There’s nothing quite like the feeling of receiving positive feedback on a schedule you just published and ideally hearing that you’ve done a good job. Unfortunately, during my time as a Scheduler, these interactions were often few and far between. Thankfully Workforce Planning has evolved over the years, with a greater focus now on employee engagement rather than just maximising performance.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Oh great, another post about employee engagement”, and I hear you. The words “employee engagement” seem to be everywhere. This is great for employees but what about the Workforce Planning team? Planners often consider “engagement” and “flexibility” as elements that make work more challenging.

But what if I told you your Workforce Planning system already has the functionality to engage your frontline employees by offering them more control and ownership right now? What if I told you this functionality could reduce the time your Schedulers spend managing schedules?

If it sounds too good to be true, keep reading.

1. Automated Annual Leave Approvals

If you aren’t already providing staff with the ability to see leave availability, apply for leave, and get an immediate answer at any time of the day – what’s holding you back? Sure, this might seem scary at first but if your Checker Rules and Group Allowances are set up correctly, you can reduce the risk of too many people taking leave at any time. You can even waitlist the popular periods like Christmas and Easter if you want to.

2. Schedule Trades

Some of the most complex emails I’ve ever received are Schedule Trade emails from frontline agents. You know the kind I mean, the ones that sound like a math problem presented on a year 10 algebra test: “Hey WFM! Can you please action this shift swap? Jenny will be working my schedule for the morning, except for Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday my 6 am to 10 am portion will be swapped with Johnny. My 10 am -11 am will go to Rob and I will retain the 11 am to 12 pm portion. In return, I will work Jenny’s Monday and Tuesday shifts, but will finish at 2 pm instead of her rostered 5 pm.”

Now I think it’s great that this agent has taken time to work out this shift swap. I understand how hard it is to find someone to swap with. The challenge of getting it right without having this agent on the phone is low. Not only does this make parties less willing to swap next time, but it also takes time. Activating Schedule Trades can empower the agent to enter all this information online with the added bonus that all parties need to approve the trade, rather than relying on being copied into an email. You can even help your agents with their search for someone to swap with by using the Alvaria Schedule Trades Bulletin board.

3. Self-Rostering of Coaching and Training activities

Empower your agents by giving them access to book their own coaching, training, or even follow-up time. There’s no limit to what types of segments this will work for. If you pair an IDP Checker Rule, with a Personal Account Rule you can allow your agents to schedule these activities when it suits. By applying the Personal Account rule for the activity, you can also ensure they are unable to schedule more time than they have access to.

4. Break Adjustments

This takes the self-rostering element a step further by allowing agents to modify an existing break in their schedule. To enable this, you need to ensure that moving the break doesn’t cause excessive over or understaffing and that business rules for break distribution are followed. These checks can be put in place using Checker Rules.

5. Preference Based Scheduling

According to the 2023 SMAART recruitment survey, “49% of organisations are still scheduling using roster rotations.”  This could be due to employees preferring rotations however in my experience, it’s typically a way to try to offer equity or simplicity.
Alvaria’s Preference Based Scheduling enables your frontline agents to let you know their schedule preferences.  For example, an earlier or later shift? A longer or shorter shift? Available and unavailable times. This isn’t to say your employees will always get their preference, but you don’t need to give away all control to provide some flexibility.

6. Team Based Scheduling

If Preference Based Scheduling isn’t your thing – perhaps you can increase engagement through Team Based Scheduling. With Hybrid working becoming the new normal, it’s important to maximise team engagement opportunities when staff work in the office.  With team-based scheduling in Alvaria WFM, teams can be scheduled together (breaks can also be included) for a couple of days per week. This makes scheduling a team lunch much easier as it can be part of your schedule run, rather than a manual task after roster release.

7. Shift Bidding (Regular, Sequential or Flexible)

There are different types of Shift Bidding. Ultimately, which one you use depends on how much control you want to give your frontline agents.

Regular Shift Bidding enables your staff to rank shifts made via Template Based Scheduling in order of their preference. This is in some ways similar to Preference Based scheduling. The difference is that the schedules have already been built to adhere to your staffing requirements. When everyone in the bid has ranked the available shifts based on their personal preference, you can rank your employees in order of performance for example and allocate schedules.

Sequential Shift Bidding – this option is similar to Regular Shift Bidding except when your agents interact with the bid. In a sequential shift bid when an agent picks an unassigned shift from the list (this can be ordered or on a first in best dressed basis), the shift disappears from the list. No one else can select that particular shift once it has been assigned.

Flexible Shift bidding – This is a fully flexible process where your staff can go in and craft their perfect schedule. This functionality was designed with casual gig-based work in mind (think UberEats) – but can be used successfully to manage overtime as well.

8. Schedule Striping (also known as Intraday Work Assignments)

If you know me, it should come as no surprise that I used to enjoy taking customer calls. I loved working as an agent, but I got bored doing the same thing over and over, day in and day out. Chances are, you have agents who feel the same way. If I had been offered the ability to change work during the day, perhaps make some outbound calls or complete some back-office tickets – I might have gotten bored less often. This is where Schedule Striping comes in. Schedule Striping allows you to do just that, move staff from one skill to another.  It is based on a set of rules, and the requirements of both work types an agent can complete. This is one of the more under-utilised features in Alvaria WFM. However, I believe it is a must if you have phone contacts and back-office contacts that can be handled by the same agent.

9. Gamification

Now I know a lot of planners are tired of hearing about gamification but hear me out. With a lot of the ideas I’ve listed above, we inevitably have to rank agents to determine the order of engagement, so why not make it fun? Surely, I can’t be the only one who becomes more interested when you attach points to something?

10. Think Outside the Box

My last way to increase engagement is less of a feature in Alvaria WFM; it’s more of a mindset change. The traditional 9-to-5 office routine is a thing of the past. Fortunately, so is the outdated one-size-fits-all scheduling approach. The best schedulers in my experience aren’t the ones who spend days perfecting the placement of every individual schedule. They are the ones who aren’t afraid to ask frontline agents how their schedules can be better……and listen to the answer.

Remember Schedule Flexibility doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach. Even the smallest changes, the smallest amount of control over the outcome can make a huge difference to the happiness of your employees. In the words of Richard Branson, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Who better to make your frontline agents happy than the legends in Workforce Management?

Do you use any of these methods already in your centre? Or, do you do something even better? We’d love to hear from you!


Simon Clements

Customer Success Consultant, Call Design