A Flexible Scheduling Option to Improve Agent Satisfaction
Assurant’s average agent tenure is an astonishing three to five years, which is impressive for a call center environment.
Nikki Gresham, Supervisor of Workforce Planning at Assurant Solutions shared how she keeps moral up by creatively balancing the agents’ needs with those of the company.
“We want to meet those service levels, but we want to give them flexible scheduling options. We realize that we have the biggest impact on their lives outside of their jobs. We try to provide a good mix of schedules. We try to give them a lot of flexible options,” explained Gresham.
One successful tactic they implemented is to allow their top performers to choose their own schedules. Assurant had tried flex scheduling but didn’t get the results they were looking to achieve.
“I know a lot of call centers are in flex scheduling, and we have tried that and we found that it helped for a while depending on the client, but we’ve actually been able to achieve the same sort of results with having schedules that are relatively set,” stated Gresham.
She explained that they minimize schedule realignments and only do them four times a year. During the realignment Workforce Planning will work with Operations to understand how many top performers can pick their own schedule based on staffing needs and strategy. Operations will then have their top performers provide Workforce Planning their schedule of choice.
“We allow them to tell us, ‘I want to work Monday through Friday, eight to five. I want to work Monday through Thursday, eight to seven.’ Then we build the other schedules around them,” Gresham shared.
They have seen a tremendous amount of success with this tactic. Workforce Planning lets Operations choose the criteria. For example, if they’re driving case ownership, they can make that part of the performance criteria. If they’re driving handle times, they can make that part of the performance criteria.
Gresham explained, “Operations sets the expectations with the agent as to what they want to see from their top performers, and then once they’ve identified who those top performers are for us, we reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, what schedule do you want to work?’”
Assurant has seen a lot of positive results with this tactic. It gets some friendly peer pressure going out on the floor and operations loves it. Gresham’s team holds a sit-down bid. The whole process takes about six weeks.
“We will have all the schedules printed out. The agent will come and sit down in my office and I’ll say, “Here are the schedules. You’re fifth in seniority or fifth in performance… Now you pick what schedule you want,’” Gresham told us. They leave and the process continues down the line.
The agent may not like any of their choices by the time their turn comes, but they still get to pick the one they feel is the best option. Assurant has a Workforce Management System where the agent can see their schedules from their desks, but Gresham believes it makes it more personal by sitting down with them and saying, “Here are your options.” She also says that they feel like they have more choice in the matter this way.
Gresham highlighted that it was important to give operations lead time. They provide operations with a timeline that has everything from the point of the first communication to the effective date of the schedule.
“Operations always has a good amount of lead time, and at that point they can tell their supervisors, ‘Okay, in your team meetings this month, I really want you to push ‘x’ in your performance objectives and tell the agents that this could be part of the criteria for them to bid.’”
- Allow high performers to make their own schedule
- Let operations set the criteria for high performance
- Try a personal approach to shift bids
- Provide enough lead time for the whole process to work