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Turn Work@Home into On-demand with Agent Self-scheduling

COVID-19 has changed the traditional contact center dynamic forever. Today’s workers demand flexibility and work-life balance. Work@Home allows for improved flexibility, employee satisfaction, and efficiency, but creative self-scheduling can take Work@Home’s potential to the next level. Microshifts, split shifts, and self-scheduling options bring clear advantages to the Work@Home contact center.

Work@Home self-scheduling advantages

Agent self-scheduling makes you more attractive as an employer. Offering agents the ability to select a more palatable schedule or more convenient shift lengths that align with familial obligations, hobbies, and educational pursuits is a recruitment differentiator.

Agent self-scheduling leads to cost savings. With microshifts, split shifts, and self-scheduling for Work@Home, gone is the need to schedule full-day shifts. Gone also is the resourcing bell curve, with middle-of-the-day excess capacity, traditionally seen with bricks-and-mortar.

Agent self-scheduling brings a more enthusiastic workforce. Employees are empowered to make their own schedules, so schedule adherence, attendance, and retention all improve. Employees log in promptly and most likely happier.

At HGS, we’ve been refining our self-scheduling approach with multiple clients and we’ve discovered six key ingredients for successful self-scheduling.  

Six key ingredients for creative agent self-scheduling

  1. Flexibility in shift options for experienced Work@Home agents – Self-scheduling and extra short shifts may not be for everyone (e.g., new hires, parents). Any self-scheduling program should also likely include the ability for agents to work full, regular shifts if they prefer. 
  2. Performance-oriented contact center culture – Most contact centers are built around meeting quantifiable goals, targets, and service levels. Why not use achievement of critical individual KPIs as a basis for self-scheduling? As a reward, high performing and highly ranked agents can select their schedules first.  
  3. Reliable workforce forecasting, scheduling, and real-time management methods – Contact centers schedule staff based on volume forecasts. These forecasts predict which days and times will be busiest. This forecasting information can also be used to establish segments of the day or night that are likely to require more or fewer agents, creating slots for agent self-scheduling. Self-scheduling does not replace forecasting but rather complements it. Real-time management is also still required to match volume peaks and valleys, attendance, and service level obligations.
  4. Flexible scheduling software – Well-designed scheduling software is critical. Each week, given the call curve and targets, the right software can produce segments that will ensure all requirements are met and made available to agents. With the right software, agents are invited to select their schedule each week based on a ranking system. Top-ranked employees choose first. As agents choose segments, those segments become unavailable for other employees. The last-ranked employee, therefore, does not have much choice.
  5. Clearly communicated policies for self-scheduling – Rules for self-scheduling are essential. Policies should explain how shift-selection order is determined, what happens if there is a schedule dispute or missed shift, how vacations and training sessions factor, etc. These rules should be built into training, performance management, and the scheduling software to ensure they are well understood, enforced, applied fairly, and systemic. Finding the right rules, ranking systems, and segment lengths may take time.
  6. Employee satisfaction measurement – By adding questions related to scheduling on your ESAT surveys, you can tweak how self-scheduling system works and ensure the desired ROI.

Work@Home is here to stay, and flexibility is the new norm not just because agents demand it, but because it drives results. Marco Colaiacovo, one of HGS’s Work@Home experts, summarizes well the impact that adopting a creative scheduling approach can have “Performance and quality are enhanced with self-scheduling, split shifts, and microshifts, as agents choose work hours based on ranking criteria tied to critical KPI performance and show up to each shift refreshed and ready.”

With self-scheduling, the industry is able to attract employees from sectors that were adversely affected by COVID-19, offering not only employment but also work-life balance. Agent self-scheduling unlocks both a contact center’s and an employee’s untapped potential. Self-scheduling brings work to the people instead of the other way around.

HGS has successfully operated Work@Home programs since 2016. Learn more about implementing a successful Work@Home model in our 5 strategies for effectively managing a work-at-home solution ebook or contact us.