2014 SWPP Annual Conference Innovative Scheduling Ideas

Attendees at the 2014 SWPP Annual Conference had the opportunity to attend “The Scheduling Swap,” a fun and interactive session where participants exchanged innovative scheduling processes in their centers. For those of you who weren’t able to be there, we wanted to share some of the ideas that came out of the session, so hope you enjoy these great tips!

  • Hire a supplemental workforce that bids on schedules but is required to work weekends, including 8 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. They bid on the rest of their hours weekly and must work a minimum of 16 hours per week. This allows WFM to fill the undesirable weekends and flex hours. Associates are trained in skills that have high weekend volume.
  •  Create 6-hour shifts with only 20 minutes of break time and no lunch. This gives the person 36 hours per week with the option to pick up 4 hours on a weekend.
  • Use “flex force scheduling.” It is designed to prevent seasonal layoffs and keep agent minds fresh. It is based on business needs and flex agents can be called into the center to fulfill business requirements (e.g., a 2-hour period). Associates remain eligible for a permanent shift when available since shift bids are awarded solely on performance.
  • Because optimization of breaks and lunches is not popular among the agents but necessary for our business, we optimize breaks and lunches on a 5-minute interval during the peak
    months and stick to the normal 15-minute window during non-peak months. This helps to spread out the break/lunch impact on staffing levels so that we have as few off the phone
    at a given time as possible.
  • Schedule work-at-home agents in 2-hour blocks for 4-8 hours in a given day to create flexibility. Agents bid by performance/ tenure and can create an 8-hour day or break it up in pieces to fit the call curve.
  • Identify the top 10% of the performers and let them create their own schedule. The balance of the schedules are created around the top 10%. This motivates performance within the center.
  • Shift bid huddles are launched prior to the shift bid start (typically 6 weeks out). The first call incorporates HR to ensure FMLA/HR issues are covered. Second call includes the  team managers so they know what to expect with agent questions (related to the system). Third call is when the bid is open and half-way through discusses who has yet to bid.  Fourth call ensures all swaps and one-off issues have been addressed. Finally schedules go live.

  • Agents select and rank four lunch preferences. Over 80% of agents in this center get one of their preferences.
  • The top 2% of agents select their own shift based on performance. The next group selects ideal schedules from a pool of system-generated schedules. The remainder of agents bid  on the balance of needed schedules.
  • Do mini shift bids by individual days rather than by full weeks. For example, if we are short in the mornings on Saturday, we may put out a bid for just Saturday morning shifts.
  • Create split shifts for telecommuters such as 8AM to noon and 7PM to 11PM or 9AM to 2PM and 7PM to 10PM. This allows students enrolled in school to attend mid-day classes and also works for employees with school-aged children. It helps to remove overstaffing in the middle of the day.
  • Last summer we offered extended voluntary time off for 6 to 12 weeks at a time. Our HR department worked with the state to ensure associates on the plan could apply for  unemployment. This reduced payroll while keeping associates on staff.
  • Allow agents to bid on sections of a schedule instead of a fixed 8 x 5 or 4 x 10. The agent can build a combination of hours and days to fit their life. This makes it easier to cover the needs for service and the agent is given some input into the schedule overall. This is done in lieu of standard shift bids.
  • Start agents out in a temporary workgroup that is only trained for a limited skill. The basic tier 1 agents work only on peak days of the week and month. This supplements the fully trained staff and is used as a feeder pool/part time team that can be used to develop into full time positions. This also lowers attrition and lets CSRs “try on the job.”
  • Hire full-time employees in at 30 hours. Set the expectation that their hours can range anywhere from 30 to 40 hours based on the demand. During non-peak weeks, employees are flexed down to 30 hours and during peaks they can work up to 40. These are hourly employees but they are paid full benefits.
  • In 10 hours shifts, offer a choice of lunch including one 60-minute period or two 30-minute periods. Also let the timing of the lunch and normal coffee breaks be any combination. For example, a person who starts really early may want the first break to be the longest to give them time for breakfast. This gives the agents some control over their schedules.

We hope you will make plans to join us for the 2015 SWPP Annual Conference, which is set for March 2-4 at the Omni Nashville Hotel.