Scott Boyd Named 2019 Workforce Management Professional of the Year

2019 Workforce Management Professional of the Year Finalists

L to R, Finalist Caryn Yurkstas, WFM Professional of the Year Scott Boyd, Vicki Herrell, Finalists Tate Conrad, Andrew Gilmer, & Paul Rodde

The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) has announced Scott Boyd from Guardian Life Insurance Company of America as the recipient of the 2019 SWPP Workforce Management Professional of the Year award.

“We are so thrilled to announce Scott as the winner of this prestigious award,” said SWPP Executive Director Vicki Herrell. “His knowledge, leadership, and vision have helped him achieve great results for his company.   We believe he is truly representative of the great workforce management professionals around the world.”

The SWPP Board of Advisors selected the five finalists from nominations submitted on the SWPP website.  The other finalists included Tate Conrad from Nationwide, Andrew Gilmer from Comcast, Paul Rodde from LanguageLine Solutions, and Caryn Yurkstas from Paychex.  The Workforce Management Professional of the Year award is chosen from the five finalists by the SWPP Board of Advisors and announced at the SWPP Annual Conference.

Scott Boyd is Director, Workforce Management for Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and has been with Guardian for 11 years, and in the workforce planning line of business for 22 years.  The company operates in 10 locations with 600 contact center personnel and 2400 back office employees on a 6AM to 9PM EST basis. They handle 1.5 million contacts per month including calls, emails, chat, and transactions.  The centers utilize Verint Workforce Management along with Recording/Quality Management, Desktop and Process Analytics, and Speech and Text Analytics.

When Scott started with Guardian in 2007, there were three workforce planning analysts supporting 300 contact center agents.  But Scott realized that the contact center was only 20% of the total staff with the remaining 80% working in back office processing units.  By putting Guardian’s back office operations under the WFM umbrella, the team could help the organization better understand employee availability, quantify productivity, and support downstream financial planning.

But this wasn’t an easy task. They met with resistance from all levels of the organization in the back office. Scott and his team had to build an extensive change management program to educate and build relationships in the back office. This started with getting senior executives on board. They found an executive in their Customer Response Unit who understood the value of WFM, and started in this business unit. They used this group to convince the other business units that WFM would help them achieve their goals. This is a testament to Scott’s perseverance and strategic approach to workforce planning.

The first thing the team realized was that due to a lack of planning, the back office units were incurring extensive overtime. With planning in place, they were able to vastly reduce overtime by 30%, which saved millions of dollars. The organization also benefited from immediate productivity improvements by automating vacation time-off requests. So instead of “firefighting,” trying to figure out how to fill overtime needs, or spending time adjudicating vacation time-off requests, Guardian can now focus on business-critical activities such as driving efficiencies and coaching and developing employees.

Following the rollout of Verint WFM into back office operations, Guardian has seen better and more consistent performance overall. More specifically, Guardian has increased productivity up to 20% across every area, and reduced shrinkage from 30% to as low as 13%. By staffing to requirements curves, Guardian has decreased its overall staffing requirements by 8% and as mentioned earlier, reduced overtime by 30% – saving millions.

Today, there are nine people in the workforce management team which oversees planning for Guardian Life and its four subsidiaries as well as Guardian India. They support 26 million clients, 3000 employees, 24 different units, 98 capacity plans,

270 forecasts and 4 unique entities.   “As a visionary, Scott has not stopped there.  He has set his sights on expanding Workforce Planning into non-traditional areas (i.e. Sales Support, Underwriting, etc.) and tackling lack of visibility into back office by implementing new technologies,” according to Mary Lou Joseph, Director, Content Marketing from Verint Systems Inc.  Scott is a United States Marine Corps veteran who puts his workforce planning skills to good use managing a family of five children as well.

The four other finalists had amazing stories as well.  Tate Conrad serves as Consultant, Process Management for Nationwide.  Tate will celebrate 15 years of service this June. Tate’s first role in Workforce Management was an analyst position that quickly transformed into a long-term forecasting role. One of Tate’s most impactful accomplishments was to build consistent practices and models for most of the service centers at Nationwide. Those practices are now used over all service centers that total more than 5,000 agents. Tate then continued in WFM as project lead, manager, and on to his current consultant role.

In addition to the forecasting and analytics, Tate’s team is responsible for a core set of reporting referred to as Heath Checks, monthly reports generated for each of the 22 business units and 42 unique forecasts they support. With the vast amount of change they were experiencing, the content was no longer robust enough and it required over 400 hours each month from the WFM team to manually create the material using Excel and PowerPoint.

Tate addressed the problem in several ways. First, he improved the overall forecasting process by implementing and training the team on more robust analytics using R Studio. This enabled the team to run many different time series methodologies in the span of minutes vs. days, saving time and better aligning data. Tate then met with all the business partners and the WFM teams that support them to standardize the Heath Check agenda and revamped the approach to segment the content into two areas: a Monthly Trending and Planning meeting focused on performance and optimization with operations leaders and a Quarterly Trending and Planning meeting with executives to focus explicitly on budget planning and staffing. Once he standardized the audience and appropriate output for each conversation, the team was able to create the new and consistent views, reducing the time to produce all reports by 80%.  Not only were the new reports now standardized and easy to view, they provided the business partners with deeper analytics, allowing them to make better informed decisions and understand those impacts. By creating analytics appropriate for the target audience, the conversations and decisions were more appropriate, providing leaders a higher level of confidence when making their hiring decisions. The monetary benefits to the WFM team was approximately $120,000 per year.

Andrew Gilmer is Senior Manager, Workforce Management for Comcast.  As a former Aspect customer support representative and Director of Training, Andrew brought significant benefits to Comcast as it migrated from four unique regions with their own systems to a single hosted Aspect system serving the entire organization.

Andrew is known for his ability to build consensus, provide expert level guidance on technical capabilities, and develop pragmatic plans to implement change.  Andrew serves as a subject matter expert for his colleagues on the workforce management system, regression-based forecasting models, deploying WFM practices to new business units, and data integration.  His responsibilities include advising the WFM teams on Aspect WFM best practices, forecasting and trend analysis, vendor relationship management, and incorporating strategic objectives.

Andrew moved from the Aspect team to Comcast to help migrate from a collection of disparate installations into a single hosted environment.  The “monumental task” included not only the implementation of the new system but required training, education, consulting and process management.  He was responsible for replacing four disparate premise-based Workforce Management platforms with one hosted, consolidated Enterprise system capable of supporting the 64,000 employees and contractors who handle inbound and outbound calls, chats, emails, and social media interactions.  He helped to streamline processes and the overall Comcast footprint dramatically with minimal issues and concerns during the conversion.

Comcast also uses Avaya to handle their millions of call every year, and like their WFM platforms, utilized different Aux codes across the business units.  Last year, Andrew oversaw a project to standardize and deploy aux codes across the company. Today, each of Comcast’s 91 sites uses the same Aux codes, facilitating improved reporting and faster initiative deployment.

Paul Rodde is the Team Leader, Capacity Planning for LanguageLine Solutions, a position he has held for four years.  The company provides over-the-phone and video translation services in 19 countries with 9000 agents handling three million calls per month on a 24/7 basis.

The Capacity Planning team was formed as part of the Strategic Planning group focusing on development of a long-range planning process to help the Recruiting Department stay ahead of hiring needs.  Paul took on the project to use the first version of the planning tools which consisted of a large spreadsheet and focused on the Spanish language needs which represent 70% of the over-the-phone interpretation business.  The project was very successful, initially projecting hiring needs for the upcoming three months, then extended to six months, as well as forecasts for budget planning for the following year. The process included planning for up-skilling of staff as hiring is easier for the lower-skilled personnel.  Projections were expanded to include more languages and business units and 90% of the organization. The results include the following:

  • Service levels improved by 27%, rising from 74.7% to 94.9%.
  • Connect time improved by 78%, dropping from 69.9 seconds to 16.8 seconds.
  • Abandonment rate improved by 68%, dropping from 5.9% to 1.9%.

Paul’s success with long-range planning helped to generate an additional 4% in revenue, or about $12M, and allowed the company to apply the process to an over-video-interpretation product, InSight. The timing was perfect for implementation, as InSight has seen significant growth over the last year (increasing revenue by more than seven times), and the ability to determine hiring needs six months in advance has proven to be critical to its success. Paul’s model was used as the template for long-range planning for InSight, and he provided the training on the process that the WFM Video Team uses today.

Caryn Yurkstas is Senior Workforce Analyst with Paychex.  Caryn developed her deep, well-rounded workforce management expertise by climbing the ranks within Paychex’s own contact center operations. Starting out with Paychex 15 years ago, Caryn self-trained and honed her skills as an agent before moving into a workforce analyst role where, among other things, she forecasted contact center headcount and managed agent scheduling for 11 years. In her current role, she helps identify areas of opportunity for workforce management improvement, then collaborates closely with team leads to implement the most beneficial workforce management strategies.

Paychex is relentlessly committed to never losing touch with its clients, but, in 2017, contact center operations found it increasingly difficult to live up to that principle. Different Paychex contact center teams operated in siloes in one form or another, and used three different contact center technology systems, with each team doing its own thing. At the time, no formal workforce management strategy existed. Experiencing rapid client growth, Paychex knew that if it was going to stay true to its service promise of earning clients for life, it needed to find a solution that delivered scalability and efficiency.

To remedy the situation, Paychex leadership quickly launched two key initiatives:

  1. Unify all users and workforce management capabilities from three separate contact center systems into a single, full-featured platform — Calabrio ONE.
  2. Formally regionalize contact centers in order to unite the disparate groups residing in the same region.

System and team unification delivered substantial, immediate results.  By regionalizing contact centers, Paychex immediately improved agent adherence by 20%, increased intraday optimization by 45% and delivered forecasting that — in its first 10 weeks — came within 5% of actuals.  Long-term results were equally impressive — the initiative saves Paychex $539,000 per year in agent productive time.

Start planning now to nominate a colleague for next year’s award!  Do you know someone who understands the importance of staffing in the call center, and also understands that workforce management is as much an “art” as it is a “science?”  Is there someone in your center that you feel deserves to be recognized for his or her achievement in the workforce management area? If so, then you should nominate that person for the SWPP Workforce Management Professional of the Year award!