When you manage a workforce of more than 2000 people, with over 44 different working arrangements for each person to choose from, it takes some serious coordination to make it all run smoothly.

Luckily, Datacom has Brendon Edwards and his workforce optimisation team. They not only work to maintain full staffing levels so Datacom can provide excellent customer service at a reasonable cost, but also provide incredible flexibility for their own employees.

“At the highest level, we calculate the human effort [or labour] needed to do the work, look at what hours are available for every person, then we match them together,” says Brendon. “It provides maximum flexibility – we take a human-centred approach to workforce management.”

Brendon’s team uses this approach to help run Datacom’s customer centres, which provide outsourced call centre services for major clients including the Australian Federal Government. The workforce optimisation team also provides consulting services to external clients, who use Datacom’s processes to streamline their own staff scheduling systems.

Measurable differences in performance fuelling growth

When Brendon joined the workforce optimisation team in 2017, it comprised just five people. But its success has led to considerable growth and he now manages a team of 47.

One of the keys to that success has been measurable positive results for clients. Take one of our clients whose phone lines receive tens of thousands of calls each month including enquiries about life-changing matters, yet wait times were leading to high numbers of abandoned calls each month – more than 15% of calls at times.

“Once we started, it began to change,” says Brendon, “and within three months, the rate of calls answered within five minutes went from 72% to 95%. The rate of abandoned calls dropped by half.”

Datacom’s team was also identified as being the ‘Most Consistent Provider’ by a federal government client that works with a number of large customer service centre providers. Its internal data found that Datacom was consistently delivering to the intraday delivery and workload per 15-minute interval – which is an achievement the team takes a huge amount of satisfaction from.

“We’re really proud of that.”

Flexibility creating a competitive hiring advantage

At its core, workforce optimisation is about meeting the needs of a business and the needs of its employees, all while controlling costs. Datacom achieves this with a unique planning process that predicts recruitment requirements, uses scheduling analysis, and then provides schedules to the real-time management team. That team executes the plan, making tweaks on a day-to-day basis to deliver staff numbers within budget.

This process needs vast quantities of data to work well – the data must be effectively analysed, and team members must use it effectively while making quick, intelligent adjustments. It's complex, but well worth the effort, because it delivers excellent results for businesses and their people.

“Workers who are coming into the workforce don’t see flexibility as a bonus, they expect it,” says Brendon. “If your business doesn’t offer flexibility, you’ll miss out on talent in the market, because they’ll go elsewhere to get that requirement met. I believe you have to shape your organisation to attract talent.”

Where messy human lives meet neatly scheduled workdays

Brendon’s also working to attract the best talent in his own team. He makes it a priority that everyone has a sense of purpose about what they do and why it matters. On top of that, he aims to add a sense of community and autonomy.

“As long as the work gets done, you can manage your own time – that helps us to have really good staff sentiment in our team. A large proportion of them are enrolled in tertiary courses, supported by Datacom, and I try to instil the importance of education into all the teams and leaders I work with.”

Brendon himself fell into the field by accident; having studied statistics and decision sciences at university, the moment he saw workforce coordination it was like a lightbulb went off.

“I fell in love with operations and research – the idea of quantifying human effort and workload matching fascinated me from the get-go. And the statistics of it! Forecasting, regression analysis, multivariate analysis …”

Brendon hasn’t lost any of that early passion for the field and remains fascinated by the complexities of combining messy human lives with neatly scheduled workdays. He’s seen first-hand how workforce optimisation can have an enormous impact on controlling business costs, improving staff retention and raising the standard of customer service. That’s why he believes that demand will only keep growing.

“If you have any work that gets done by humans, requiring human labour hours, you can benefit from workforce optimisation – it really is that simple.”

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Public sector
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