WFM Survey Results

Each quarter SWPP surveys the workforce planning community on critical workforce planning topics. Almost 200 call center professionals representing a wide variety of industries participated and provided insight into this quarter’s survey on methods for recruiting and hiring for the WFM department.

Survey Participants

Forty-four percent of the respondents in this survey work in centers with over 500 agents. The rest are representative of a wide variety of sizes from under 50 up to 500 agents. The insurance and financial industries drew the largest number of participants, but all other industries are also well represented.

New Hires in WFM

Respondents were asked how many new personnel had been hired in the WFM department in the last 24 months. One or two was the most often chosen option at 38 percent, followed closely by three to six new hires at 29%. On opposite ends, 16 percent reported no new hires and 17 percent indicated more than six.

Recruiting Methods

The respondents were asked to identify all the recruiting methods used to find new WFM personnel by choosing all the options that apply. The most frequently used method by far is the internal job posting. This is followed by company website and employee referrals and sometimes apprenticeships. Less frequently, these centers use outside assistance such as recruiting and staffing agencies and the SWPP job posting board. Very few are using newspaper and TV ads. There are a broad spectrum of options available today and analysis of those that are most effective in finding the best candidates needs to done regularly as the options evolve.

Internal Hires

The survey further explored what percentage of the new hires came from within the company. About one-third indicated that more than 75 percent were internal hires while just over a third indicated it was either none or less than 25 percent. Some roles in WFM may be more easily filled by internal candidates than others and career progressions within the department can support the hiring of people new to WFM processes.

Initial Screening of Candidates

The initial screening of candidates prior to an interview is done by the Human Resources department in over half of the centers responding. About one-quarter of the screening is done by someone in the WFM department but little is done by the call center manager or outside agencies. The key to ensuring the best candidates is to have clear criteria for the screeners that can be applied effectively.

Currency of Job Descriptions

Respondents were asked how long it had been since the WFM job descriptions were last updated. More than half indicated that it had been done in the last year. Only 11 percent indicated it had been more than 3 years since an update was done. The roles in WFM can change over time as the company needs evolve. In addition, the needs may change somewhat depending on who may have left the team and the unique talents/skills of that individual. A review of the job description and hiring criteria for the next hire is appropriate at each opportunity to bring on a new person.

Techniques for Screening Candidates

The survey gave respondents the opportunity to choose more than one technique that is used for screening candidates. The written resume or job application review is the most common tool followed closely by the in-person interview with the WFM manager. Telephone interviews are next and they can be effective tools for screening candidates with less investment of time by both parties. Fewer choose to have the candidate interviewed by the call center manager, human resource personnel, or someone else within the WFM department. Sitting with a current WFM employee can be a good way to determine if the candidate would be a good fit to the team and gives the person a better idea of the details of the job requirements as well. Less than one-quarter do reference checks or ask the candidate to take a written test of WFM knowledge and few use the psychometric tests to determine if this person is a good personality fit for the position. All of these can be valuable tools in choosing not only a qualified individual, but one that is likely to stay with the organization.

Requirements for Entry Level Position

Respondents were asked to identify all the requirements or “must-have criteria” for a new hire. The most frequently cited requirements are call center experience and at least a high school diploma (although about one-quarter require a bachelor’s degree). Experience on any WFM tool is an important criterion for almost half but only a few require that experience to be on the specific tool used in this center. It is important to clarify that failure to have even one of these requirements should result in elimination from the hiring process, so it is critical that there be a separation of those that truly are requirements and those that are “highly desirable.” If a candidate had everything else needed and seems perfect for the job but was missing the bachelor’s degree, for example, would the human resources team eliminate the candidate at the resume level inappropriately?

Recommended Changes

When asked what changes the respondents would like to make to their recruiting and hiring process, the following are examples of the comments provided:

  • Focus more on testing for WFM knowledge of processes, metrics, and use of tools. Focus on candidates’ responses to how they would handle typical scenarios that happen in the call center and planning environments. Assess for firefighting skills and out-of-the-box thinking that could be used to improve efficiency. Really challenge experience on resume to ensure the candidate can speak to the issues and actions taken in detail. Then ask them how they might apply those skills to a specific issue. Increase the involvement of peer and support groups involvement in the interview process.
  • Would like to hire more “outside” applicants as opposed to being encouraged to promote from within the Company.
  • There are a lot of intangible skills that make a good WFM analyst. I would prefer a trial or probationary period. This would allow the department time to see how the candidate reacts and handles situations and, if the candidate is new to WFM, figure out if they really want this kind of job. In previous companies, we have gotten stuck with people who really didn’t want (or didn’t have) these intangible skills needed to analyze data. Most call center managers don’t realize WFM is more than just plugging in data and press a forecast/schedule button. I’m sure I’d have a lot more of my hair if it was that simple.
  • I would like the candidates to go through a test which challenges their ability to solve some practical problems on the spot.
  • Pre-screen should be reviewed by hiring WF Manager. Difficulties found with Recruiters understanding the full scope of the WFM role and due to this it delayed the timeliness of filling the positions.
  • More interviews with WFM team and must have final sign-off on hiring by the team, rather than the director.
  • WFM skills are teachable skills. Continue to focus on personality traits, drive to help people, and desire to learn as the primary tools for selecting candidates.
  • If I could change the current screening process, I would prefer that analysts with proven WFM experience lead, or at least have a part, in the screening process. I would recommend a panel interview where those experienced can ask the candidate questions to confirm their experience and ensure they are a good fit for the team.
  • Have a more structured test for WFM Analysts/Schedulers/Forecasters. There should be separate tests.
  • I would recommend a knowledge test appropriate for the position. An entry level position should not be heavily focused on WFM knowledge. I would focus more on situational questions to see how the candidate would handle typical, and a few not-so-typical, requests by Operations.
  • Reduce the timeframe between job opening and filling of position.
  • The initial screening done by HR. The system will auto-reject and send email back based on key words before HR even looks at an app. HR’s vision of a good candidate and our team’s vision sometimes do not align and we will spend time interviewing someone who should have never passed an initial screen.
  • Not everyone has the genetic makeup to be in WFM. I wish there was a way to determine such factors and not focus so much on degrees or experience. If the genetic makeup is there, then the person in question can learn on the job just fine.

Closing Comments

Based on the responses above, the process of recruiting and hiring the best candidates for a WFM position is challenging. The hope is to find someone with not only the right combination of skills and knowledge, but who is also a good fit for the job and the team. While several mentioned the desire for more effective tests of knowledge of WFM topics and the ability to use the knowledge to effectively solve common problems, few are using such a test.

The pretest offered by SWPP for candidates for the certification programs may be a useful starting point for developing a test appropriate to each of the positions in your center. Applying that knowledge may be best determined in interviews with “what if” scenarios and the techniques of behavioral-based interviewing. Others are more convinced that WFM is a teachable skill and finding the right personality fit is more important. WFM is a key role in the success of the center and the organization as a whole. Spending the time and resources necessary to hire the best team is critical.