPoint.
Tate addressed the problem in several ways. First, he improved the overall forecasting process by implementing and training the team on more robust analytics using R Studio. This enabled the team to run many different time series methodologies in the span of minutes vs. days, saving time and better aligning data. Tate then met with all the business partners and the WFM teams that support them to standardize the Heath Check agenda and revamped the approach to segment the content into two areas: a Monthly Trending and Planning meeting focused on performance and optimization with operations leaders and a Quarterly Trending and Planning meeting with executives to focus explicitly on budget planning and staffing. Once he standardized the audience and appropriate output for each conversation, the team was able to create the new and consistent views, reducing the time to produce all reports by 80%.
Not only were the new reports now standardized and easy to view, they provided the business partners with deeper analytics, allowing them to make better informed decisions and understand those impacts. By creating analytics appropriate for the target audience, the conversations and decisions were more appropriate, providing leaders higher level of confidence when making their hiring decisions. The monetary benefits to the WFM team was approximately $120,000 per year.
Andrew Gilmer is Senior Manager, Workforce Management for Comcast. The company operates 60 contact center locations with over 64,000 agents and contractors who handle inbound and outbound calls, chats, emails, and social media interactions. The centers provide support and sales, averaging 10 million calls per month on a 24/7 basis. The workforce management team consists of 4000 people who utilize the Aspect Workforce Management system.
As a former Aspect customer support representative and Director of Training, Andrew brought significant benefits to Comcast as it migrated from four unique regions with their own systems to a single hosted Aspect system serving the entire organization. According to Robert Beasley, Senior Manager, Solutions Consulting for Aspect, “Andrew is a true professional who has developed a deep understanding of what defines success in the contact center space. He is one of those unique individuals who can carry an audience with C-suite levels but also speak with employees on the contact center front lines. It is this unique ability that allows him to continue driving successful initiatives in a forward moving direction.”
Andrew is known for his ability to build consensus, provide expert level guidance on technical capabilities, and develop pragmatic plans to implement change. Andrew serves as a subject matter expert for his colleagues on the workforce management system, regression-based forecasting models, deploying WFM practices to new business units, and data integration. His responsibilities include advising the WFM teams on Aspect WFM best practices, forecasting and trend analysis, vendor relationship management, and incorporating strategic objectives.
Andrew moved from the Aspect team to Comcast to help migratefrom a collection of disparate installations into a single hosted environment. The “monumental task” included not only the implementation of the new system but required training, education, consulting and process management. He was responsible for replacing four disparate premise-based Workforce Management platforms with one hosted, consolidated Enterprise system capable of supporting the 64,000 employees and contractors who handle inbound and outbound calls, chats, emails, and social media interactions. He helped to streamline processes and the overall Comcast footprint dramatically with minimal issues and concerns during the conversion.
Comcast also uses Avaya to handle their millions of call every year, and like their WFM platforms, utilized different Aux codes across the business units. Last year, Andrew oversaw a project to standardize and deploy aux codes across the company. Today, each of Comcast’s 91 sites uses the same Aux codes, facilitating improved reporting and faster initiative deployment.
Paul Rodde is the Team Leader, Capacity Planning for LanguageLine Solutions, a position he has held for four years. The company provides over the phone and video translation services in 19 countries with 9000 agents handling three million calls per month on a 24/7 basis. The workforce management team has 65 personnel where Paul started 13 years ago as a Staffing Analyst. Over the years he has served as off-line activities coordinator working closely with the Training Department to ensure all required training was provided to the interpreters while still protecting service levels. He has been assigned several challenging staffing projects to help control high-cost agent groups resulting in reduced cost of nearly 50% for these workgroups.
“Paul is a very conscientious teammate and a highly effective communicator,” according to Jesse Flores, Senior Manager, Workforce Management. He meets all requirements as the Team Leader of the Capacity Planning Team, “and he is respected for his work ethic and professionalism by his team, including the greater WFM team and others he works with outside of the department.” He is a five-time nominee for the company’s WFM Quarterly Recognition Award and received the award for the first quarter of 2017.
The Capacity Planning team was formed as part of the Strategic Planning group focusing on development of a long-range planning process to help the Recruiting Department stay ahead of hiring needs. Paul took on the project to use the first version of the planning tools which consisted of a large spreadsheet and focused on the Spanish language needs which represent 70% of the over-the-phone interpretation business. The project was very successful, initially projecting hiring needs for the upcoming three months, then extended to six months, as well as forecasts for budget planning for the following year. The process included planning for up-skilling of staff as hiring is easier for the lower-skilled personnel. Projections were expanded to include more languages and business units and 90% of the organization. “The end result of Paul’s work speaks for itself, as placing the right number of interpreters in place at the right time has shown a huge impact on our performance,” said Flores. The results include the following:
- Service levels improved by 27%, rising from 74.7% to 94.9%.
- Connect time improved by 78%, dropping from 69.9 seconds to 16.8 seconds.
- Abandonment rate improved by 68%, dropping from 5.9% to 1.9%.
Paul’s success with long-range planning helped to generate an additional 4% in revenue, or about $12M, and allowed the company to apply the process to an over-video-interpretation product, InSight. The timing was perfect for implementation, as InSight has seen significant growth over the last year (increasing revenue by more than seven times), and the ability to determine hiring needs six months in advance has proven to be critical to its success. Paul’s model was used as the template for long-range planning for InSight, and he provided the training on the process that the WFM Video Team uses today.
Caryn Yurkstas is Senior Workforce Analyst with Paychex. The company is an HR solutions provider with over 100 locations in the US and Europe, operating 24/7 with 1100+ agents handling nearly 300,000 calls, 743,000 outbound emails, and 1200 chats per month. The company utilizes Calabrio ONE, Cisco, and Upstream Works for Finesse.
Caryn developed her deep, well-rounded workforce management expertise by climbing the ranks within Paychex’s own contact center operations. Starting out with Paychex 15 years ago, Caryn self-trained and honed her skills as an agent before moving into a workforce analyst role where, among other things, she forecasted contact center headcount and managed agent scheduling for 11 years. In her current role, she helps identify areas of opportunity for workforce management improvement, then collaborates closely with team leads to implement the most beneficial workforce management strategies.
Paychex is relentlessly committed to never losing touch with its clients, but, in 2017, contact center operations found it increasingly difficult to live up to that principle. Different Paychex contact center teams operated in siloes in one form or another, and used three different contact center technology systems, with each team doing its own thing. At the time, no formal workforce management strategy existed. Experiencing rapid client growth, Paychex knew that if it was going to stay true to its service promise of earning clients for life, it needed to find a solution that delivered scalability and efficiency.To remedy the situation, Paychex leadership quickly launched two key initiatives:
1. Unify all users and workforce management capabilities from three separate contact center systems into a single, full-featured platform—Calabrio ONE.
2. Formally regionalize contact centers in order to unite the disparate groups residing in the same region.
System and team unification delivered substantial, immediate results. By regionalizing contact centers, Paychex immediately improved agent adherence by 20%, increased intraday optimization by 45% and delivered forecasting that—in its first 10 weeks—came within 5% of actuals. Long-term results were equally impressive—the initiative saves Paychex $539,000 per year in agent productive time.
Caryn collaborated with the Paychex award-winning internal training center to develop and deliver live training programs that educate analysts and managers on the best ways to use Calabrio’s workforce management capabilities, such as how to track statistics and create reports. They also developed a “Coaching to the Metrics” training designed to help contact center supervisors understand how to best utilize the metrics delivered by Calabrio and beneficially discuss the results with agents. And, of course, an agent training curriculum featuring on-demand classes also was created. All in all, this multi-pronged approach to training resulted in project managers with no previous workforce management experience being up and running—fully functional—on Calabrio in only two weeks.