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  • Writer's pictureDoug Casterton

In-demand holiday periods how do you handle them?

It seems that we are thinking and talking about the Christmas and New Year holiday season earlier and earlier in the year these days. But, of course, it is many people's favorite holiday of the year. I used to be the Grinch, but having two children has changed me, and there's something magical about the temperature cooling down, twinkling lights and mistletoe hung, and pleasant music playing around.

A proactive workforce management team, on the other hand, has already been preparing around this season for months, as well as considering different significant festive periods if relevant to their employees, such as Ramadan, Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Lunar New Year. The list goes on and on, and each operation's demographic makeup is unique.

A previous question and discussion in the WFManagement Telegram Messenger Group concerned how the period from the 16th of December to the 5th of January was handled regarding staff planning and scheduling. This is a highly sought-after vacation period for agents in most contact centers. However, it is also frequently a time of high client demand for many organizations (particularly in the retail sector), making it difficult to give everyone the time off they desire.

Here are some ideas that bounced around the Telegram Messenger group on this topic.

Comment 1: Our aim is to decline no one. At a minimum offer a counter offer / second preference. We block out self service planned leave for these dates and call for Expression of interest (EOI’s). We have clear dates and great comms to keep our agents engaged and aware of what point we’re at. We start this in June with responses due in July. Forecast for the period is assessed, actual requirements articulated, seasonality (storm season) plays a big role for our centre, plus we need resources for multiple channels so need to make allowances for that work too as our system struggles so it’s manual (social media, email, portal work, ece work). Then we look at who has volunteered for previous public holiday work, who has had Easter or Christmas leave most recently, if people have the leave available etc. We also do a second review in October / November to review our forecast and resource needs. We do another review in December based on the weather forecast and staffing situation at the time (could have attrition or recruitment since June). All decisions are run via Leaders before advising their staff of the success of their EOI. We do this for Christmas and Easter every year.
Comment 2: We request people to complete a survey on their preference to work or take holiday for this period... and then based on a combination preferences for this year, what they had off as time off last year for this period and their current performance, choose who gets holiday.
Comment 3: We have started this process a few month back. We send Survey out to the staff for their 1st, 2nd and 3rd preference on holiday. All leave must be used by end of year. We meet with Ops to discuss our recommendations for staff needed in during this period and then they decide who get what requests. Once a decision has been reached the WFM team will manually add the holiday to schedules and then open up any remaining holiday to staff over those two weeks. Nobody didn't get at least one of their requests last year, we are hoping this will be same this year as well.
Comment 4: It's a 3 phase approach for us. Release 1 happened in August 2018. We offer this slightly below our standard vacation shrinkage. We have just completed Release 2 just now where we increased our BAU shrinkage. We will then do a 3rd release about 9-10 weeks prior to the event where we will have a clearer idea of our demand and will look to offer as much time off as possible to try and balance our demand needs with keeping people happy. We are also building a new step in this year where we will target those who applied in release 2 and were unsuccessful before we fully do release 3. From an employee engagement point of view this appears to be going down well however because this festive leave is so emotive, no matter what approach you take there will always be people that aren't happy unfortunately. A release over time limits risk, minimizes disappointed i.e. you always have another chance, whilst also creating a black friday feeling of get it whilst you can.

If, like me, you crave bouncing ideas off other WFM professionals, then this group is for you. Anyone with a WFM background is welcome, and the group is free to join. It also has a strict "no sales" policy with only networking and best practice sharing.

If you would like to join, follow this link: WFManagement Telegram Group

I look forward to speaking to you there.

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