Employee Engagement
Updated on Sep 28, 2022

Self-Managed Teams in the Contact Center & How WFM Can Support Them

Charles Watson 4 min read Download as PDF
Self-Managed Teams in the Contact Center & How WFM Can Support Them

A major trend in business is moving away from the traditional hierarchy-based structure. This is what we’re all familiar with where you have a front-line employee report to a supervisor, who reports to a manager, and so-on up to CEO. These “command and control” configurations ensure compliance and make it easier to centralize, but often diminish innovation and creativity...

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Flat organizational structures

Organizations who engage in a flat organizational structure with peer-to-peer accountability, are seeing greater levels of employee satisfaction and retention. Zappos, an online apparel retailer based in the U.S., is an example of a major company that has successfully adopted this organizational structure, called Holacracy. Their success has driven other companies to pursue this structure as well. As Workforce Management professionals, it’s important that we understand this trend and how we function in this more decentralized environment

Unfortunately, some companies want to run before they can walk. The desire to be part of this trend causes them to jump to self-managed teams when they lack the core operational disciplines and processes that help hold it all together.  Any company wanting to get in on this trend needs to have the right infrastructure to make it work.

This is especially crucial if the company is B2B (business to business), where contracts and performance standards are in place. Zappos has the benefit of being B2C (business to consumer), so essentially they are accountable to themselves for service level performance.

So, how does Holacracy work?

Well, there are several variations of this, but 3 key components are:

  • Peer-to-peer accountability: Employees rate each other
  • Flat organizational structure: No team leaders
  • High levels of autonomy for employees: Empowered to do what’s best for the business

If you’re in Workforce Management and not cringing at those 3 bullets above, you probably haven’t followed it to its logical conclusion, which is employees call the shots. But before you start considering a career change, think about the potential this has for WFM if you get engaged early in the process.

An organization migrating to this structure is doing so to increase their innovation and attract and retain top talent. These will make the company stronger.

The more innovative your company is, the more revenue you can capture. Revenue growth makes a company more attractive for investors, so it gets more funding to build even more.

Having top talent in your organization helps to delight customers and gain more market share from competitors. Top talent can also mean a stronger pool of candidates for the Workforce Management team as they build their career path.  

As I mentioned, though WFM has to be in the conversations as this is set-up, and not just someone notified at the end of the process. With the proper engagement process, the WFM team can lay out the processes that need to be tight to make this work. Otherwise, it will likely end in disaster.

Contact Center Employee Engagement
Looking for more information about employee engagement in the contact center? Read our guide on contact center employee engagement. You'll find more information about what it is, why it matters and how you can make it work for you.

Here are the things you need to advocate for to make self-managed teams work:

  1. All schedule slots need to be filled
    1. There can be some +/- to this if you have flexibility options
    2. This goes to the heart of everyone partnering as a team to meet customer objectives
    3. Without this, your employees will stack in the desirable slots with a lack of employees during off-core hours
  2. Performance measures need to be clear and self-service
    1. Employees have to have targets for productivity, including AHT
      • While some organizations have moved away from managing to AHT, the employees need to know what AHT the plan is created from, because performing higher than that will cause a deficit
    2. Schedule adherence must be a priority
      • I don’t think we even need to elaborate on this one! ☺
    3. Employees need real-time access to their stats, so they can take their own corrective action
      • As with the above, if they are performing better or worse, it will impact the requirements
  3. WFM also needs to be empowered
    1. Because team leaders don’t exist in this structure, Workforce Management needs to be able to change skills with little notice and no pushback
    2. This is best done by agreeing on conditions up-front on what triggers skill changes and how employees will be notified
  4. Form a “WFM Advisory Council”
    1. Monthly meetings so they can understand the long-term staff plan and help advocate for it to other employees
    2. Weekly/Biweekly meetings to discuss/review short-term staffing needs, risks and issues
    3. This is two-way, with the agents helping to advocate for WFM and WFM getting a better understanding of how they can best support the agents
    4. Leveraging top performers, form a group of front line contact center agents to meet with WFM

As more companies adopt this way of working, the role of WFM in the workplace will continue to evolve. There are a lot of factors that play into effectively setting up the organization to achieve service levels efficiently.

WFM is like sausage making.  Everyone loves the result, but you really don’t want to see how it’s actually made. Because of this, there tends to be an over-simplification from business leaders on how the WFM department has to evolve and adjust to support this type of business change.

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Originally published on Jul 12, 2017, updated on Sep 28, 2022.

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