You’ve Got a Great WFM Team But Are You Helping Them Reach Their Full Potential?

By Dan Smitley, Call Design

Many of us know how to manage a workforce through forecasting, scheduling, and real-time monitoring, but we miss important parts of managing our own teams. We’ve made a career of being the go-to person for all things workforce management. Working our way up the WFM ladder, starting as a real-time analyst. Now we’re sitting as the leader of our own WFM team but something doesn’t seem right. We’ve got a great team and we’re consistently hitting SLA. So why does it feel like things aren’t improving or continuing to advance? Well, maybe it’s because we aren’t helping that great team reach their full potential.

But Why Does It Matter?

I’ve known some leaders that feel like professional development of their employees is the responsibility of the employee. Each person should be the master of their fate and control their destiny. Maybe this is the type of leadership you’ve worked under and you’ve never known another way. The problem with this approach to development is that it misses the fact that a well-developed team is great for leader’s careers!

Developing your team allows you to have a deep bench of talent. When you’ve got strong people ready to take on more responsibility then it’s easier for your execs to see that your team can step up. This then frees you up to take on higher-level responsibilities.

There is also a good chance that your bosses want leaders that will care for and invest in their teams. Why give someone more responsibility and possibly more direct reports when they aren’t taking care of the ones they already have? If your team isn’t well developed, then you could easily cap your career advancement and get stuck in your current role.

Plus, study after study has shown that professional development is key to employee retention. When you invest in your staff, with time and/or money, it signals to them that you care about them and want to see them excel. It also allows them to continually increase mastery of their role, which is critical for them to feel engaged with work.

But How Does It Happen?

There are a variety of ways that you can start developing your team. This isn’t a comprehensive list but here are a few practical steps to start with:

1. Three weekly check-ins and a twist

Having weekly check-ins with each member of your team is a great starting point. It gives you space and time to understand what they are working on and how you can help. However, these weekly check-ins often become overly focused on the tactical execution of the role. We get so weighed down with putting out the immediate fires that we forget to ask how our direct reports are moving towards their larger goals and helping them develop the appropriate skills for advancement.

This is where the twist comes in. Schedule regular check-ins with your team members, but every fourth session make sure to put aside the tactical items and instead focus on career pathing, skill development, and talking through how they want to be positioned in the organization. By intentionally scheduling the twist, you are showing them that you are committed to their development and success. It’s all too easy to push these development conversations to annual reviews.

2. Quarterly check-ins

If you are already meeting weekly, and adding in a twist, this may feel like overkill. However, if you are meeting both weekly and quarterly you can leverage the sessions slightly differently.

In these quarterly sessions, you are holding your team member accountable to moving toward the goals they have set for themselves as well as the goals you have set for them. It also gives you the chance to pivot if you find that the previous goals are no longer viable or important, or possibly that they’ve already been accomplished and the employee needs a new challenge.

If meeting quarterly feels like too much, then you can break up which goals are being covered each quarter. In Q1 and Q3, you focus on the leader-driven goals. Where does the leader want the employee to improve and add additional value? In Q2 and Q4, you can focus on the employee-driven goals. How does the employee want to advance their career and are they making strides to develop the skills necessary to keep moving?

By leveraging the quarterly meetings to review developmental goals, you can free up your monthly-twist meetings to simply focus on the employee. Check in on their families, interests, and hobbies. I don’t think you can overly invest in your employees, but meeting weekly, monthly, and quarterly to review developmental goals may be too much for people. If you’re one of them, then at least pick one of the structures and create a consistent schedule for your employees. But whatever you do, don’t wait for the annual review to cover their goals.

3. Create time, space, and money for them

Challenging your employees is a great first start. Allowing them to also set goals and challenge themselves is great. But if you aren’t giving them time, space, and possibly money for their development, well, then it’s all for nothing.

As leaders, we often get stuck on the money part. Our budgets are tight, especially in this economy, and we question just how much money we can, or even should, invest in our employees. We look at conferences as huge money holes and professional certifications as the best way for us to pay for our employees to find another job. However, from what I’ve seen, the biggest thing missing isn’t the money, it’s the time.

We load up our employee’s schedules with incredibly productive and valuable work. We make sure they are working on the latest project or covering the necessary responsibilities. We fill up their 40 hours of work and then leave them with no space to invest in themselves.

Or maybe we give them time but ask them to find a way to develop themselves in the noisy call center or the command center with the rest of their peers. We don’t give them some space to separate themselves, focus on their development work, and really pour into themselves.

Part of helping our employees reach their full potential is giving them space, time, and sometimes money for them to be developed.

4. Lead by example

We can tell them that we’ll create time and space for them. We can even set aside money for them to use but they don’t seem to be taking us up on the offer. This is often because they see our priorities and schedules and realize we aren’t focusing on developing ourselves. As leaders, we have to realize that we are setting an example of what success looks like. Whether we like it or not, our team often looks to our example of how to get ahead. They assume because we made it to the top that they should follow our example. This includes what we prioritize, including professional development.

One of the best ways that you can show your team that you care about their development is to develop yourself. If you reference books and articles you’re reading in the team meeting, that is going to normalize continual learning. If you tell them that you won’t be available because you’ll be at a conference that will show them that you value networking and keeping up on recent trends.

Giving them time, space, money, accountability, challenging goals, etc can mean close to nothing if we aren’t developing ourselves and leading by example.

5. Get to know them

The last tip is the simplest tip but is easily overlooked. Our teams want to feel developed and invested in. We miss the point when we hand them stretch goals and challenges that don’t interest them, their career goals, or add to their fulfillment. That isn’t to say we should stay silent on how they can better themselves, the team, or the organization. We have an opinion and perspectives and as the leader, it’s our job to share that. However, we have to remember that our perspective isn’t the only one that matters.

This goes back to meeting with them monthly or quarterly. The goal should be to ensure that you understand who they are and where they want to go. Chances are incredibly high that they aren’t going to stay on your team until retirement. So one of the best things you can do for yourself, for them, and for both of your careers is to help them reach their goals.

Challenge them to improve their forecasting skills and increase forecast accuracy. And if they want to move into marketing then help them by networking them with the marketing team. Give them space to read up on forecasting tips through SWPP and also marketing tips from Marketing Made Simple. This can, and should, be a both/and not either/or.

We’ve worked hard to climb the ladder and get a leadership seat. Now that we’ve made it to the top we have to prioritize investing in our team. We can’t allow our busy schedules and competing priorities to cause us to overlook investing in our team. We can simply challenge them and believe we’ve done everything necessary. But it isn’t until we get to know them as people, lead by example, create time, space, and money for them, and schedule a consistent check-in with them that they’ll be able to reach their fullest potential. And if we aren’t helping them do that, are we sure we’re in the right leadership position?

Dan Smitley is the Strategy and Optimization Czar for Call Design. Call Design believes that the contact center can be, and should be, a strategic asset for each organization. That all starts with a great workforce management team ensuring the staff are happy, aligned, and productive at work. Call Design helps organizations reach this goal through consulting, training, custom tech development, and software solutions. You can connect with Dan on LinkedIn at or connect with Call Design at