From WFO to WEM

Dick Bucci, Pelorus Associates
Dick Bucci, Pelorus Associates

Admittedly, I have not worked in a lot of different industries, but it is hard to imagine there are many that have a greater penchant for acronyms than the contact center space. When I first got involved in this industry about 20 years ago, my early impression was that practitioners could conduct an entire conversation without uttering a complete word.

WFOWEM is one of the newer acronyms to add to the industry lexicon. WEM stands for workforce engagement management. The road to WEM started with WFO—or workforce optimization. In 2005, Verint Systems launched Impact 360, the world’s first complete WFO suite. Within a few years, all of the major producers of interaction recording systems added all or most of these core applications and declared that they had a true WFO offering. These were not identical, but generally included at least five of the following seven core applications and all of the listed design elements.

Traditional Workforce Optimization suite

Core applications:

  • 100% interaction recording—voice and screen actions
  • Quality monitoring with scorecard tool
  • Workforce management
  • Performance management
  • E-learning/coaching
  • Speech analytics
  • Voice of the customer software

Design elements:

  • Common database for all applications
  • Common user interface layout and operation
  • Integrates with internal contact center applications
  • Centralized administration

Defining the Workforce Engagement Management Suite

It all started with the notion of customer engagement. In March 2006, the Advertising Research Foundation announced the first definition of customer engagement as “turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.” Forrester Consulting produced a more precise definition in 2008. According to Forrester, customer engagement is “creating deep connections with customers that drive purchase decisions, interaction and participation over time.”

Where WFO sought to “optimize” employees, workforce engagement management takes a softer view.

The concept of customer engagement became widely adopted within the marketing community and soon percolated to the contact center organization. This put pressure on vendors to fine-tune or reinvent their WFO suites to be more in line with the principles of customer engagement. The result is a host of workforce engagement management suites. In this article, we will attempt to draw some boundaries around what precisely is a workforce engagement management suite, and what are the important points of differentiation from traditional WFO suites.


Bastien Le Priol
Product Marketing Manager, Calabrio

Where WFM makes sure that the right resource is there at the right time for service, and WFO adds the ability to monitor and act upon the content of the interactions (via quality management, interaction analytics), WEM ensures that the prerequisites for long-term good service are met by engaging those who provide the service. Solutions that allow companies to improve metrics like employee recognition, employee churn and employee development enable organizations to provide a better quality of customer interactions in the long run.

Cameron Smith
Vice President, Genesys Cloud Workforce Engagement Product Management, Genesys

As the industry shifts from a workforce optimization approach to a workforce engagement management approach, organizations and software providers must focus on the human element of the contact center by investing in the time to understand employee needs and the interconnected relationships within an organization. A WEM suite takes out the concept of applications or modules, and instead, offers one common platform. Legacy WFO suites create internal silos that make it hard to identify and then take action to improve performance and employee productivity.

Chris Bauserman
Vice President, Product & Segment Marketing, NICE CXone

Workforce engagement management has become increasingly important as organizations compete on customer experience. In recent years, the contact center industry has shifted its focus from optimizing labor productivity and managing labor costs—which was typically the focus of workforce optimization—to a more employee-centric focus in order to engage agents throughout the employment life cycle. WEM applications are designed to increase agent engagement by automating tasks associated with scheduling, coaching, quality management, performance management and more.

David Singer
Vice President, Product Strategy, Verint

Workforce engagement management expands upon WFO’s merits by extending the focus from “management optimizing their workforce” to “engaging the workforce for higher performance.” This employee engagement includes incorporating the voice of the employee, providing them with assistance in the moment, and helping employees manage business resources to motivate top performance. Verint-sponsored research reveals a chasm between what organizations need to do to manage customer engagement and the resources they have available to do it. We call this the Engagement Capacity Gap. Workforce engagement management helps close this gap by supporting a distributed workforce that is increasingly augmented by artificial intelligence and automation. And, as customer engagement occurs across organizations, unified systems connect departmental data silos into consistent knowledge that enables delivery of the best customer experiences possible.

A common thread among these explanations is the emphasis on employees. Where WFO sought to “optimize” employees, workforce engagement management takes a softer view. Productivity remains a high priority, but WEM tools serve to motivate, enable and empower contact center workers.

So, what are the elements that comprise a workforce engagement management suite? To get a handle on this, I laboriously poured over the websites of leading WEM vendors.

Workforce Engagement Management suite

Core applications:

  • 100% recording of omnichannel interactions
  • Quality monitoring with automated scoring
  • Workforce management with AI-infused scheduling and forecasting
  • Performance management
  • Speech and data analytics
  • Voice of the employee software
  • Voice of the customer software
  • Mobile access to WFM features and internal communications


  • Gamification
  • Robotic process automation
  • Voice authentication
  • Predictive analytics
  • Chatbots
  • Customer engagement hub

Design features:

  • Native cloud
  • Flexible deployment options
  • Open design—integrates with internal and external enterprise software applications
  • Tools for building custom applications
  • AI and analytics leveraged for multiple applications—not just WFM

In terms of basic functionality, the WEM suite is not that different from WFO. The most significant differences are the power and variety of offerings. For example, AI-infused algorithms can prepare more accurate schedules because they can consider more variables and have greater predictive power. Much of the tedious labor involved in quality monitoring can be automated. This saves time and money and improves agent morale. Mobility is another important distinction. When WFO was in its infancy, smartphones were not all that smart and not widely deployed. Today, just about every employee has a smartphone. WEM technology leverages these devices for empowering agents to access information, communicate with supervisors and peers, and manage their personal schedules and development.

How Do WEM Suites Differ?

We asked each vendor in our small study to highlight attributes that differentiate their WEM software from competitors.


  • Employees are the core of the working processes and WEM can influence their work life, get engaged in the company’s performance, receive coaching, and develop their skills.
  • We offer multiple personalization functionalities across product lines.
  • Flexible deployment options (Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hosted, Hybrid).
  • We enhance Calabrio ONE with solutions built by the Calabrio Innovation Center that are fully integrated with Calabrio ONE and address specific customer needs—at no extra cost.
  • Our pricing model is simple and flexible, with lower TCO.


  • Genesys Cloud provides our latest innovations in AI-powered customer + employee journeys and gives contact centers the best and broadest customer and employee experience capabilities.
  • With a Genesys Cloud 3 license, new features regularly appear in your interface and are ready to use without the need to build complex integrations.
  • Genesys simplifies the user experience with a design focus on learnability and extensibility.
  • AI-powered speech and text analytics tools are infused across existing recording, storage and quality without additional cost.
  • Integrated AI-powered processes automate workflows.


  • For agent empowerment, a couple great examples are our CXone mobile app, so agents can bid and swap schedules on the go, and our collaborative evaluation process that gives agents a fair voice in the quality process.
  • All our WEM applications are fully integrated within our CXone cloud contact center platform so agents can fully access coaching packages and schedule updates from within their main workspace.
  • Integrated scheduling (WFM) automatically picks the best times for team meetings, training and coaching sessions.
  • Our Enlighten AI engine provides real-time next-best action and next-best behavior to help agents be their best during each and every customer interaction.

Verint Systems

  • The Verint Workforce Engagement Suite is built on the Verint Customer Engagement Cloud Platform.
  • Verint Da Vinci AI and Analytics provide common advanced AI and analytics services across all applications.
  • Native Cloud Architecture allows rapid innovation in interoperability between modules.
  • The Open Imperative provides an agnostic, multi-cloud approach so organizations can maintain their existing ecosystem while deploying Verint solutions.
  • The Customer Engagement Data Hub provides a single hub for all interaction and experience data.

So Where to From Here?

Beyond basic technology migration, we can perceive substantial benefits to the vendor community, contact centers and customers.

  • Barriers to entry are diminished. The cloud native open architecture design for WEM suites opens the door for new players to design solutions from the ground up based on the principles of customer engagement. A good example is Playvox. Backed by $25 million in venture capital, Playvox has launched a complete WEM suite and landed many premier customers including Staples, Ralph Lauren and Volkswagen. They have offices around the world.
  • Extensible to the broader organization. With a few exceptions, WFO applications largely have been constrained to the contact center. WEM platforms, with its cloud architecture and available integrations to both contact center and external software applications, makes it both easy and cost-effective to create customer experience hubs where data from multiple functions and touch points can be consolidated, analyzed and leveraged for service improvement and problem-solving.
  • Supports networks of application developers. While the concept of app stores for contact centers is not new, simplified integrations across the vendor community broadens the potential market for app developers and, therefore, more personalization options for contact centers.

This is not to proclaim the demise of workforce optimization. There will be no wholesale replacement of the existing contact center infrastructure for which hundreds of millions of dollars have already been invested. However, obsolete legacy software will almost certainly be replaced by WEM as will Greenfield opportunities. And the arrival of native cloud platforms with a simplified integration to third-party applications can bring about a burst of innovation that enriches the customer experience, and in so doing, strengthens brand loyalty.

Dick Bucci is Founder and Chief Analyst at Pelorus Associates, which provides market research and consulting services to the contact center industry.

– Republished with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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