Workforce management is a set of processes designed to optimize employee productivity. At its heart, it seeks to ensure the right employees do the right work at the right time.
Workforce management is most useful in certain workplaces. These include those with a high volume of hourly employees, overlapping shift hours, or changing scheduling needs. Workforce management is also beneficial for optimizing task assignments. Any company hoping to make the best use of employee time should adopt workforce management processes.
Why Is Workforce Management Important?
Workforce management systems define, track, and adjust employee schedules. They also consider employee task assignments. Insights from these systems can improve an organization in several ways.
The cost of labor can be a huge expense. When schedules are inefficient or business needs change, labor costs rise. Workforce management can help lower the business cost of labor.
Training and skills utilization
Scheduling employees often goes beyond having the right number of employees working. For instance, a healthcare environment typically needs a combination of skills. These include administration to general nursing to specialist medical care credentials.
A workforce management system identifies the skills needed by timeframe. It then schedules employees whose skills meet the needed criteria.
Workforce management systems can also track when employees are due for training or skills updates. Sophisticated systems can push training modules to employees and track when they’ve completed them.
Labor law compliance
Labor laws in the US vary by state and even sometimes by city. For instance, overtime calculations are by weekly hours in some states, but based on daily hours worked in others. A workforce management system should adjust these calculations based on where the employee works. This will ensure your business stays compliant.
Workforce Management Processes
The goal of workforce management sounds simple: put the right employees to work on the right tasks at the right time. Achieving this goal can quickly become complicated. This is why workforce management relies on a system of processes—rather than just one process.
Here are some examples of what key processes include.
Forecasting is the process of determining the type and number of employees needed to adequately staff for any given time period. This process is often easier said than done. Many factors can impact a workforce forecast. These include changing business needs, customer demands, employee availability, and budget.
Most businesses rely on historical data to identify trends and inform forecasts. For instance, a retail business forecasts the need for increased staffing during holiday periods. Workforce management tools provide calculated forecasts. These consider historical staffing trends and budget restraints.
Once a forecast is complete, scheduling then assigns work shifts. This is a significant part of workforce management.
Traditional manual scheduling of employees is time-consuming, inefficient, and risks error. Most companies rely on workforce management tools to automate scheduling based on several variables. These variables include needed skills, expected workload, employee vacations, and absence coverage.
Workforce management tools can also make schedules more user-friendly for employees. For example, the tool may enable employees to swap shifts.
Time and attendance tracking
Tracking employee time and attendance is not only vital for payroll. It also helps to identify gaps in scheduling and address absentee or tardiness issues. By analyzing time and attendance data, companies can better anticipate real-time management issues.
As an example, certain periods may align with higher call-outs due to illness or employee absenteeism. Identifying these time periods allows companies to temporarily overschedule. Alternatively, they can have backup staffing on call to compensate for absences.
Some workforce management tools such as Connecteam delegate tasks directly to employees. This is particularly helpful for deskless employees who handle multiple tasks throughout a shift. Employees can receive their task assignments directly from the tool rather than waiting for a manager to direct them to the next task.
Workforce Management Implementation
Most companies are aware that their workforce management systems need to be upgraded. This may occur long before they begin investigating solutions. However, it is important to identify your organization’s specific needs before jumping to a new tool.
Collaborate to identify inefficiency
Identifying where workforce management systems should be improved goes beyond HR. Inefficiency can be felt in many parts of the organization in different ways. For instance, Operations will feel the sting of a poor scheduling tool most acutely when they are faced with inadequate staffing.
Looking at the problem of inefficiency company-wide will best determine which systems need to be upgraded or overhauled entirely. When considering the adoption of a new tool, this approach will also help avoid unnecessary spending.
Once inefficiencies have been identified, it is time to establish goals.
For example, what if you discover that employees have too much downtime between tasks because they have to wait for a new assignment? In this case, setting a goal to automate task assignments may be appropriate. A goal might also be to decrease the time needed to generate schedules for each week or improve employee satisfaction scores.
Consider workforce management tools
Many factors go into determining the type of workforce management tool that will work best for your organization. Consider company size, budget, employee types, and specific areas of concern.
Some companies develop tools in-house, though this is a heavy resource investment. In-house tools have also become less favored as tool providers improve their offerings. Ask providers for a demonstration of their tool before you commit to purchase.
Any time workforce management tools change, group training needs to be provided to those who will use the tool regularly. It’s important to train early and ensure questions can be answered during the adoption phase. This will help employees to understand how the tool functions and avoid unnecessary frustration.
It’s also critical to ensure leaders understand the strategic benefits of the workforce management tool. This will help them understand the value the tool provides.
Workforce Management Tools
Today, companies most often rely on workforce management software tools. The quickest way to start with a workforce management tool would be to purchase a standalone solution. Another option would be to outsource the work to a consultancy.
While quick, these paths can lead to issues. A standalone tool that does not integrate with existing systems will create inefficiency. Outsourcing workforce management detaches your business from strategic insights. This again can lead to inefficiency.
Businesses that rely on a customer relationship management (CRM) system may wish to look for workforce management solutions that integrate with the CRM. These are common in certain industries, such as contact centers, which rely on heavy customer interaction. If linking your CRM to the employee side of a business does not appeal, then this may not be the best option for the organization.
Sometimes workforce management software is part of an HR management system. If an organization already has an HR management system, this is a good place to start.
Some workforce management solutions may be offered by that system.
At a minimum, new workforce management tools should integrate with the HR management system being used. Businesses may instead look to upgrade their HR systems. In this case, tools that include workforce management should be considered.
Workforce management is critical to improving productivity and eliminating inefficiencies. Businesses can optimize employee time with workforce management processes.
Implementing workforce management starts with a close look at how the workforce operates. From there, select an effective workforce management tool. Doing so can lead to lower labor costs and better employee productivity.