FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT:    Vicki Herrell

SWPP Executive Director


 SWPP Announces Finalists for

2015 Workforce Management

Professional of the Year Award


NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – February 17, 2015 – The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has announced the five finalists for the 2015 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 Engman of Optum, Denise Kapalko of Optum, Shannon Rumohr of North American Bancard, Darlene Stephens of Infinite Energy Inc., and Stephanie Walker of Gerber Life Insurance.

“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, as well as shown measurable results for their companies, which represent a broad spectrum of industry and size. 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 will be held in Nashville, Tennessee on March 2-4, 2015.

Scott Engman, Vice President of Workforce Management and Planning at Optum in Eden Prairie, MN, has over 16 years as a leader in the contact center industry, with a career focused primarily in outsourcing and healthcare markets.  He leads a team of 15 workforce management professionals serving 18,000 agents in over 75 locations at Optum, a subsidiary of United Health Group working with diverse sets of clients across 140 countries that has grown by acquisition.  Merging these separate operating units into “One Optum” has been a key initiative over the last two years since each business unit had its own workforce management organization, ACD, workforce management system, and reporting.

Scott was tasked with centralizing the workforce management and strategic planning functions of the three separate business units, and he became the “thought leader” within Optum for workforce management.  His leadership helped build awareness of fundamental execution and discipline in how Optum manages contact center environments.  His philosophy has always been, “Create Accountability through Transparency.”  Scott helped lead a change curve to build a culture of performance and visibility across the senior leadership team.  He brings a focus on process quality and systems that has fostered an approach to change management that seeks first to understand underlying causes of poor results and quickly identifies tactics to enable sustained improvement and performance.

As part of the “One Optum” project, Scott established a Centralized Command Center to serve as a centralized source of truth for operational performance monitoring and reorganized the separate workforce management groups along a functional alignment instead of alignment by business, allowing the workforce management team to specialize on those tasks where they excelled.  He implemented a standard, best-in-class workforce management platform, command center, and strategic planning solution.  Once in place, Scott established metrics to measure operational “truth,” developed consistent executive management reporting, and then implemented workforce management initiatives to improve efficiencies and service consistency.

Rationalizing service standards based on sensitivity analysis curves for a small revenue producing group determined the most profitable service standard and staffing, resulting in additional revenue of over $650,000 annually.  The year-over-year improvement was significant as Scott’s team improved the overall occupancy and service delivery performance.  Improved capacity planning and utilizing hiring optimization netted over $3.5MM annually in reduced agent costs, while improving service delivery.  Comparisons of interval performance showed that, even with lower staffing costs, service delivery was much more consistent than before Scott’s transformation project, while maintaining target occupancy rates.

Recreating a workforce management function and centralizing operations management is a lot of work, but it was well worth it. If done well, the efficiencies can be significant. Workforce management is critically important, and expending energy in workforce management has true value, especially when you extend the capability to non-call areas. Back office functions have the same needs for planning, forecasting and creating optics into the intra-day performance, and Scott is now leading the charge to bring that leadership and visibility into the organization.

“Scott is a great person, a thought leader, and a great manager.  He spends the time to educate and teach his team as well as his business partners how to optimize workforce management to improve overall performance,” says Christopher Johnson, VP of Enterprise Reporting and Metrics/Business Transformation.

Denise Kapalko is the Director of Workforce Management for Optum in Green Bay, WI.  She has over 12 years of experience in workforce management and supports 8500 agents in 25+ locations with her team of 137 workforce management professionals.  Denise is one of the first graduates of  ULA (United Leadership Academy).

Over the past two years, Denise has combined four distinct workforce management teams, each with individual processes and practices, and built them into an operation with a consistent global capability. She achieved this feat through a meticulous and thoughtful approach to systems thinking by identifying that process variation was a huge problem to be solved. “Variation is the root of all evil!” became the mantra of her entire organization. This drove standardization and consistency efforts within Optum’s workforce practices. At Optum, standardization is measured by conducting periodic process audits. Denise’s efforts have led to a 50% improvement in audit outcomes in the past year. This increased consistency has led to improved service outcomes. Service consistency is measured by looking at the standard deviation of daily service levels for a given month. This metric has improved by approximately 50% year over year, which is tremendously important for Optum’s internal and external customers. Operational efficiency increased 5.3% year over year to 73.1%, which yielded a total annualized savings of $3.8M.

Denise’s workforce management acumen is well established. However, it is her inspired leadership and how she applies her expertise that sets her apart from her peers. Each year, UnitedHealth Group surveys employees in order to get feedback on business and culture and to gauge how the company is performing relative to its core values of Integrity, Compassion, Relationships, Innovation, and Performance. A big component of this survey is employee engagement which measures enthusiasm, feelings of accomplishment, and development among other things. Denise’s numbers were absolutely outstanding. Her team’s engagement increased this year to 86%, a year-over-year increase of 5%. Part of the employee engagement measurement is manager effectiveness and clarity of direction. The manager effectiveness index measures people, work management, and trust. Denise’s employees rated her effectiveness as a manager at 97% and leadership clarity of direction at 87%.

According to Todd Fladebo, Senior Workforce Analyst, “What makes Denise a successful WFM leader? Her dedication to standardization and consistency is definitely key. However, there is something very unique about her leadership style that is even more inspiring! Denise promotes collaborative problem solving and systems thinking, empowering her employees to arrive at the right answer! It is not uncommon for her to grab a rolling chair, sit down and say ‘How can I help?’”

Shannon Rumohr is Senior Manager of WFM at North American Bancard (NAB) where her team of seven workforce management professionals supports 150 agents in four locations across three lines of business. These associates handle inbound calls, outbound calls, research, email, chat, social media, and back office, amounting to over 60,000 calls per month.

Prior to Shannon joining NAB in 2013, there was no formal workforce management program, and most tasks fell under the individual team managers and leads. This disjointed approach created inefficiencies in scheduling, vacation processing, and hiring processes that caused significant wasted expense to NAB’s bottom line and an average speed of answer of greater than seven minutes.  Shannon quickly partnered with key operational leaders to develop a strategy to deploy common workforce management processes. Her first area of focus was capacity planning.

During the year, NAB deployed a long-range capacity planning software solution. Shannon worked on the implementation team to ensure that the configuration and set up was accurate for the various call center environments. The result of deploying the software early in the year has more than paid for itself three times over.  Her next focal area was on building out her workforce management team. In changing the culture at NAB, Shannon focused on a combination of internal and external candidates to fill the open roles. She diligently provided a training program that allowed them to get up to speed in an expeditious manner. With a keen focus on processes, Shannon created a repository of standard operating procedures for her workforce management personnel to follow which helps improve learning curves as well as maintains consistency in actions.

Partnering with the operational areas, Shannon led the deployment of a schedule compliance program. Initial compliance numbers were in the high 60% to low 70% range. After further analysis, the targeted goals for each call center area were 92% or greater.  Over a three-month period, the schedule compliance program created improvements that materialized in more than $250K in annual expense reductions. In addition, by centralizing the scheduling functions within her team, another $150K in expense reductions was recognized. By aligning schedules to match arrival patterns and implementing a compliance program, NAB achieved service targets, an average speed of answer of 60 seconds or less for the first time ever without adding any additional headcount to the payroll.

Because of Shannon’s ability to execute on directives and deliver results beyond expectations, her role continues to expand. Over the past year, she has devised a fair and consistent scheduling bidding process that significantly helped improve overall service performance. Continually seeking ways to improve the processes, Shannon implemented a time-off approval/review process without impacting the production environment and improving the employee morale over the prior process. To solicit feedback, she conducted a survey specific to workforce management questions to be used in future considerations or practices and policy development.

Outside of her day-to-day functions, in preparation for the development of a business case to upgrade the telephony system (including workforce management software), Shannon led a user audit across all NAB areas, which resulted in a cost avoidance and a re-purpose of $75K into additional license purchases.

“The key to Shannon’s success was forming partnerships with our call center associates and operational leaders,” said Scott Fessler, Vice President of Support Services. “Shannon’s ability to think outside of the conventional methods and deploy winning strategies creates success for North American Bancard’s customer experience strategy.”

Darlene Stephens is the Call Center Analyst at Infinite Energy, Inc. in Gainesville, FL.

The company consists of over 370 employees, and 60 of these are considered to be call center employees who work in two locations in Florida and Georgia.  While the size of the organization may appear to be beneficial in regards to staffing and forecasting, it means that the impact of each and every call center associate is multiplied. The company doesn’t have the benefit of overstaffing and excess bandwidth. There is very little room for error, but it has not failed to meet or exceed the required service level, due in very large part to Darlene Stephens.

Darlene manages to traverse the fine line between objective analysis of scheduling needs and compassionate response to urgently realized obstacles with grace and determination. She serves both internal and external customers with a commitment to accuracy and thoroughness. She not only creates and implements schedules for customer-facing employees, but she also identifies issues and suggests solutions. Darlene has been instrumental in uncovering underlying system issues. She seems to know, almost intuitively, when there is a problem and may already be formulating a fix. Darlene identifies training needs and makes recommendations to management. She has championed the new workforce management software (identified at the last SWPP Conference) and has taken on the daunting task of working hands-on with the new call recording and quality assurance software.

When Darlene originally joined the Infinite Energy family in 2008, she brought with her a wealth of knowledge from her previous call center workforce management experience. She was initially tasked solely with coordinating scheduling for Infinite Energy’s Customer Care department. Due to her superb performance, her skills have been leveraged to reduce inefficiencies within the Sales department. Prior to Darlene’s intervention, the Sales department did not have concise staffing metrics. There was no adherence to schedule because there simply were no schedules. Not only did Darlene assist with scheduling for Sales, she also helped the skeptical Sales department understand the need for quality workforce management. She got their buy in with proof – a reduction in costs without sacrificing the service level or quality.

In Customer Care, Darlene has championed software and procedural changes that enhanced the internal customer’s experience. Darlene was integral in designing and implementing the attendance policy. She manages to be incredibly impactful, authoritative, and knowledgeable without sacrificing compassion. In addition to her work with systems and scheduling, Darlene is responsible for running reports and interpreting their results. She is able to glean so much information from a limited data set that she is truly an authority on call center data analysis.

According to Omayra Rivera, Sales Support Representative, “At Infinite Energy, the customer experience is paramount. We work hard to ensure that the potential of every action’s impact on the customer experience is maximized. We recognize that workforce management, which is both efficiently reactive and proactive, is absolutely imperative to this mission. We, of course, have our service level requirement. Even more than that, we have a responsibility to be here when our customers need us, to be present and responsive to their needs. We know that Darlene is the keystone of this mission.”

Stephanie Walker is the Workforce Management Officer at Gerber Life Insurance in Fremont, MI.    She manages a team of seven workforce management professionals who support 240 agents in two locations.

Stephanie has implemented a number of changes in the Gerber Life Contact Center. The most recent, which has done so much to strengthen the relationship between WFM and Leadership, is the planning strategy for Utilization and Occupancy, which are direct goals for both Workforce Management and Leadership.  Before this strategy was put in place, the planning process started with the workforce management team meeting with leaders to suggest items that should be cancelled in order to meet service levels.  If the leaders did not agree, workforce management would then negotiate with leaders to decide what items they would have to schedule, and then the workforce management team would be left on their own to come up with solutions to meet agreed upon service levels.  This approach did not work on many levels.  Workforce management was the bad guy by advising leadership what they couldn’t have, leadership did not have an understanding of how they could impact service levels without canceling meetings, and workforce management felt all the pressure to meet service level goals.

Stephanie was able to take the critical steps to improve this process, starting by educating the leaders on all the KPIs that impact service levels and how they can support meeting the goals. She also created workforce management targets that are achievable, common goals between leadership and workforce management to ensure collaboration, and a planning tool for efficiency.

The new planning process includes a Utilization Assessment, where planned vs. actual utilization is reviewed for the prior month and appropriate adjustments are made in the database for next month’s utilization.  Workforce management then meets with cohort teams to obtain scheduling expectations for the next month’s activities, and follows up with a prioritization meeting where workforce management, cohort managers, and directors get together and review all required as well as requested monthly activities and approve or deny based on utilization, service level, and abandon rate objectives. Workforce management then schedules 90% of the agreed upon activities from the prioritization meeting for the next month.

This allows agents to be on the phone when needed in order to reach the targets across the board, including conversion rates and application goals. That is the large monetary reward, but in addition, morale has improved dramatically across all levels. With these changes, workforce management is now in the role of advisor vs. “the bad guy,” and leadership feels empowered to make the decisions that impact their departments through group collaboration.  Finally, now there are achievable targets for the workforce management team, and this has greatly improved team morale.

According to Brooke Tanner, Senior Workforce Management Specialist, “Stephanie has been the conductor for change within Gerber Life Insurance on many different policies and procedures that have been in place for so long. She presents the change with clear and thought out explanations to the Contact Center Management team so that the change can be seen in a positive light moving forward versus resistance and confusion. This helps the company with working together as a team, an important factor that WFM understands.”

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 2015 SWPP Annual Conference on Tuesday, March 3.

About SWPP

The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) is an organization devoted to facilitating education and networking opportunities among workforce planners across all industries.  Membership in SWPP is available to all workforce planning professionals and other interested parties from consulting and vendor organizations.  Both individual memberships and corporate membership options are available, with full benefits and costs outlined on the organization’s website at