FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                 CONTACT:    Vicki Herrell

SWPP Executive Director



SWPP Announces Finalists for 2016 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – March 28, 2016 – The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has announced the five finalists for the 2016 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award, which recognizes a workforce management professional who has shown outstanding leadership in the industry.  The finalists are Mike Duffy from TeleTech, Tony Graczyk from Principal Financial Group, Darlene Green from Shaw Industries, Stephen Schmidt from Egencia, an Expedia, Inc. Company, and Jesse Scholten from UnitedHealthcare. Visit to know about the best healthcare services available around your locality.

“We are so proud to announce these five workforce management professionals as our finalists,” said Vicki Herrell, SWPP Executive Director. “Each year, there are so many outstanding nominations that it continues to be a difficult task for the SWPP Board of Advisors to select the top five.   Each one of these individuals has demonstrated great skills, leadership, and ability in our industry, as well as delivered measurable results for their companies.”  The winner of the award will be announced at the SWPP Annual Conference, which is held in Nashville, Tennessee on April 4-6, 2016.

Mike Duffy is the Director of Workforce Management Officer at TeleTech in Costa Rica.    He manages a team of 571 workforce management (WFM) professionals, who support 36,000 agents in 51 locations.  This organization handles almost 20 million contacts per month including inbound and outbound calls, email, and chat.

Mike, who is a Certified Workforce Planning Professional (CWPP), has led Aspect eWFM system & architecture redesigns at two different companies over the past five years. These redesigns created a much more robust and streamlined user experience. In conjunction, Mike led efforts on updated processes and procedures. These efforts have had tangible impacts on reducing overall WFM costs by allowing WFM support ratios to be increased. Mike has implemented a new creative attendance and scheduling policy, greatly reducing absenteeism and attrition.  Data warehouse integrations have resulted in large increases in automated reporting on WFM metrics to all levels of the company.  He also led an initiative to consolidate Employee Administration into one department, which reduced turnaround time from 12 days to 3 while managing under a 1% error rate.

Mike’s latest and biggest accomplishment to date is the creation of a unique Staff Plan tool called StaffPoint. StaffPoint replaces Excel for Staff Planning and thus allows the company to have centralized capacity planning and reduces the workload for the WFM team. There are many benefits, including being database-driven vs. Excel, easily accessible to update data, and allowing integration with Finance to perform critical budgeting steps.

According to Ken Pearson, VP of WFM, “Mike is a results-focused and seasoned Contact Center WFM professional with over 17 years of experience in increasingly responsible roles. Throughout his career, he has been successful in driving cost-efficient solutions for high-impact business results through the creative use of WFM and reporting solutions that dramatically improve key performance indicators (KPIs) while maintaining employee satisfaction and significantly improving financial results.  His leadership skills are strong and include building cohesive, high-performance, cross-functional teams. His approach to leading in contact center organizations is progressive and solution-oriented, applying deep insight of WFM to achieve strategic corporate goals. Additionally, he has an especially strong record of delivering large-scale projects ahead of schedule and under budget. Mike’s experience is enhanced by being a Certified Workforce Planning Professional (CWPP) and a Certified Aspect Workforce Management trainer.”

Tony Graczyk is the Contact Center Workforce Planning Manager for Principal Financial Group in Grand Island, NE.  The operation consists of 1400 agents in 14 units across six locations, handling 500,000 calls, emails, and faxes per month. It is the best to  learn more at eGoldFax

Tony joined the workforce management team at the time of the Principal Financial Group’s initial implementation of a new WFM system, and his technical expertise and drive to acquire new skills suited him well in quickly learning the structure and processes used within the new implementation. Ten years later, Tony is further equipped with experience and knowledge of what it takes to successfully collaborate with business unit leaders for efficient operation at a reduced cost while still retaining the potential for the flexibility that the workforce so desperately desires.

To support the amount of data needed for thorough analysis, Tony actively initiated and collaborated on the creation of a datamart that would contain information from the WFM system, as well as from the call management system (CMS) platform. Making use of the storage efficiency and accessibility of the datamart eliminated many of the disparate reports being manually updated and maintained by staff within the business units. The breadth of information contained within the datamart also set the stage for the creation of reports and analyses that made it possible to compare and contrast items from the WFM and CMS systems for better planning and understanding of operations.

When confronted with a potential legal issue related to minimum lunch durations and potential impacts to performance results, Tony met with the HR leaders to find ways to eliminate the majority of the risk.  An automated application to handle the schedule adjustments saved over $11,000 in agent and WFM team labor.  A complete review of the performance-based scheduling process resulted in a 2% increase in scheduling efficiency (saving approximately $200,000 annually) and an increase from 40% to over 75% of agents working a schedule they consider to be ideal.

According to Stephanie Tiedens, Assistant Director, “The ‘speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack’ is definitely true at The Principal. Tony directly leads the workforce management team at The Principal and continues to move ahead with expanding the value that the team brings to the areas they support. They have expanded their scope to incorporate the CMS as subject material experts and support the end users’ needs within that system and for phone routing consulting services. He has expanded the purview of the WFM team for back-office staffing beyond the US borders and is working to expand their services to contact center operations globally for the organization. He actively looks for solutions that seem ‘outside the box,’ and he approaches problems with a ‘can-do’ attitude. In a nutshell, he exemplifies the talents that make an exceptional workforce planning professional.”

Darlene Green is a Forecasting Business Analyst for Shaw Industries, a flooring manufacturer in Dalton, Georgia.  She began her career focusing on accounting and auditing and then moved to Human Resources.  In 2014, Darlene accepted the monumental task of leading the WFM initiative, where she started with a blank slate.  The operation now consists of three centers and 571 agents handling calls, email, faxes, and web chat, and is supported by nine WFM team members.

Darlene transformed Workforce Management into the movement, WORK FORce manageMEnt, where the service appeal “Work For ME” became a slogan that associates immediately connected with. She took the initiative and independently immersed herself into increasing her knowledge base through outside seminars, reading, benchmarking, and teaming with organizations like SWPP.

Darlene began by creating detailed operating procedures. This approach has decreased the on-boarding time for subsequent new associates and makes it easier for all associates to stay procedurally sound.  She created a user-friendly website where associates can access information, which eliminated the need to store and access email for reporting knowledge purposes.  Her next step was to create a detailed process for more efficient communications between WFM, associates, and managers through the use of Google forms and shared workflow. This saved time, labor dollars, and most importantly, increased the morale of associates as they engaged in seeking the services of WFM.

Her next focus was on staff schedules. She implemented system-integrated time off requests and schedule activity posting. To further increase morale and efficiency, Darlene executed a more harmonious means of extending shift bid offerings to associates. She also implemented floating breaks and rotating schedules.

Being intuitive towards the needs of the business and associates, Darlene introduced shift preference surveys, non-traditional shifts, and for flexibility, introduced modified schedule request process. She expanded cost savings to include long lunch periods.  Darlene also championed adherence awareness. For the front-line associates alone, adherence has increased by approximately 11%, thereby increasing available weekly FTE capacity by over 750 hours. Rightsizing this capacity is generating annual savings well over $500,000.

Darlene deployed a Kronos time stamp initiative, moving associates away from standing at a time clock to utilizing their PCs to clock in and out. Improvements were immediately made through the elimination of wait and travel time around the beginning and end of lunch breaks and shifts. This has realized an annual savings of $107,000 in labor and again, increased associate morale.

According to Ed Hoggs, Business Operations Manager, Customer Service, “Darlene’s accomplishments and technical impact on our organization in this area has greatly eclipsed standard expectations.  She has a unique blend of outstanding analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as powerful communications and negotiation capabilities that have enabled her to impact our center in a big way.”

Stephen Schmidt is Manager of Workforce Planning for Egencia, a corporate managed travel provider, where his team of 10 WFM professionals supports 800 agents that are 90% virtual. These associates handle approximately 100,000 inbound calls, email, and mobile callbacks per month.

With Expedia’s recent acquisition of Orbitz and the integration of the Orbitz for Business (OFB) workload into the Egencia platform, Stephen has been instrumental in managing the project from a Workforce Management perspective. As part of 2015 and 2016 planning, Stephen took on the challenge of merging two different forecasting methodologies as Egencia absorbed and migrated the Orbitz For Business workload. Both organizations’ forecasting and modeling were very different from the perspective of Call to Transaction, seasonality and even from a month over month view.

It has taken Stephen long hours of gathering and analyzing data, learning and mastering the Orbitz forecasting model and then combining the Egencia forecasting model into one model that is concise so that the migrating clients are properly configured into the right service configurations and ensuring the correct staffing requirements. Stephen has done this, while still maintaining well-balanced staffing and occupancy in both organizations. Prior to the acquisition and the migration of Orbitz, Stephen revamped Egencia’s forecasting and capacity planning models, resulting in a reduction of labor cost by reducing overstaffing and maintaining service levels throughout the network.

Stephen is sought out as a subject matter expert in workforce planning, capacity planning, and scheduling by Egencia’s global teams. He holds training sessions for supervisors and managers on WFM, and has been asked to visit other regions including Canada, Asia Pacific, and Europe to teach workforce planning principles and to build forecast models and capacity planning models in these regions.

According to Phoebe Schultz, Senior Director, Customer Service, “Stephen has been a top performing individual contributor consistently throughout his career at Egencia and Expedia, as a real time analyst, schedule analyst, workforce planning analyst and now the manager of Egencia’s workforce planning team. He is consistently in the ‘top box’ for performance and identified as a future successor to leaders in the organization.  Stephen is an asset to the Egencia organization and embodies what a Workforce Management Planning Professional should be.”

Jesse Scholten is Short Range Planning and Forecasting Manager for UnitedHealthcare.  He has over 11 years in the contact center industry.  He leads a team of seven WFM professionals with planning responsibility for 7000 agents, 14 internal centers, 16 vendor centers, and 6 vendor partners.  This includes the creation of 75 different plans consisting of over 125 unique forecasts.

In March 2015, Scholten rolled out a new planning process utilizing the planning application and forecasting processes used by other lines of business.  This resulted in improvement of forecasting accuracy from an 18% error rate to 4.6% between March and December of 2015.  This change also supported scheduling and real-time teams to more accurately assess the need for overtime and proactively manage time slots for paid or voluntary time off.

The modifications to the planning application allow for visibility into vendor locked forecasts, training plans, and attrition. This creates accountability and visibility to all levels of leadership to be able to see if the vendors are on track or falling short on their commitments during the aggressive ramp up and ramp down from the peak season. The system Jesse implemented also allows for a separate forecast to be created for the vendor that reflects how much volume will truly be sent to the vendor based on budget and other factors. The work that Jesse completed for this line of business has become the best practice for all lines of business that are using vendors to service calls.  Due in part to the advancements listed above, the line of business had one of the most successful peak seasons in recent years.

In addition to the work Jesse has done to make important improvements to the processes, he has also been very successful as a leader. Based on the company’s engagement survey, he has received a perfect score for manager effectiveness at 100%, which is quite an accomplishment for a new leader with a completely virtual team who also implemented substantial changes to the team’s processes.

According to Roger Haverly, the Director of Consumer Services, “Jesse produces quality work in a timely manner, and is extremely well organized and confident in his presentations. I can’t think of a better business partner so vital to our needs and success. He’s been a key factor in this year’s peak season success.”  Another colleague, Robyn Helland, Short Range Planning Director, adds, “Jesse has created solid processes, offered visibility into areas that either were not visible before or were manual and time-consuming, and has built strong and trusting relationships with the business partners that we support.  He is a shining example of how to effectively lead a team through change, and received overwhelmingly positive reviews from his direct reports.”

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 2016 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