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Determining the Optimal Staffing Structure is a Lot Like Getting Dressed

When I see someone present a "best practice, best of breed, blue ribbon panel endorsed" template for Contact Center staffing structures I can feel that right eyebrow of mine begin to rise. What I find most troubling is the ratio of frontline agents to supervisors - the "one size fits all" approach just doesn't fit. The unintended consequences of an ill-conceived ratio can be as troublesome as wearing stilettos while walking on cobblestones.

Some supervisory tasks are reasonably consistent across contact center organizations - coaching, monitoring, developing the agents, and building the team.  Aside from those types of tasks, there is another group to supervisor duties - the insidious and dreaded "other duties as assigned."  This is where myriad "other work," hidden in an exempt position, can get piled on the supervisors.  It can deter supervisors from spending time with their agents and, by extension, weaken that relationship.

Overloading supervisors is tantamount to transforming a practical garment into a couture gown by adding 100 yards of fabric forcing the wearer's shoulders to hunch under the weight and structure - ouch!  The "designer" aka senior leader may get kudos for the illusion it creates, but it will be torturous for the "model" aka supervisor.

I have seen examples of this piling on layer after layer of work to supervisors in various industries.  Each bit is not, in itself, a problem.  It is the cumulative effect of many extra bits that causes the problem.  Coco Chanel's cautionary quote about over accessorizing translates flawlessly to handling an overload of duties on exempt positions: 

"Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off."


Ask yourself what form, fit, and function will you expect and require from your supervisors?  Then follow these simple steps to clean out and organize the supervisory task closet.

1.    List all of the tasks to be done.  Here are some examples:

  • Quality monitors per agent per month
  • Coaching and development planning and execution
  • Attending meetings…  and more meetings
  • Preparing, reviewing, and interpreting reports
  • Interviewing and selecting new hires
  • Developing and delivering new hire and ongoing training  
  • Project management and system implementation
  • And so on…

2.  Estimate the amount of time required to complete each task.

3. Ask yourself these questions for each task to be done:

  • What tasks can be eliminated because they don't add value?
  • What tasks need to be added to add value?
  • Determine if each task logically belongs to the supervisor role or some other position.  

Note:  The size of your organization will help determine if supervisors will need to do training, reporting, quality assurance, etc. or if those functions can be completed by dedicated support staff.

4. Determine the cadence for repeating these steps to keep an appropriate amount of work for each supervisor.  If the needs change, the ratios should change with them. 

It is well worth the effort to help protect the supervisors from:

  • Working a ridiculous number of hours and struggling to succeed 
  • Doing some tasks and ignoring other tasks. (The shiny projects will get done while coaching agents will likely collect dust in the back of the closet.)
  • Becoming stressed, burned out, and physically ill
  • Giving up, quitting, or becoming ineffective
  • Damaging the morale of the frontline and harming the customer experience
  • Splitting their seams and busting their buttons!  

Now iron your shirt, shine your shoes, and straighten up your supervisory responsibilities.  The supervisors will feel better, and their results will look better.  

Know this - cultivating culture never goes out of style!