Workforce Management, at its core, is a process to manage existing resources most cost-effectively and help plan future resourcing requirements across both skill and number. A robust forecast underpins your ability to deliver customer service, maintain your competitive advantage, and ensure employee engagement.
As a result, forecasting is the first and often the most important step in getting your workforce management strategy right. As any good workforce planner knows, no one has a crystal ball, nor can they predict the future with absolute certainty – but there are some core approaches you can use to make your forecasting as robust as possible.
Looking back over twelve months helps you understand seasonality and how your customer demand varies throughout the year; it provides a baseline from which to begin your planning. You need to consider the impact of public holidays and festive events such as Christmas, Easter, summer holiday periods, and events such as the end of the financial year. Seasonal drivers can vary from industry to industry, so understanding how these events impact your business is essential. All of these factors provide you with a view of what demand looks like today and how it varies through the year – your starting point for future planning.
Current customer trends
It is important to understand how your customer demand is changing, particularly trends in customer behaviour over the last few months. This gives you insight into whether volumes are shifting and whether customers are using new channels over traditional ones or vice versa. With changes in how we work and increased work from home, has your volume shifted from after work to throughout the day or the other way? Understanding how customer demand may be changing and identifying these trends can help plan a better future model.
It is also essential to understand how your employees engage with the organisation and the pattern of attrition, planned and unplanned leave, and the stickiness of recruitment (how many new recruits stay with your organisation and for how long). According to some resources, the pandemic has changed not only how we work but has also reduced attrition and increased productivity. How are your employee trends changing in a WFH environment, and do you need to reduce or increase your attrition and sick leave assumptions?
It is essential to understand whether your organisation is launching new products or services, and if so, when. What are the expectations for customer demand, support or technical help? What channels will be used to engage with customers, and what skills sets are required. Can this be added to an existing team, or do new recruits and a specialist team need to be created?
Poor forecasting and, therefore, a lack of appropriate resources when needed can lead to lower uptake of a product or service – or even worse, poor reviews and a negative impact on your brand image. Forecasting for these events is a must in your workforce planning efforts.
One of the most common mistakes in forecasting is the campaign that was not communicated, leaving the contact centre to find out about it when customers start to call, chat or email! While this is happening less and less in many organisations, as a forecaster, you need to make sure that you have a marketing representative onboard in your forecasting sessions and have a clear view of when marketing activity is scheduled and its expected impact on volumes, channels, and skills sets.
System or process changes
Most organisations have a plan for process and system initiatives, and many have a regular cycle of system updates. Once again, it is important that you understand what is scheduled and the potential impact on volumes and skill requirements. Organisations can often be good at communicating new products and marketing campaigns but forget that a system change to reduce customer demand by automating a purchase or extending online self-help, for example, can have a huge impact on workforce planning. Forecasting is not just about what is increasing or being added, but what will reduce demand and how this needs to be managed. This is an essential step in ensuring the forecast helps drive planned cost reductions into the future.
The final word…
At the core of your forecasting must be a disciplined approach to review what has happened and how your plan is evolving. Ongoing revisions and planning sessions are a must – make sure you have at least monthly or quarterly meetings to review your future plans.
Secondly, communication and stakeholder involvement is key; you need input and buy-in from the marketers, system and product owners and the operational team. Meeting and exceeding customer demand should be a priority for all parts of your organisation, and effective communication about what is happening and when will ensure your workforce and resourcing plans are as effective as they can be.
How can we help?
Customer Driven has a team of Workforce Planning experts who provide a range of services to help organisations review and build an effective workforce plan. From reviewing your current strategy and capabilities to taking the hassle out of the process by providing ongoing workforce planning services, we can help ensure your customers get the service they deserve every time.