NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – July 23, 2020 – The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has announced the five finalists for the 2020 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Award, which recognizes a workforce management professional who has shown outstanding leadership in the industry. The finalists are Christine Kolbeson of Rackspace, David Nietz of Telus International, Julie Reed of Pepco Holdings, Sharon Jones of National Debt Relief, and Rachel Johnson of WPS Health Solutions.

The SWPP Board of Advisors selected the five finalists from nominations submitted on the SWPP website. “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 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 Workforce Management Professional of the Year award is chosen from the five finalists by the Board of Advisors and will be announced at the 2020 Virtual Summit for Workforce Management on Monday, August 3, 2020.


Christine Kolbeson is Senior Manager of Business Operations at Rackspace, a leading provider of expertise and managed services across all the major public and private cloud technologies. The organization has 4 contact centers employing 1600 agents handling calls, chats, and tickets. The centers use Avaya Chat, LiveAgent CRM, Salesforce ticketing systems, a custom-built ticketing system, and ServiceNow. Rackspace pairs Calabrio WFM with Amazon Connect PBX for modern contact center forecasting and resource planning.

Unlike many others in workforce planning, Christine came to the discipline via business intelligence. As Rackspace’s senior manager of business operations, she gives tech support leaders the insights they need to make staffing decisions and helps them identify ways to automate and streamline manual contact center processes. As a non-traditional contact center, Christine finds her unique technical expertise to be invaluable to her WFM work at Rackspace and a huge boon to the organization. “I’m able to work both sides of the equation when we approach a new operational efficiency project for our contact center,” explains Christine. “In addition to understanding what our workforce planners want to do—and why they want to do it—I also can anticipate and help overcome any technical challenges we might encounter along the way, saving us a lot of time and energy.”

Christine’s team of five also built custom application programming interfaces (APIs) that pull tickets from disparate systems—including systems of newly acquired companies—into an interactive service queue, where ticketing processes are measured against multiple SLA tiers and then adjusted as needed. This combination gives Rackspace an automated, datadriven way of forecasting; scheduling; and synthesizing and managing support tickets—all to
guarantee the right number of contact center agents are available for customers at any given time. But the impressive, measurable benefits from Rackspace’s new WFM strategy speak for themselves:
• Grew forecasting accuracy rate to 96 percent
• Reduced queue backlogs by 41 percent
• Reduced latency by 29 percent
• Decreased ticket volumes by 7.5 percent
• Shortened hold times
• Witnessed a corresponding, positive trend in Net Promoter Score (NPS)

“Agents don’t feel overwhelmed anymore, they don’t feel tethered to their desks, and they don’t feel guilty about taking a break. They’re happier, and happy agents deliver better customer service. We also emphasize continuing education and personal development,” Christine says. “We prioritize candidates with previous workforce planning experience when we hire new WFM team members. And we immerse ourselves in WFM content, training and
webinars to make sure as individuals we’re constantly evolving and relevant.”

Christine’s work and experience around operational discipline have been recognized, with the company recently promoting her to Director of Customer Experience.

David Nietz is WFM Country Manager for the US for Telus International, a business process outsourcing company with 1750 agents in 3 locations handling voice, chat and email interactions.

David has been in the Workforce Management industry for 14 years, starting as an Operational SME supporting Real Time functions, progressing up through Forecasting, Capacity Planning, Reporting and currently serves as Senior Workforce Manager leading all WFM processes for TELUS International in the United States.

David’s strong skills in both relationship building and alternative solutions help contribute to his success within WFM. He focuses on identifying key stakeholders and building ground-up relationships to improve the rapport between the stakeholder and WFM, positioning the WFM team as advisors and strategic problem solvers for those they support.

David has achieved the following awards and certifications:

  • Lean Six Sigma Executive Belt – Certification
  • Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (In Progress) – Certification
  • Champion of Chase (For Excellence in Making A Difference) Award
  • Citigroup Quality Excellence Award
  • CWPP Certification (in progress)

In the past year, David was able to achieve $322K in additional revenue for the account through this new processes and improved the communication between the client WFM team and the internal WFM team.

Julie Reed is Senior Business Analyst for Pepco Holdings Inc (PHI), an Exelon Company, which provides gas and electrical utilities. The organization utilizes 438 (258 Internal & 180 Outsourcer) agents in 6 centers (3 internal & 3 outsourcer).

The operations utilize Avaya ACD, Control Manager & CMS, NICE WFM, Engage, Nexidia & VOC, Inova, Virtual Hold, Calabrio, Axonify, SAP, and eTime. The organization obtained IEX (NICE WFM) June 1999 and Julie was a part of the original training and database build and became the admin to the system and has since built the database twice more as versions of the software evolved.

She is skilled in the area of all Resource Management processes; forecasting, scheduling, real time, reporting and payroll. Her key skills are training, creating documentation, customer focus, communication, teamwork, ability to get results and building relationships.

Julie is a Lead Business Analyst on the PHI Resource Management team where she leads and supports the Resource Management team in their daily operations. Julie also provides technical and subject matter expertise for overall Resource Management processes and systems including WFM, Avaya, Virtual Hold and eTime. She serves as the Event Coordinator for the Carneys Point Network of Exelon Women Employee Resource Group. Julie is also a part of the NICE User Group Board of Directors, serving as the WFMReporting Chair.

One of Julie’s most significant accomplishments has been implementing a new payroll system linked to the NICE WFM suite. Prior to the automated system, agents were spending on average per week on their timesheets (5-10 minutes), Supervisors were checking their timesheets comparing to IEX (about 4 minutes per agent), more time if there were any errors that they had to circle back to the agent (taking them off the phones). Payroll Analyst took
about 4 hours inputtig time manually into the payroll system and the Time Analyst spent about 4 hours on audits. After the payroll file was implemented, these activities were no longer required.

The process has been implemented across all PHI call centers and for the credit departments. The organization has changed payroll systems since the initial implementation, and Julie worked with the payroll IT and NICE teams to ensure all changes were made for the new system. She is currently on the project team to implement it for the rest of the Exelon companies.

Sharon Jones is Head of Workforce Planning for National Debt Relief, one of the U.S.’s largest and most reputable debt settlement companies. The organization operates three contact centers with 1500 agents utilizing inbound and outbound calls and emails.

The technology used by the company includes Calabrio Teleopti WFM, computer telephony integration (CTI), Twilio Reporting, Ytica CRM, and Salesforce. The WFM team consists of 14 personnel including 2 forecast capacity planners, 5 schedulers, 5 real-time agents, and 2 managers.

She started as a contact center agent in 1996 at business process outsourcer (BPO) Spherion, where she subsequently was promoted to floor supervisor, then eventually assumed responsibility for workforce training and recruiting. Sharon became Spherion’s first global workforce manager, where—over a nine-year period—she grew from managing a single, 450-seat call center to eventually managing 2,500 agents across 13 individual centers for 13
different clients. After nine years with Spherion, Sharon moved on to AAA Michigan, where, as manager of WFM, she consolidated down to two locations the key, back-office WFM activities previously spread across six states. From AAA, office-supply giant Staples recruited Sharon to build its workforce team. Sharon spent nine years at Staples, where she consolidated into one functional, 3,000-agent workforce planning team the multiple workforce teams previously spread across the company’s consumer and business units. After Staples, Sharon went to Mercer to build its workforce planning team. There, Sharon built and led a 19-person team responsible for supporting 1,200 agents. Her work was recognized with an “International Service Excellence Award” from the Customer Service Institute of America in 2015. Said Mercer Chief Operating Officer Ken Haderer, “Delivering a best-in-class participant experience is the number-one goal at Mercer’s call centers, and this year we had the opportunity to initiate a customer service transformation. We dramatically boosted our success during open enrollment in 2015, with a 20-second decrease in average handle time and a 56 percent improvement in average speed of answer. We did all this while receiving a 96.2 percent customer satisfaction rating.”

At the beginning of 2019 National Debt Relief (NDR) still used antiquated methods to try to manage a growing and highly expectant customer service workforce. No measures existed to help leaders understand how effectively and efficiently its 1,500 contact center agents—spread across three states—handled more than 220,000 phone calls and 100,000 emails every month. NDR’s coveted customer satisfaction and expected future growth were at risk. Sharon
developed and implemented a complete WFM strategy that resulted in significant, initial results in its first nine months of operation—the most impressive being a 3% increase in contact center productivity from Q3 to Q4 2019, which drove a 15% increase in NDR’s bottom-line revenue during that same time period!

Thanks to Sharon’s work, NDR’s contact centers are optimally staffed to handle the incoming calls; its agents are better trained, compassionate and confident; and its customers experience smoother, more effective and reassuring interactions.

Rachel Johnson is Operations Manager for WPS Health Solutions, a health insurance company that operates four contact centers with 500 agents open 24 hours 6 days per week.The centers utilize Nice IEX WFM systems and there is a team of 8 personnel in the WFM group.

Rachel began her workforce management career in 2014. Rachel jumped right in to working all aspects of WFM from real-time adherence monitoring to short and long term inbound and outbound forecasting. She provided staffing recommendations and identified appropriate times to schedule a training or meeting for the team. Rachel’s outside the box thinking allowed her to identify a need and work to find resolution using critical thinking and adapting
skills she learned in the medical field. Rachel was able to quickly gain the trust of the team and became a test subject for new and upgraded systems and procedures.

Rachel’s success implementing short and long term inventory planning has resulted in reduced overtime of 7.3% year over year, a reduction in the FTE required of 2%, consistent success meeting contractual standards and improved employee morale as measured by company surveys.

Because of her success, Rachel was promoted to Manager of the WFM team and expanded her responsibilities to have oversight of four front and back-office teams with multiple work types within each team. The WFM team she manages has the monthly oversight of 10 million back-office receipts in addition to 250,000 calls. Rachel has successfully developed the team to reach a long-term forecast accuracy of 97.15%. Additionally, Rachel effectively applies new concepts and techniques within her WFM team. She continuously finds new opportunities to foster transparency within the team and throughout the business areas she supports. Rachel’s leadership effectively diagnoses situations and situations which display her ability to systematically evaluate options and potential consequences. She works harmoniously and effectively with her WFM team and remains open-minded when working with others.