WFM Summer Survey Results

Each quarter SWPP surveys the workforce planning community on critical workforce planning topics.  Over 200 call center professionals representing a wide variety of industries participated and provided insight into this quarter’s survey on managing time off for agents.

Survey Participants

The largest group 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 financial, heath care, and insurance industries drew the largest number of participants, but all other industries are also well represented.

How Agents Accrue Time Off

The respondents to this survey use a variety of methods for time off accrual.  One-third accrue at the beginning of the year, while 23 percent accrue in the shortest interval at weekly.  However, 29 percent indicated that their accrual process is not yearly, monthly, quarterly or weekly, but some other method.

Differentiate Between Sick and Vacation Days

When asked whether the days accrued are assigned specifically to sick versus vacation days or all considered “paid time off,” the respondents were split.  Slightly more than half do differentiate while 46 percent do not.  The advantage of lumping all days together allows an agent who has little or no sick time to use that time for additional vacation, and it also allows an agent with higher than normal sick time needs to tap into their vacation reserve to cover them.  Separating the two types of accruals ensures that agents have vacation time set aside even if their sick time has been high (and some perhaps unpaid), but for those agents with little sick time, the days may be lost (or perhaps carried over into the following period).

Vacation Time for New Hires

For those respondents who do differentiate between sick time and vacation, nearly half (45 percent) offer between 10 and 14 vacation days to new hires.  The balance of the respondents is split between 5-9 days, less than 5 days, and more than 15 days.  Time off is one of the most important things for an agent and liberal vacation time can be an effective hiring and retention incentive.  However, it does add to the anticipated shrinkage that must be accounted for in the total headcount.

Sick Time for New Hires

For those respondents that differentiate between sick time and vacation, about half (46 percent) offer 5-9 days of sick time to their new hires, with another 37 percent offering less than 5 days.  Only 17 percent offer more than 10 days of sick time.  It is not clear how the use of such benefits as FMLA would be counted, but it is probably not part of the accrued sick time allowance.

Total Time Off Accrual for New Hire

For those respondents who do not differentiate between sick and vacation time, 52 percent offer more than 15 total days off to new hires.  Another 25 percent offer 10-14 days and 14 percent offer 5-9 days.  Only 9 percent of the respondents offer less than 5 days of time off allotment to new hires.  This may include centers that do not allow accrual of time off until the new hire has been on the job for some time.

Other Types of Time Off

Respondents were asked what other types of paid or non-paid time off is offered to their agents and they could choose multiple options.  The largest percentage of respondents chose bereavement, jury duty, paid holidays, and maternity.  However, approximately half chose paternity, military, disability and floating holidays.  Birthday and Olympic leaves were offered by only a few.

Years to Accrue an Additional Week

Respondents were asked how much tenure is required to accrue an additional week of time off beyond that offered to a new hire.  The largest percentage of respondents (45 percent) require 5 years of service, but 16 percent require only one year.  However, 15 percent require more than 5 years of service to accrue another week of time off.

Processing of Vacation Requests

Respondents were asked how vacation requests are processed.  The largest percentages use either a first-come, first-served process or combine it with a formal/structured vacation bid process.  Only 11 percent use only the formal/structured process with a few indicating that their process is neither of the offered choices.

Agent Ranking

For those respondents using a formal/structured vacation bid process, the next question asked how agents are ranked for making their selection.  While 40 percent use only seniority, another 35 percent use a combination of seniority and performance.  Performance only for ranking was chosen by 12 percent and another 13 percent indicated that their ranking system is neither seniority nor performance-based.  In some centers that use performance as the criteria for schedule pick ranking, seniority may be used in the time off bidding process to recognize the importance of both.

Pick Portion of Vacation All at Once

Respondents were asked how the center handles agents with multiple weeks of vacation in the bidding process.  Slightly more than half (56 percent) indicated that they do not restrict the agents to picking only a portion of their allotment during the first round of bidding. This means that a senior agent with 6 weeks of vacation allotted can pick all 6 weeks before the next ranked person can pick. The remaining 44 percent are restricting agents to a specific number of their vacation days in the first round and then allows the other agents to pick in rank order.  For example, if all agents have at least 2 weeks available, then everyone picks 2 weeks in the first round.  When all have completed the first round, then those that still have more vacation available can pick from the remaining availability.  This latter process tends to ensure that the most senior agents do not “cherry pick” and select all the most attractive periods such as holiday weeks.

Window of Availability

Respondents were asked what the window of availability is in the first-come, first-served process.  Most utilize the entire year with others offering a more limited time frame.

Ability to Cancel Vacation Days

Respondents were asked if they allow agents to cancel previously selected and approved vacation days and nearly all indicated that they do allow it.

When asked how much notice the agent needs to give for a cancellation, most require one week of notice.

Closing Comments

Based on the responses above, the time off processes among the respondents vary significantly.  The amount of time and how it is accrued can be an important hiring and retention incentive, but it must take into consideration the center’s turnover rate and tolerance for additional shrinkage losses.  Once the time has been accrued the next process that affects the agents is how they can use the time allotted to them.  Flexibility to meet different agent needs can contribute to high morale and reduce turnover.

Many centers are driven by the human resource policies for the entire organization that may not serve the center as well as they could.  Negotiating for unique policies for the center is not common, but it can and has been done where the need can be clearly demonstrated.