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Is Workforce Management at an Impasse?
Recent study statistics show increasing dissatisfaction with workforce management software and a growing technology gap, leading one analyst to believe the market may be "at a precipice."
Posted May 30, 2008
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One of the purported benefits of workforce management (WFM) solutions is that the software is supposed to help better measure and oversee contact center agents, not only in regard to job performance, but also in setting up proper schedules and other administrative tasks. A new study finds more WFM users are growing dissatisfied with the actual software and processes -- undermining the technology's purpose.

Customer Relationship Metrics, a company with a focus on contact center industry research, recently announced the results for its second Workforce Management Practices Study (WMPS) -- and Jim Rembach, the company's senior vice president, says that the final statistics leave him concerned. With regard to the usage of WFM software, he says, "there is a dysfunction taking place."

Key findings from this year's WMPS include:

  • 47 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the WFM process, a 9 percent increase from 2006;
  • 46 percent aren't satisfied with the actual WFM software, up from 41 percent in 2006;
  • 62 percent of workforce managers, forecasting specialists, and scheduling and intraday specialists only have zero to five years of experience;
  • approximately 19 percent say they received less than 10 hours of training on WFM software, up from 13 percent in 2006; and
  • the greatest percentage of customers say having a suite-based performance optimization solution "is only somewhat important."

Rembach claims the dysfunction lies in the disconnect between the amount of experience employees using WFM have and the amount of training they receive. "The people doing the jobs with [WFM] are less tenured than they were for the previous study, and we also had a drop in the amount of training time," he says. "To me, that's an oxymoron. How does that work?"

Rembach claims the dysfunction lies in the disconnect between the amount of experience employees using WFM have and the amount of training they receive. "The people doing the jobs with [WFM] are less tenured than they were for the previous study, and we also had a drop in the amount of training time," he says. "To me, that's an oxymoron. How does that work?"

Rembach suggests one possible way to fix the dysfunction would be to make the software easier to use -- but he adds that he doesn't expect that to happen. "Tools are becoming more sophisticated," he admits. "Give the people who create [these solutions] credit. Their job is to program and increase the level of complexity, and they're doing it." In order to move forward with technological innovation, Rembach argues, employees need more training on the new WFM software in order to avoid this dysfunction and the increased dissatisfaction it's causing. So far, he says, this message is getting lost in translation. "In the [WFM] space, we're not managing the technology-skill gap well," he acknowledges.

The only way to truly tackle this issue is to face it head on, Rembach says. "It's not just about buying the application -- you have to train your people," he demands. "Give them the proper support and make sure that people don't purchase a solution without it. If not, the dissatisfaction goes up and then the vendor ultimately takes the blame." The consequence for not ending this vicious cycle may come in the form of smaller gains for the WFM market. Speaking about DMG Consulting's prediction of record growth in this space for 2008, Rembach says that the growth may not come to pass if things remain business-as-usual for WFM. "If [additional support and training] does not happen, the expected growth will not be realized and the level of dissatisfaction will continue to rise," he predicts. "We're at a precipice. You can't keep driving toward the cliff; this is an opportunity to take a detour."

That said, WFM vendors and users need not take this as a death knell. "I see this as an opportunity," Rembach says. "Hopefully it'll be seen that way [by others]."

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