Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Workforce Planning Profile Interviews 2012 - Carlos Muñoz (4 of 4)

Last but not least in my series of interviews showcasing great workforce planners from across the world, is an interview with Carlos Muñoz - WFM Manager for Allianz Global Assistance - an international leader in assistance, travel insurance and health, life & home care services.

With over a decade of Resource Management and Contact Center Operations experience he is one of America’s leading lights for the progression of the workforce planning profession. You find more about Carlos from his Linkedin Page - Carlos Muñoz (Profile)

This is the 4th and last in the series of 2012 interviews showcasing great workforce planners from across the world. You can read the other three here; Blair Murphy, Ritesh Parswani, Adrian Hawes


Can you briefly describe your workforce planning team? (Number of planners, agents, main activities)
I have an outstanding team. Directly reporting to me are 6 Analysts; 2 Forecasters, 3 Intra-day and 1 Scheduler. This team is responsible for all facets of mid-term and tactical planning for approximately 600 front-line associates that service 6 disparate lines of business in the US, Brazil, and Mexico. Ostensibly, we provide workforce planning and optimization services for 5 separate call center operations and leadership hierarchies.

There are many planners aspiring to move to the next level. How did you develop your workforce planning skills to the point you were ready to start managing?

I never saw the development of my planning acumen as a predicate for leadership. For me, leadership and analytics are two completely different skill sets. In my estimation, a WFM organization is more likely to be successful with a strong, capable leader who has a sound understanding of the work he is overseeing; whereas, an organization headed by a weak leader who was promoted based on the strength of his planning performance will lack vision and ability to be a motivating force because he will likely find himself mired in the minutia of planning development rather than orchestrating departmental initiatives to increase scope and influence.

Which brings me to the answer to your question: I earned roles of progressively broader scope and responsibility by demonstrating subject matter expertise, but more by anticipating the needs of my leadership team and department head. I approached my Planner role(s) as that of an advisor. Analysis cannot simply be a mathematical exercise, rather one in which risk assessment and alternatives are presented. I gained credibility with sound analysis, but increased my influence and paved a path for augmented scope by making the job of senior leadership easier – enabling them to simply evaluate a comprehensive host of options and make an informed decision. This practice allowed Leadership to view me as a collaborator, rather than a subordinate.

What’s your greatest workforce planning success story?

There are a number of accomplishments of which I am very proud. I’ve managed a project to build a 300 seat call center, implemented telephony and WFM software solutions and constructed WFM organizations in whole. It’s hard to prioritize one as “the greatest”. However, one of the most satisfying successes was not, directly, my own. An employee I mentored moved on to lead another regional branch and was recognized by Executive Leadership for re-tooling his organization’s WFM processes to yield a sizable OPEX reduction. He contacted me soon after and credited me with providing him the understanding and wherewithal to be successful in his new position. I was flattered and proud to know that I held such influence for this very talented person.

Sometimes there’s friction between workforce planning and operations teams. What’s the best way you’ve found to create positive interactions between these two areas?

I do my best to be recognized as a resource and partner. A collaborative spirit and strong communication skills are invaluable in creating positive interactions between WFM and Operations teams. When viewed at a high level, the charge for any organization is the same; to provide a world-class product or service to customers in the most efficient and profitable way possible. Viewing Planning and Operations initiatives with this perspective is the conduit for approaching challenges as partnerships and allows us to better leverage resources among different workgroups to meet goals.

What are the most important skills workforce planners need to be successful?

Planners need to be suited for the work and accompanying setting. We perform exacting functions that require precision and accuracy in fast-paced, high pressure environments. It’s not the right job fit for someone who lacks focus, the ability to critically evaluate information, or doesn’t perform well under tight timelines. I also believe a consistently good attitude is essential. Analysis techniques and mathematics can be taught – attitude can’t.

If you could teach all the workforce planners in the world one thing, what would it be?

Presentation skills. How well we articulate the findings of our analysis predicates how well our recommendations / mitigation plans are received. Poor communication and presentation skills transform us into Cassandra figures in the meeting room; with a vision of what is on the horizon, but delivered as a confused message that is not fully comprehended until after the fact.

What do you see is the biggest current challenge for workforce planning teams? Over the next 5 years?

As Contact Centers make more investments in WFM staff and technology there’s a higher expectation for us to deliver “Value Add” not just paths to reduce operating expense. Leadership looks to Workforce Management / Optimization to help improve customer experience and increase employee satisfaction. The greatest challenge we face today and will face in the future is optimizing our own organizations and processes. In the course of previous consulting work I performed I was struck by a few common issues - even amongst very different companies:
  • Attempts to utilize all facets of new technology – at times when not necessary
  • Lack of complete understanding of technologies
  • Over generalized or specialized functions for WFM staff
While it is important to leverage the tools and technology at our disposal, at times a simple solution is the best solution. Our partners are best served when we employ the most elegant process that provides the same or even more accurate information that would be otherwise derived with more complex and time intensive exercises. When “right-sized” WFM teams, with appropriate functional responsibility for their organizational scale, fully understand the tools and technology they use and make use of them at the appropriate time, this end is met.