The job of today’s workforce management (WFM) analyst within a contact center doesn’t look the same as ten years ago.
A role traditionally known for getting agents in seats in a cost-conscious way through accurate forecasting and precise scheduling now also manages the time off process, agent skills, preferences, and more.
The day-to-day tasks of a WFM analyst have become intertwined with the entire operations of a contact center. They aren’t sitting in a corner crunching numbers and dates in a spreadsheet anymore.
Instead, they have sophisticated WFM software at their fingertips. A shift or break can be moved in a few clicks and all the dominoes associated with a change like this – something which once kept WFM analysts up at night – are now resolved automatically by the software.
However, a high performing contact center technology stack isn’t built overnight, and it won’t solve everything. The stack can even create problems of its own. Ultimately these highly flexible platforms become reflections of your workflows and procedures.
A WFM analyst working within a single piece of software in the past may now find themselves needing to spend a couple hours each day navigating several applications to process agent time off requests.
The analyst would need to approve or deny a request by checking an agent’s schedule for training and multiple systems, such as payroll and HR, to ensure all time off balances are available.
The time off is then approved if everything lines up. The request is complete, but before the WFM analyst can move on they need to re-enter the information manually into the payroll system.
Doing this once or twice is fine. But processing 50 requests from an agent workforce each day adds up and means manual errors are likely happening.
A change needs to be made when a WFM analyst is spending a quarter of their day doing manual work evaluating time off requests. The remedy to this problem is creating an integration between WFM and payroll software.
What WFM/Payroll Systems Integration Looks Like
The first step in creating an integration is understanding the options. There are typically two choices, broadcast and bidirectional.
A broadcast integration is straightforward. Every person with a TV in their house is familiar with broadcast communication.
One software solution is the source of all data and broadcasts information to all associated and linked technologies. Information can only be edited by the broadcast source.
In a bidirectional integration including synchronization (sync), specific information can be edited by the receiving source and pushed back to the broadcaster. The final information will still exist in both systems.
A bidirectional sync is akin to playing an online game. The source technology is sharing information, just like a broadcast integration, but it can be interacted with, and certain values can be changed.
It may be impossible to run through a wall while playing a game, but a choice can be made whether to go around it or to break it down. Either way, the decision has a two-sided impact that affects the individual player experience and the overall game world.
Which Integration Type To Choose?
A bidirectional integration may seem like a better experience at a glance, but just like choosing to watch TV or play a game, it comes down to the preference or policy of a company.
One company may not want a WFM analyst editing specific information linked to a payroll system (or vice versa). They would opt for a broadcast integration.
Meanwhile, another company may desire the agility of a bidirectional integration where a WFM analyst can enter information in their system, and it is automatically updated in the payroll software.
Setting up the Integration
Regardless of what integration is chosen the first step is often data field matching. This means creating a link between the systems for common fields like employee ID, name, title, and other data points so information can be shared.
Once all the field configurations are completed it’s time to build dummy accounts and test extensively. Data such as time off totals are serious and cancelling approved time off requests because of a system error is a poor experience for everyone involved.
Once the integration is ready, push it live within the contact center and provide training to all relevant employees. Teach them where and when to edit information.
If the integration is bidirectional it may be necessary to define what system is the primary source for specific data fields. For example, the payroll system should be the primary source for address information and WFM software should be where agent skills are edited and revised.
How the Integration Benefits the Workforce
On the surface, an integration between WFM and payroll software simplifies the process for agents. Agents have a one-stop-shop with the same information now stored in multiple places, which means there is less time spent switching between the systems. There are also fewer credentials to remember.
For a WFM analyst, an integration eliminates the need to go back and forth between two different systems or having to re-enter information validating time off hours or approving requests.
It may not seem like much work or time saved for only a handful of requests, but as this number grows into the double or triple digits the need can increase significantly.
Time Off Bidding
Diving in further, creating an integration facilitates a smoother time off experience for agents. This is especially true for contact centers utilizing a time off bidding process.
Without an integration, an agent in the past would need to check their time off total in the payroll system before placing a bid.
A manual check like this can create a messy process and is prone to errors. What if an agent thought they had 32 hours of time off instead of 23? It means bids may get rejected and a slight misreading of a single number could ruin the vacation plans for the agent. It could also have a cascading impact on everyone bidding behind them since time off was taken incorrectly.
Instead, with an integration in place, WFM software can pull the exact time off totals from the payroll system for every agent before the bidding process even begins. Gone are any errors related to overbidding.
Streamlining Shift Changes
No schedule in a contact center should ever be rubber-stamped as “final.” They change frequently and an integration between WFM and payroll systems can enable complex shift opportunities to improve agent morale while still staying organized.
An integration provides the necessary checks and balances for modern shift adjustment strategies, like the following, to ensure they don’t go off the rails.
- Shift Swapping. Real-time validations can be run automatically by WFM software against the hour totals within a payroll system to make sure the shifts being swapped don’t break any rules.
- An agent at 38 hours for the week shouldn’t be able to swap a 2 hour shift for an 8 hour shift. With overtime being 44 hours in Canada and 40 hours in the USA it can be important to have WFM software with flexibility around the cutoff for working extra hours.
- Self-scheduling. The demand for agents to have more say in when they work continues to increase. Self-scheduling provides agents with the opportunity to work when they want to and on their desired channel.
- While there are certainly rules around shift availability and required skills, this type of work can be a hit with gig or part time agents looking for a few hours to make a little money while maintaining their current lifestyle.
- It’s a way for a contact center to fill in scheduling gaps while still providing opportunities to newer agents.
- Linking payroll and WFM technologies are beneficial to self-scheduling because it enables rapid account management capabilities. Especially with single sign-on, agents can have their account status changed quickly so they are eligible or disqualified from work opportunities in minutes.
- Volume-based shift perks. One of the biggest issues a contact center can face is when call and chat volume spikes unexpectedly. An integration between WFM and payroll software solutions make it easier to staff up quickly and reduce the impact of increased volume while still keeping costs top of mind.
- Within WFM technology, an analyst can quickly build and push out a block of shifts to gig, contract, and part-time agents when spikes occur. With a sophisticated and custom integration, these shifts can be pushed out only to agents who have the “peak work” skill within the WFM software solution.
- Under this skill, if an agent normally makes $15 an hour, they will instead make $20 an hour because the demand for their work is higher. It’s a similar concept to Uber drivers earning more during peak hours after a concert or sporting event.
- Classifying a shift like this not only motivates agents to work but it makes the lives of payroll professionals easier.
- Clearly identifying the unique shift and pay difference through the integration provides a payroll paper trail if needed for the Internal Revenue Service or the Canada Revenue Agency. It can also help gig agents with their taxes because it provides detailed information on what type of work they participated in (peak versus non-peak) and the pay rate for each shift.
Linking payroll and WFM technologies are beneficial to self-scheduling…
Building out an integration between a WFM and payroll software solution is a win for all involved. But it can mean different things to different people depending on how you need the integration to work.
- It decreases the work for a WFM analyst by reducing repetition and manual errors.
- The information flow for payroll specialists around hours worked is clearer.
- Agent needs are better satisfied by prioritizing the time off for full-time agents while still providing relevant opportunities and information to part-time agents.
Creating an integration with the systems may take time and resources but it’s a solid investment for many contact centers.