5 workforce forecasting tips for your business

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Written by:
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Natasha Ratanshi-Stein , Founder & CEO

As companies strive to stay competitive and adapt to changing market dynamics, managing their human resources becomes important. 

Workforce forecasting is one way to deal with it. It is the data-driven approach to predicting future staffing needs.

In this blog, we will learn about workforce forecasting and explore five essential workforce forecasting techniques that can empower your business to make strategic decisions.

Understanding workforce forecasting

For operations management in call centres, the areas that need to be included are:  

(a) long-term workload and workforce forecasting, 

(b) mid-term scheduling of surfers (we call agents surfers 🏄‍♂️), 

(c) short-time allocation of surfers to a range of tasks or services, and 

(d) real-time routing of calls to surfers according to their skill set.

To understand workforce forecasting, let’s learn the relationship between surfer, customer, skill and group, first.


Workforce forecasting predicts the right number of employees with specific skills needed to serve different customer groups. It involves looking at past data, current demand, and surfer abilities to ensure enough staff members provide quality service and meet customer expectations.

Here are 5 questions that will help you get an in-depth understanding of workforce forecasting👇 

1. What is the significance of employee utilisation in workforce forecasting? 

Employee utilisation measures the percentage of time surfers spend on call-related activities. By considering agent utilisation rates, call centre managers can estimate the number of surfers required to handle the forecasted call volume, ensuring optimal staffing levels.

2. How can call centre managers account for employee attrition in workforce forecasting? 

Decide on one of the workforce planning forecasting techniques to analyse historical attrition rates and factor in potential surfer turnover when forecasting workforce requirements. Managers can ensure adequate hiring and training efforts to maintain staffing levels by accounting for attrition.

3. How can call centre managers incorporate multichannel support into workforce forecasting? 

Call centre managers must analyse historical data on different channels (e.g., phone, chat, email) to determine the appropriate staffing levels for each channel. Channel preferences, volume distribution, and surfer skill sets should be considered for accurate forecasting.

4. What role does call routing play in workforce forecasting? 

Call routing strategies, such as skill-based routing, can impact workforce forecasting by directing calls to surfers with the appropriate skills. Understanding call routing patterns and customer needs can help call centre managers allocate resources effectively to meet service-level goals.

5. How can call centre managers evaluate the accuracy of their workforce forecasting models? 

Call centre managers can evaluate forecasting accuracy by workforce planning techniques of comparing the forecasted values with the actual call volumes and surfer requirements. Metrics such as forecast error, average handle time, and service level achievement can provide insights into the effectiveness of the forecasting models.

Key questions to ask before workforce forecasting

A successful call centre typically aims to maintain 80% load of available time to achieve profitability. To ensure efficient operations, a reliable management system is crucial. Adequate staffing decisions must be made in advance, considering administrative tasks and training requirements. 

Here are some key questions to consider for call centre workforce management forecasting. 

  1. What are the historical call volumes and patterns? 

Analysing past call volumes and patterns helps understand the workload trends, seasonality, and any recurring patterns that can be used to forecast future call volumes.

  1. Are there any upcoming events or promotions that may impact call volumes?

Identifying upcoming events or promotions allows us to anticipate potential spikes or fluctuations in call volumes and adjust the forecast accordingly to ensure adequate staffing during busy periods.

  1. What are the average call handling times for different call types?

Knowing the average call handling times for various call types enables accurate estimation of the required surfer capacity to meet service level targets and prevent excessive wait times or customer delays.

  1. What is the expected growth rate of call volumes? 

Understanding the anticipated growth rate of call volumes helps project future staffing needs and capacity requirements to ensure a seamless customer experience as the call centre expands.

  1. What are the planned changes in operational hours or shifts?

Any planned changes in operational hours or shifts should be considered while forecasting to ensure the workforce is appropriately scheduled to cover the required hours and maintain service levels.

  1. How effective is the current call routing and queueing system? 

Assessing the efficiency of the call routing and queueing system helps identify any bottlenecks or inefficiencies that may impact staffing requirements and allows for adjustments to optimise call flow.

  1. What are the attrition rates and expected new hires?

Knowing the attrition rates and expected new hires is crucial for determining the net change in the workforce. This information assists in accurately forecasting the staffing levels needed to account for turnover and maintain productivity.

  1. Are there any training or coaching programmes planned?

Training and coaching programmes can affect surfer availability and productivity. By incorporating this information into the forecast, adjustments can be made to ensure adequate staffing levels during training.

  1. What are the service level objectives and customer satisfaction targets?

Understanding the service level objectives and customer satisfaction targets is crucial to develop optimal workforce management forecasting models for your call centres. It aligns the forecasted staffing levels with the desired performance standards, ensuring customer expectations are met.

  1. What are the available workforce management tools and technologies?

Assessing the available workforce management techniques, tools, and technologies helps determine the capabilities for accurate forecasting, scheduling, and real-time monitoring, enabling efficient resource allocation and improved operational performance.

Steps to accurate long-term forecast

Here is a step-by-step guide to achieving accurate long-term forecasting for call centres.

  • Gather historical data: Collect and analyse relevant historical data, including call volumes, customer trends, and other relevant metrics. This data will serve as the foundation for your forecast.
  • Identify patterns and trends: Look for patterns and trends in the historical data. Identify any recurring patterns, seasonality, or trends that may impact future call volumes. This analysis will help you understand the underlying factors that drive fluctuations in call volume.
  • Consider external factors: Consider factors that influence call volumes, such as holidays, marketing campaigns, industry trends, or economic factors. These external factors can significantly impact call centre demand and should be factored into your forecast.
  • Review business plans and strategies: Understand the organisation’s business plans and strategies. Consider any upcoming product launches, marketing initiatives, or changes in operational processes that may impact call volumes. Align your forecast with these plans to accurately estimate future demand.
  • Engage key stakeholders: Collaborate with key stakeholders, such as operations managers, marketing teams, and finance departments, to gather insights and inputs. Their expertise and perspectives can help refine the forecast and capture essential nuances.
  • Utilise forecasting models: Utilise statistical call centre forecasting methods, like time series analysis, regression analysis, or predictive modelling to generate long-term forecasts. These workforce forecasting techniques provide more accurate predictions by analysing historical data patterns and incorporating relevant variables.
  • Validate and refine the forecast: Validate the forecast against recent data and compare it to actual call volumes to assess its accuracy. If necessary, refine the forecast by adjusting assumptions or incorporating additional information that may have been overlooked.
  • Consider workforce dynamics: Factor in workforce dynamics such as attrition rates, hiring plans, training schedules, and shift patterns. These factors can impact the availability and capacity of your workforce, and incorporating them into your forecast will ensure accurate staffing projections.
  • Review and update: Regularly check and update your long-term forecast, especially as new data becomes available or business conditions change. Regularly revisiting and updating your forecast will help you adapt to evolving needs and ensure ongoing accuracy.
  • Monitor and adjust: Continuously compare call volumes to your forecasted values. If significant deviations occur, evaluate the reasons behind them and make necessary adjustments to your forecasting approach to improve accuracy in the future.

5 common workforce forecasting techniques

Using a workforce model facilitates precise forecasting in a structured and effortless manner, minimising uncertainty and ensuring reliable estimates. Accuracy, data availability, scalability, complexity, time horizon, and domain expertise are vital considerations when choosing a workforce technique for forecasting.

Talking about call centre forecasting methods, here is the list of 5 best forecasting methods for call centres.

  1. Historical analysis

This technique involves analysing past workforce data to identify trends and patterns that can be used to forecast future workforce needs. It looks at factors such as employee turnover, hiring patterns, and seasonal variations in demand to predict future staffing requirements.

  1. Quantitative analysis

Quantitative analysis in workforce forecasting involves using mathematical and statistical models to estimate future workforce needs. This approach relies on analysing various quantitative factors, such as sales projections, production targets, or service demand, to determine the number of employees required to meet those demands. 

  1. Regression analysis

Regression analysis is a statistical technique used in quantitative analysis to understand the relationship between variables. In the context of workforce forecasting, regression analysis can be used to identify the factors that influence staffing needs. 

By examining historical data on workforce levels and various influencing factors (such as sales, production volume, or customer demand), regression analysis can help organisations develop mathematical models that predict future workforce requirements based on changes in those influencing factors.

  1. Markov analysis

Markov analysis is a technique that predicts future workforce needs based on the probability of employees transitioning between different job categories or states. It uses historical data on employee movements within an organisation to develop a Markov chain – a mathematical model representing the probabilities of moving from one job category to another. By applying this model, organisations can forecast future workforce requirements based on anticipated employee transitions.

  1. Delphi method

The Delphi method is a qualitative forecasting technique that relies on expert opinions and consensus building. It involves collecting input from a panel of experts who provide their forecasts on future workforce needs. The experts’ responses are then summarised and shared anonymously with the group, followed by multiple iterations of feedback and discussion until a consensus forecast is reached.

💡Tip – Evaluate model quality by analysing model testing, sensitivity analysis, and implementation. Recognise that models simplify complex systems, so consider their intricacies.

Start workforce forecasting with Surfboard 

Surfboard utilises accurate forecasts to create schedules and seamlessly integrates with your existing systems. 

Surfboard provides you with enhanced workforce forecasting features, with the top being:

  • Forecast adjustments
  • Workforce scheduling 
  • Timezone management ensures that your team focuses on assisting customers without worrying about task switching.

Learn how Surfboard helped Lick, a home decor provider, reduce planning time by 75%. The company managed part-time and full-time staff schedules with forecasting and provided heatmaps for manual adjustments.

Book a demo to analyse if Surfboard is the workforce scheduling software you need.


What is the forecasting workforce requirement?

Forecasting workforce requirements refers to estimating the number of employees an organisation will need to meet its operational goals and objectives. 

It involves analysing factors such as business growth, industry trends, market demand, and internal operational needs to determine the optimal workforce size and composition.

The workforce forecasting techniques requirements typically involve the following steps:

  • Demand forecasting
  • Supply forecasting
  • Gap analysis
  • Workforce planning
  • Monitoring and adjustment

Why is workforce forecasting important?

Workforce forecasting is important for several reasons:

  • It helps organisations align their workforce with their strategic goals and objectives.
  • Prevent overstaffing or understaffing, optimising labour costs.
  • Enables organisations to proactively identify and attract the right talent to meet future needs.
  • Helps identify skill gaps and plan for the development of future leaders within the organisation.
  • Allows organisations to anticipate and manage workforce changes, such as expansions, contractions, or reorganisations.

What is forecast accuracy in WFM?

Forecast accuracy in workforce management (WFM) refers to the degree of accuracy or precision with which the forecasted demand for workforce requirements matches the actual demand. It measures how well the forecasted values align with the real-time or historical data.

What are workforce management forecasting models?

Workforce management (WFM) forecasting models are mathematical or statistical techniques used to predict and estimate future workforce requirements based on historical data, business inputs, and relevant factors. 

These models help organisations anticipate the demand for labour, plan staffing levels, and optimise resource allocation.

The choice of forecasting model depends on the nature of the business, available data, forecasting horizon, and the level of complexity required. It’s common for organisations to use a combination of models or refine their approach over time based on feedback and analysis.

What are the types of forecasting in workforce management?

Here are the commonly used types of forecasting in WFM:

  • Demand forecasting: Focuses on estimating the future demand for products, services, or customer interactions. 
  • Workload forecasting: Specific to the workload or volume of tasks that must be performed.
  • Staffing forecasting: Predict the number of surfers required to meet the forecasted demand.
  • Scheduling forecasting: Focuses on predicting future scheduling needs and patterns. 
  • Skill-based forecasting: Estimates the demand for specific skills or competencies within the workforce. 
  • Attrition forecasting: Focuses on predicting employee turnover or attrition rates. 

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