Scheduling Ideas from SWPP Annual Conference Attendees

At several of our SWPP Annual Conferences, attendees had the opportunity to participate an interactive workshop that facilitated the exchange of scheduling ideas in a large group format.

As we approach the 2018 SWPP Annual Conference, we thought we would give you some of the ideas that were shared in this fun session over the years. This type of sharing happens all day at the conference, and we will be offering Facilitated Discussion sessions on different topics throughout the event for more opportunities to network.
Here are just a few scheduling ideas shared during previous conferences:

  1. Different Start Times by Day of Week. Consider different operating hours and start times on different days of week. For example, pushing the start time to a later time on weekends and shortening the overall work day may work better in attracting part-time staff as well as reducing overall workforce hours.
  2. Preference-Based Scheduling. Allow agents to provide one to three preferred start times and lunch times. Based on a performance ranking, using factors such as seniority, schedule adherence, and other performance measures, shifts can be assigned based on requirements. This process reduces the need for shift bidding and is a great performance incentive.
  3. Use Local Students for Hard to Schedule Hours. To cover peak times and understaffed hours, find students to fill part-time positions. Use the summer to train and publish “gap” schedules where students can sign up for short (one or two hour) schedules. These small part-time schedules can help fill gaps.
  4. Schedule Prep Time for Peak Calling Times. Based on expected daily call volume and peak times, agents are scheduled to start 30 minutes prior to the rise in call volume. This allows time to have all agents prepared and ready for work ahead of the normal queue backup.
  5. Flexible Schedule Incentives. To entice agents to work difficult to schedule hours, offer one hour of paid time off during low call volume times in exchange for some number of hours worked in difficult times. For example, an agent might earn one hour of paid time off for every three hours worked on Saturday. You can also incent associates to participate in flexible schedules by offering additional break time for little adjustments or extra dollar compensation for harder to fill slots. For example, a flexible start time of 30 minutes might earn an extra break per week, while a split shift might earn an additional $.25 per hour additional pay for the time working that schedule.
  6. Shift Surveys. Survey the staff to determine what schedules that fill gaps will be popular or not with the staff. A recent survey showed that a “slant schedule” with 10 hours on Monday, nine hours on Tuesday, eight hours on Wednesday, seven hours on Thursday, and six hours of Friday was a good choice for many employees.
  7. Mini-Split Shift with Two Hour Lunch. To adapt to a workload that has peaks in the morning and afternoon but a lower volume through middle of day, find a way to offer a longer lunch and create a mini split-shift schedule. One call center offered a schedule with a 2 ½ hour lunch in the middle of day and paid a gym membership fee so that a number of staff could do a group workout together mid-day. This was an effective way to stretch schedules into longer hours with no overtime or additional staff.

  1. Flexible Start Times. At the point of hire, each new employee provides a window of two hours when they can start work each day. In their initial months of work, the agents understand that their shifts may be different each day based on that two-hour start time window. Mondays may start at 9 a.m., Tuesdays at 8 a.m., Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m., etc. giving the center the flexibility to better match the workforce to changing call patterns.
  2. Share Employees with Other Departments. To create a part-time schedule that fits your call center schedule needs, find some employees to share with other departments. The call center gets the employee during peak call times and the employee works elsewhere in the company during non-peak times.
  3. Fixed Shifts for Hard-to-Cover Days. One center uses fixed shifts to cover the hardest-to-cover days. For example, if someone wants to have the same shift each bid cycle in order to be able to work a second job, they may request a weekend or evening shift since these are the hardest to fill. If they take one of these, they may “own” the shift and not have to participate in the shift bid.
  4. Schedule Re-Bid Process. One center allows the top 5% of performers to write their own schedule. The other schedules in the bid process are then built around these schedules. There are several ground rules such as having Monday as a work day, a minimum of 20 hours a week, and no more than 10 hours per day, but all the rest is wide open to fit someone’s ideal schedule. The benefit is something of true value to the top performers in your center and there is much buy-in from operations and agent side. The choices made by agents have been quite surprising!
  5. Point Program for Flexibility. One center has a points program for agents willing to work a different shift than originally assigned. Each schedule swap allows them to earn 1000 points. When they have reached 7000 points, they can purchase promotional items, gift cards, lunches, etc. Some people come to the WFM team proactively to offer themselves to swap in order to earn points.
  6. At-Home Agents. One center has about 10% of the staff who work from home. The expectation is that when someone becomes a home agent they will have flexibility in hours scheduled. For these staff, 80% of their schedule time is set, with the other 20% to be set as needed on a short-term basis.
  7. Dream Schedule Definition. One center has a quarterly shift bid where agents rank their preference of schedule patterns such as 8×5, 4×10, etc. A comment section is included on the schedule preference form where agents are given the opportunity to outline their dream schedule (split shifts, long day/short day mix, etc). In their performance-based schedule bid, the WFM team is able to build some of these dream schedules in as customized schedules in the new schedule alignment. The result is happier agents, better attendance, and reduced schedule swaps.

Make your plans now to attend the 2018 SWPP Annual Conference on June 4-6 at the Omni Hotel in Nashville.

For more information or to register, visit our website at