Identifying the Right Workforce Manager Candidate

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Illustration by David Grey for Pipeline
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The more career-centered workforce managers I meet, the more alike I notice that we all are. We share the same traits, with experience level being the main difference. That is because, regardless of the industry, the size of the call center or the office locale, workforce managers share the same typical experience set. We have all struggled with data collection and forecast accuracy, and we’ve brainstormed the best way to persuade agents to adhere to their schedules.

At networking events it’s the individuals sitting at the WFM tables who share stories about how much fun their projects are, and are caught bragging about their successes. WFM people also make the best case studies, because the accomplishments are so meaningful.

Some key requirements to identify the right candidate are:

  1. Expert-level background using MS Excel
  2. Strong organizational skills
  3. Excellent communication skills and ability to communicate across multiple channels
  4. Demonstrated ability to create a forecast, measure forecast accuracy and readjust a forecast when necessary
  5. Demonstrated ability to generate optimized schedules, and understands scheduling templates, shift limitations, and compliancy issues

Another optional requirement is experience using your specific WFM vendor’s product. Not all workforce managers are experienced in all WFM software applications. For example, if you have IEX and hire someone with eWFM experience, you may still have to invest in a little bit of training. They may need training to learn your specific ACD reporting software, too.

Even if you already have WFM software, your workforce manager should have the ability to create strategic long-term capacity plans using macro-forecasts, as well as build forecasts outside of the software and import them. Excel is where all of this happens. In addition to knowing how to use functions and formulas in Excel properly, a practical background in math doesn’t hurt, either. A person who possesses the ability to do long division and algebra is going to have a much easier time in this job than one who doesn’t.

If you are interviewing someone who is already experienced with workforce management, the extra training needed to bring them up to speed on your software, your ACD and your individual contact center’s culture should be short-term and minimal if you have the right person.

Hiring someone without any WFM experience at all is risky unless you are willing to invest some time and money training them with the background to do this job. Even a candidate with a bachelor’s degree in business management and five years’ experience in an operations department is going to need training, and they still may not be the right motivational fit. The WFM job is a good fit for a specific type of individual (what we call “puzzle people”)—tasks that seem fun and satisfying to them could be a nightmare for someone who is better suited for a leadership role or who craves other people’s praise.

Hire “Puzzle People” for Your WFM Team

My friend and fellow WFMer Michele Borboa wrote a great explanation about puzzle people:

“Have you ever spent time trying to identify that one quality that makes a great workforce management (WFM) staff member? As the leader of several WFM organizations, my direct reports and I often debated the merits of hiring good people with analytical skills and teaching them our business versus hiring from within and teaching them analysis and WFM principles.

Quite by accident, we realized that all of our best, most experienced WFM employees were also ‘puzzle people.’ They loved Sudoku or a crossword, they read mysteries, or their favorite television show involved some aspect of puzzle solving. In fact, the overwhelming favorite and unofficial show of our workforce management organization was “The Amazing Race.” It seemed like a microcosm of real life for WFM. Contestants are asked to assess the environment and interpret clues to achieve a specific objective, navigate from one clue station to another using data that’s been provided, and communicate with locals who may or may not speak the same language. Sound familiar?

Day-to-day life in workforce management involves a constant stream of puzzles—some large, some small. Puzzle people:

  1. Are analytical and self-motivated to reach a solution.
  2. Stick with it to reach that solution as layer upon layer of details/limitations get thrown at them.
  3. See new puzzles when others may have thought the analysis was finished.

I know what you’re thinking… “There is more to hiring WFM staff than this.” To be clear, a set of minimum skill and knowledge requirements should be used before candidates are even considered through to the interview stage. Those requirements should be role-specific, and might include things like Excel ability or knowledge of statistics.

But if you have some openings on your team and some interviews coming up, you might give some thought to asking a question or two about their favorite puzzles. You might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.”

Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from Tiffany LaReau’s ebook, Diary of a Workforce Manager, a comprehensive WFM guide told through LaReau’s experiences, trials and errors during her 30+ years as a WFM consultant. Reserve your copy today!

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