Essential WFM metrics for any workforce manager

WFM metrics let you know how well your CX team is doing. Let's look at some key metrics, and what you should be aiming for in each.

"Essential WFM metrics for any workforce manager" illustration

As we've seen in the DiCXionary, Workforce management (WFM) is having the right people working on the right things at the right time. WFM metrics and analytics lets you know if you're doing it well. And doing WFM well can optimize your support agents' productivity, reduce turnover and improve dramatically your customers' experience and satisfaction.

By looking at the right data, a workforce manager can draw a clear picture at a number of things:

  • Are customers being answered quickly enough?
  • Are the company's objectives being met?
  • How are different teams and specific agents performing?
  • Are all the conditions in place for all of these things to align smoothly, with enough agents having the right tools to deal with the day's contact volume (or week or month)? In turn, helping to achieve the company's objectives?
  • Or is there a problem in the horizon?

But what metrics does a workforce manager have to keep an eye on to ensure his agents are performing at their best, the customers are happy, and the business is pushed forward?

The short and quick answer is: it depends.
And also: there's a ton of them.

A suite of tools like Tymeshift can allow you to track thousands of combinations of them in personalized dashboards. Every team and every agent will have different objectives and different metrics to measure those with.
I know that from my personal experience: I've worked in a contact centre before.

But these are some essential metrics in managing your customer-facing teams. If you’re just getting started with WFM, these are the metrics that you should learn about first.

​​1. Average Handle Time  (AHT) and why it matters

The first of all WFM metrics, average handle time (AHT) measures the average time it takes for an agent (or team) to "handle" a customer and their concern. 

Handling might not be the most polite word for it, but, you know: how long it takes between when an agent starts trying to solve a customer's problem and when they stop.

AHTs: The Long and Short of it

The shorter the AHT, the shorter time an agent spends per customer.
This is (usually) a good sign: it means you'll be able to help more customers throughout the shift, and that each  customer will spend less time in the queue. 
Low AHT does not always mean your customer issues are being resolved. When this is the only metric you're looking at, you can push your agents to rush calls, leaving customers with their questions unanswered, their problems unsolved and their business elsewhere. 

A longer AHT on the other hand, can raise important concerns to team leaders and workforce managers. It could be an indication that an agent is not well-versed on the product and SOPs.
Is there a need for more training?
Are protocols and procedure updates given to all agents in a timely manner? 

2. Schedule Adherence - why is it an essential WFM metric?

Schedule adherence is the percentage of time an agent spends per scheduled activity. This metric monitors whether or not an agent is working on their assigned roles per shift. Tracking it is a great way to understand how an agent sticks to their schedule - or whether they don't. 

Here’s a simple scenario:

Back when I worked in a Contact Centre, imagine that I'd been assigned Chats from 9am to 11am. But from 9am to 10am, my activity log says I was actually taking calls. In that case, I wouldn't have a perfect adherence.

If on the other hand, a colleague was assigned to be taking calls from 9 to noon, and they did, then they have a perfect  schedule adherence. 

Why do we bother tracking schedule adherence?

A high adherence rate usually means your CX agents are efficient and productive, since they are performing the tasks they were assigned. According to industry standards, optimal schedule adherence is just below 100%. 

An optimal schedule adherence means agents are more engaged and are serving customers better. And it means your CX team is working more efficiently: if the workforce manager forecasted everything right, then the tasks assigned to each agent are already determined by what would deliver you best results. Having one less person than you were expecting on a specific channel means that customers on that channel will be waiting around longer to get their problems solved.

And, on the other hand, having more people in another channel than you were expecting can be counter-productive: there might not be enough to do for everybody working it.

3. Occupancy rate

Occupancy rates measure how much time agents spend on support-related activities against other tasks. It's important to note that this only takes into consideration time that your agents are active: breaks, lunches, training sessions are not part of the Occupancy Rate formula.

An example:
A contact agent's target might be a 75% occupancy rate. If they work for 4 hours before lunchtime, they need to be handling customers for 3 hours. During the other hour, they can be accomplishing non-support tasks.

Measuring occupancy rates tells workforce managers if current staffing levels are sufficient. If the occupancy rate is too low, it may mean that the shift is overstaffed since agents are spending less time working than planned.

WFM metrics top tip: with occupancy rate, you're not aiming for 100%

Unlike schedule adherence, or your kids' exams, the goal isn't 100%.

In fact, 100% is considered an excessively high occupancy rate.

The industry standard for an optimal occupancy rate is at 85%.

Anything higher than 85% suggests your agents have so many calls to take they can't dedicate any time to other relevant tasks. Which means you probably need to hire a few more people. 
On the long-run, a higher rate than 85% may lead to an agent's decreased productivity, exhaustion / burnout, or, in the worst-case scenario, turnover. 

4. One of the most important WFM metrics: Idle time 

In contact centers, idle time is time spent by agents waiting to take the next call. Contrary to popular belief, idle time is not totally time wasted. It is actually useful because of the following: 

  • A 100% utilization rate means that an agent takes calls without stopping. This was just addressed but is worth repeating: if not addressed, this can lead to decreased productivity, agent burnout and demotivation. 
  • If there is 0% idle time, all agents must be taking calls. Thus, no agent will be available to cater to the next batch of customers in the queue. This means longer waiting time for customers and consequently, low customer satisfaction ratings.  

We'd love to give you a goal to strive for here, but to be honest, there is no standard value when it comes to measuring this metric. It really depends on your contact volumes and your business's goals and culture. 

5. More CX than WFM metrics, tbh: Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT boils down to: are customers happy with the support services that the business offers?
If not, why not and what can be done to improve your CSAT scores? 

As you know, I’ve worked in a contact center before, and this was certainly my favorite metric. 

The whole point of working in CX is to guide your customers toward success. Helping them solve their problems. Improving their perception of your brand. 

A satisfied customer did not only mean that I did my job well. It meant that they’re also able to make the most out of their purchase, and the product or service that I offer support for is effective. 

CSAT measures that. It provides valuable insights for: an agent’s performance, the product’s effectiveness, and the likelihood that a customer will recommend the product to other people (although this is more specifically measured by an NPS, another CX metric).

CSAT scores also reflect the quality of training the organization provides based on how well agents meet customer expectations. 


To sum, workforce metrics are a manager’s best friend in keeping track of not only workforce performance but also employee wellbeing.

They show you how productive agents are, but also help you make sure that your agents are taking enough breaks and have the motivation they need to enjoy what they do, and deliver the results that you need.

About Tymeshift:

We’re Tymeshift, an effortless WFM solution made exclusively for Zendesk to make workforce managers’ lives easier. We don’t just do Dictionaries of Key Terms in WFM: our workforce management tools include shift scheduling, forecasting and analytics. A perfectly intuitive Zendesk integration makes your CX agents’ lives easier. Learn all there is about us and our product on