5 qualities of a great workforce manager

What's the difference between a good workforce manager and a great one? It's these 5 qualities.

"A great workforce manager: 5 qualities" illustration

Agent scheduling, workload forecasting, and resource allocation are among the pillars of workforce management. A few of the many things that a workforce manager considers day after day.

In a fast-paced work environment, anything can happen anytime. For organizations to thrive in the market, workforce managers always have to be on their toes to accomplish business goals. 

Considering the many aspects of running a successful CX team, what qualities should a good workforce manager possess?

1. They are data-driven

“Data is power” is a phrase we have all heard a few times. Data, in this case, workforce metrics, are effective tools in monitoring organizational performance. 

Data-driven organizations use workforce metrics data to optimize results. In these organizations, workforce managers collect, document, and process data to make informed decisions. A good workforce manager recognizes the usefulness of data to set concrete goals and assess where the organization is at present, and if it is on track based on its organizational goals. 

As Jeremy Watkin says in his 2022 CX trends report analysis

A data-driven manager is not dictated by biases and fads in managerial decisions. For workforce planning, metrics such as schedule adherence, average handle time, and number of tickets solved are consistently identified, tracked, and measured to set standards and goals.

It helps you decide which of your teams and which of your agents are performing and who needs to up their game.

Just remember that if a team or an agent is consistently underperforming, that's not necessarily their fault: follow up with them to understand whether they are lacking the tools or the training to do their job properly, or if their targets have been unreasonably set.

2. A great workforce manager is creative 

Businesses are ever-evolving. We’ve seen it in play as a huge number of the workforce shifted to working from home and businesses who were previously heavily reliant on mostly analog processes started shifting to cloud-based systems for communication and collaboration. 

To keep support teams not only afloat, but thriving, workforce managemers need to be creative and quick to adaptive. Of course, you need to be up-to-date with relevant trends and technologies to make your life easier - for example, why go through the hassle of forecasting manually when a good WFM software can do it for you?

But it's much more than that. It's knowing how to handle scheduling errors on the fly, if you suddenly find yourself under- or overstaffed. Finding creative ways to keep your agents' morale up. Knowing that you can think yourself out of a problem.

3. Open-mindedness is a unique feature of the best workforce managers

Dynamic teams need open-minded managers. These are people who consider new approaches to current techniques. A good workforce manager knows when to engage and gather insights from the workforce in decision making.

Open-minded managers recognize that employee inputs are essential to organizational growth. They give employees a proper venue to provide feedback and equal opportunities to be heard. As a manager, it is important to let employees know that their inputs are heard and considered. 

This boosts employee morale and loyalty in the workplace since employees know that they contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Plus, being mindful of employees and their different cultural backgrounds is key to keeping the environment in the team healthy and harmonious.

4. A great workforce manager is Anticipative and Proactive. They have to be.

One of the most important responsibilities of workforce managers is planning. The pillars of workforce management that we've already mentioned (agent scheduling, workload forecasting, and resource allocation) have one thing in common: anticipation. 

Anticipating does not require one to be a fortune teller. After all, it’s not just based on instinct or foresight.
(A lot of it is, if we can refer you back to Point 1, is data-driven).

For a workforce manager to be anticipative, they need to observe triggers of changes and plan for them. Some of these triggers are: 

  • Changes in technology 
    A workplace manager's job is hard enough as it is, so it's natural that the great ones are always looking for new technologies that make their life and work easier. And they encourage their agents to adopt these new technologies, too.
  • Changes in customer culture 
    An anticipative manager gathers customer data over time. They track trends and changes in customer tastes, needs, and cultures. Workforce managers act upon it and do not sit on the current data. Keeping a close eye to customer culture can lead them to open new channels, such as chats or social media: you probably don't want to be the only business in your area only handling support via phone.
  • Changes in company culture 
    Working in WFM can feel, sometimes, like you're running your own ship. But you're part of the Navy, and the Admiral's decisions will eventually trickle down. Are the other teams becoming more tolerant with punctuality, or moving to remote work? Then you don't want to be the last team enforcing unpopular rules.

Anticipating these kinds of change prepares lets great workforce managers wisely allocate resources and staff.

5. They're Empathetic 

So far, we've focussed mainly on objective traits. We know that managers need to stick to the facts and data when measuring performance.
But remember: your CX agents are one of the most important assets of any business. 

Because you can't have a great CX without great customer support agents. And a great CX leads to more satisfied customers, less churn, and higher profits. Great workforce managers (and CX leaders in general) know this. And that's why they treat their agents with empathy and respect.

What does empathy in a workforce manager look like?

A good workforce manager knows that an agent's state of mind, happiness at work, work-life balance, and motivation are all things that affect their performance. So they know how to keep spirits up and create bonds between people. They avoid seeming biased towards one agent. And understand that if an agent is under-performing, (as we've said before), it's not necessarily because they're lazy or bad at their jobs.

Empathy in a workforce manager is knowing how to make bad news bearable. It's knowing how to give negative feedback without making an agent feel belittled (as explained in Sam Sander's Workforce Managers' Rule of 3).


What I'm trying to say is: being a workforce manager is not easy. And if you're a workforce manager yourself, you know this to be true. But it is rewarding on both those days where you're planning and preparation meant everything sailed smoothly; and on the days where everything went to the dogs but your proactivity, creativity and dynamism saved the day.

Before I end this article, I want to know, did this article remind you of a great workforce manager that you know? What quality of his or her were you reminded of by this article?

Feel free to share this with them and let them know your thoughts! 

About Tymeshift:

We’re Tymeshift, an effortless WFM solution made exclusively for Zendesk to make workforce managers’ lives easier. 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 tymeshift.com