SWPP Announces Finalists for

2013 Workforce Management

Professional of the Year Award


NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – March 15, 2013 – The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has announced the five finalists for the 2013 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award, which recognizes a workforce management professional who has shown outstanding leadership in the industry.  The finalists are Christina Bell of BCD Travel, Scott Boyd of Guardian Life Insurance Company, Jeffrey Bretana of Navy Federal Credit Union, Seth Ettwein of Alaska Airlines, and Sean Stewart of The General.

“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.  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 9-11, 2013.

Christina Bell joined BCD over two years ago and has over 12 years of operations and workforce management experience.  She is the senior manager with a team of 17 in the workforce management group for 15 locations and 750 agents.  The agents handle calls and email.

Christina is described as intelligent, focused, decisive, accountable, and collaborative.  She joined BCD as the company made the investment in workforce management and was providing some basic forecasting to a handful of business units in the US.  Initially, she took stock of the services the internal group was providing and spent a significant amount of time developing Standard Operating Procedures for each segment of the workforce management process.  She partnered with Human Resources to craft improved job descriptions, with specifically defined roles and hierarchy for the existing and future team.  Educating her team through the use of white papers, FAQs, and user forums, she has expanded their industry knowledge and leveraged proven workforce management methodologies to the point that the entire workforce management team is currently working on completing SWPP certification this year.

Christina also used programs such as Microsoft’s Excel and Access to centralize data for trending and analysis which helped to improve the credibility of the forecasting process and build greater trust of the workforce management team.  She also initiated a real-time service component that clearly defined areas of responsibility and scope of service and allowed for collaboration between operations and workforce management to ensure performance objectives were met and efficiencies realized.  This real-time plan was piloted in May 2012 with a field location of 97 agents in six account teams.  Measured through November 2012, with a 7% increase in call volume over the prior year, there was a 7.4% increase in schedule adherence, a decrease of over one minute in AHT, decrease in overtime of 154 hours, increase in voluntary time off of 772 hours, consistent service delivery, reduction of 10 FTEs and a net savings of over $600,000.  Christina and her team have established significant credibility with the senior executive team while managing agents not only in the US but also India, Costa Rica, and Manila

Terri Atwood, Senior Director at BCD Travel says that Christina has “created a learning organization poised for growth, provided advancement opportunities for her staff, and put critical building blocks in place that ensures the growth is centered on well-established best practices in Workforce Management.”

Scott Boyd joined Guardian Life Insurance Company in 2008 and has 20 years of experience in inventory control and workforce management across multiple sites and media types.  He is the Director of Workforce Planning and Reporting and leads a team supporting three onshore locations and three offshore vendors and 815 agents handing both inbound calls and back office operations.

Prior to Scott joining Guardian, the company had no workforce planning.  The approach was reactive, hiring agents after the need arose, resulting in service delays and staff shortages.  Scott had the wisdom to understand that the right tools and expertise were the easy part — the challenge was to drive change with the people.   He worked with the Operational Leaders to create standard Workforce Planning Policies and Procedures that brought consistency across multiple organizations.  Within 90 days, staff saw the improvements when they weren’t being asked for overtime, schedules were stabilized, and the environment became less hectic and more customer-focused.  AHT decreased 11% while associates spent 7% more time talking to customers.  In the last five years, staffing has been reduced by 25% while lowering costs 23% and delivering better and consistent service.

Scott has the ability to take complex issues (and solutions) and explain them in terms that most can understand.  He has expanded Workforce Planning beyond the traditional ACD units into back office processing, quality, and sales, and the team is currently recognized company wide as a center of excellence.  Scott has lead his Workforce Planning organization from supporting four contact center units to 25 contact center and back office operations. With the expanded scope, the Workforce Planning team has grown from six Workforce Planning and Reporting Analysts primarily focused on the Customer Response Unit to a team of 21 that reaches almost every corner of the organization. What was once an administrative function is now considered a business critical role that aids in strategic planning.  Scott has cultivated a team that has dramatically changed the way Guardian does business and contributed an $18 million savings annually.

According to Nancy DeGrave, Manager, Workforce Planning at Guardian Life, “Scott has a strong work ethic and is very passionate and enthusiastic about workforce management. He understands that developing a strong partnership with leadership is key to a successful Workforce Management program. Scott exhibits an inordinate amount of patience and is willing to take the time to teach and educate leaders. That in turn has resulted in a high level of trust between Workforce Planning and the Operational Leaders.”

Jeffrey Bretana is a Business Analyst III with Navy Federal Credit Union where he has been employed for the last seven years.  The workforce management team consists of 20 people supporting 1700 agents across three centers handling inbound calls, email, and chat.

Throughout 2012, Jeffrey drove significant improvements in the way Navy Federal scheduled agents to give them more options and flexibility, directly addressing concerns identified in an employee engagement survey and idea message board.  Agents complained there were not enough options to allow them the balance they needed.  Jeffry initiated a contact center wide survey to identify exactly what agents needed to create more work/life balance.  This survey resulted in a series of new shift and break offerings including split shifts, multiple condensed work week options and a variety of break schedules.  After offering six new shift types and six new break options, he conducted a follow up survey and found that more than 70% of the agents were satisfied or very satisfied with their new shift and 80% were satisfied or very satisfied with their new break structure.  As a result, Jeffrey has additional options planned for 2013 — fixed weekend shifts, more condensed work-weeks, and creative breaks among others.

Jeffrey was the lead analyst for all staff planning analysis in 2012, including the analysis to determine how many agents would be needed to meet service levels in 2013 through the Annual Financial Plan.  His detailed and complex analysis led to the approval of more than 200 new positions for the Contact Center.  Jeffrey shares his knowledge and passion in a variety of ways including writing Tips of the Week for SWPP and initiating an open house style forum for agents to talk to members of the workforce management team about how they could improve their approval rate for time off requests, options that were available to them for breaks and more.  More than 400 employees attended these open houses and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

According to Jennifer Noseworthy, Assistant Manager of Workforce Management at Navy Federal, “Jeffrey has a big picture understanding of Contact Center Operations and Workforce Management, a strong desire to improve the lives of agents through innovative and creative scheduling options, and a “can do” attitude that is sought out by many different levels in the organization.”

Seth Ettwein is the Manager, Call Center Workforce Planning at Alaska Airlines where he has been in the call center operations team for over eight years.  He leads a team of nine people supporting five locations and 570 agents.  The agents handle inbound calls, outbound notifications, Facebook, and Twitter.

Seth’s strategic thinking and ability to find solutions have been key to the success of the Alaska Airlines Call Centers.  He has an extremely strong analytical mind and fully understands the call center metrics and what it takes to move the business forward and serves on a team of three that plans the call center budget.  Over the last year, he has made extensive strides in optimizing the workforce management tool with solid call arrival forecasting and management of intraday staffing which have positively impacted agent morale and reduced labor costs.  Alaska Airlines is a union shop and many processes had been done manually to ensure compliance with the bargaining agreement, but Seth was able to automate many of these processes within the eWFM tool.  This reduced FTE requirements and allowed agent self-service including partial day trades that has saved nine hours per week for $14,000 annually in labor costs.  Another innovation was activation of tools to allow for early release at times other than just the end of shift.  Now agents can have start, end, or mid-shift releases and are sent automated notifications when the release is granted.  This has increased early release time by 70% resulting is a savings in labor of $280,000 per year as well as greatly increasing agent morale.

Additional processes improved the management of holiday time off from a flat percentage to one more matched to the actual needs and streamlined the mandatory overtime assignment processes to improve accuracy.  He was actively involved with the launch of the home working implementation and now 80% of the staff work from home.

According to Gail Mahan, Manager, Call Center Planning & Technology at Alaska Airlines, “Seth’s call center knowledge as it relates to workforce planning as well as technology has been key to the success of the Alaska Airlines Call Centers. I’m eager to see what new innovative solutions Seth will continue to bring to optimize our workforce, drive down costs and ultimately provide an even better customer experience both internally and externally within the Alaska Airlines Call Centers.”

Sean Stewart is the Workforce Supervisor for The General, a non-standard auto insurance company with a team of three in workforce management handling 225 agents in two locations and as well as some remote agents.  They handle phone, email, web, and chat.  Sean has been with The General since 2007 and oversees all operating contact center technologies including workforce management, and is responsible for quality and meeting service level objectives while focusing on controlling the cost of providing those services.

It is estimated that the combined operating efficiencies captured by Sean’s leadership since joining The General® in 2007 exceeds $885,000.  His team has been able to forecast call volumes and staffing requirements within 1% of accuracy for the previous five years, reduce CSR overtime by 55% saving over $400,000, increased agent schedule adherence by 7.6% over the last 3 years, has maintained a level in excess of 97%, increased agent occupancy (from 85% to 88%) in the past three years, and has decreased overall payroll costs by a concerted effort to fine-tune intraday staffing in 2012, reducing payroll expenses by $300,000.

In 2012, Sean undertook the task of integrating Knowlagent (now Intradiem) eLearning into the existing infrastructure.  Sean oversaw the successful launch and administration duties of this new application that turns agent idle time into training time or “learning breaks.”  The application had to successfully integrate with the phone system and workforce management software and there were numerous business rules that Sean helped to develop and implement on the backend of the software to optimize the training to the CSR’s while continuing to meet service level agreements and maintain low abandonment rates.  These efforts reduced training shrinkage by a half point in 2012 while increasing agent education by about 90% compared to the prior year.  This, in part, has driven efficiency, quality, higher first call resolution metrics, higher employee morale, and higher customer satisfaction.  Although all of these have benefits that measure beyond dollars, The General has calculated the initial cost savings of using this learning application at near $185,000.

Sean is widely respected by the staff and was recently awarded The General’s Departmental Leadership Award which is given by the CSRs.

Wade Clark, Director of Customer Service at The General, says, “Sean’s combination of understanding the science of workforce management and using a creative approach when planning and fine tuning the staffing makes him one of our most successful leaders.”

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 2013 SWPP Annual Conference.

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 www.swpp.org.