Extending WFM Into the Back Office: Integrating WFM Practices

Nicole NevulisMay 10, 2022

In my previous blog, Top 6 Challenges in Extending WFM Beyond the Contact Center, I discussed the growing trend of organizations extending workforce management (WFM) solutions beyond the contact center into other parts of the organization. WFM practices and applications in the contact center are entrenched with a long history of success; however, it is new to most back-office operations.

First, let’s level set. When we talk back-office, we are talking about the people processing customer requests and orders outside of the contact center—such as claims management, underwriting, or card processing. Most back offices are brand new to WFM; therefore, introducing WFM will involve more than just the typical changes of adapting to new technology.

For the back office, a WFM implementation will require adapting to a new way of working. It will transform management processes, how people and work are allocated, and the way managers and staff view the work.  Let’s unpack the most common reasons and actions you can take to address it.

Challenge ImpactAction
Perception is that changes are being forced because of implementing new technology.Buy-in by the business team will be low, resulting in low engagement and—a high risk of falling back to using old tools and processes, eroding ROI on investment.Communication is key. Position WFM as an overall change that will drive a consistent way of working—process, conversation, and tools—across the organization.

 

Management practices and tools are unique among front-line leaders and managers.

 

It takes time and persuasion to help managers let go of their protected silo; this can impact project duration and extend time to value.Sit with the business to understand the way they work today. Define changes that will need to happen and the benefits, and solicit feedback from the business.

 

Managers are accustomed to managing anecdotally vs. analytically.People are wary of new information that may challenge their judgment and previous decisions/biases. Overcoming these reservations can slow down operationalizing WFM.

 

Communicate the benefits of augmenting their on-the-job experience and expertise with an increase in real-time, analytical data.
Managers are given new metrics to utilize.New data and measurements can create anxiety among managers.  They may fear uncovering information that could reveal personal shortcomings.As part of defining operations business processes, identify how and when [somebody] will use the metrics.

 

Managers and employees may have reservations about data derived from desktop analytics.They can fear the data will be used as a “stick” or enforcer.  They may also be concerned with privacy and exactly how much data is captured and shared.Show employees exactly what data their managers see. Allow employees to use the data more like a “fit-bit” to empower them to change behaviors.
Back-office teams often have the attitude that “we are different.”Efforts to adopt WFM can be diminished by attitudes such as “You can’t possibly do this for our team because we are different.” These attitudes limit the cooperation needed to gather inputs.Establish a focus group of business users and IT to engage in the project. Once they have a voice and input, business users turn into advocates to influence the rest of the business.
Front-line leaders lack the skills needed to manage their teams using the new tools, metrics and processes.The mix of mature skills versus just starting out impacts the openness and adoption of a new way of managing teams and work. There is a risk of managers falling back into prior behaviors, undermining the value of implementing a WFM solution.Create a coaching program to develop and sustain new business processes and communication with WFM.

 

Ultimately, people will only change behaviors and focus on what their managers frequently discuss and hold them responsible for. Success rates significantly increase when organizations take these additional actions:

  1. Ensuring a business leader of the functional lines of business sponsors the initiative and measures adoption and operationalization of WFM practices and capabilities by team leaders.
  2. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, etc., operations management practices across different managing levels. Integrate the conversation and data into the existing state of the business meetings.

Lastly, we recommend creating a WFM Center of Excellence (CoE) to bring together the soft elements of business practices and processes, and the technical elements of using WFM applications. In my next blog, I will dive into how successful implementations of WFM in back-office operations almost always includes a WFM CoE.