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Workforce Management: Everything Business Leaders Need to Know15 min read

By December 4, 2019 December 10th, 2019 No Comments

Your employees are your greatest asset.

The people in your employ are your differentiating factor.

This article outlines everything that forward thinking leaders need to know to optimise the outcome of workforce management.

What is workforce management?

Workforce management (WFM) is a unified set of processes that companies use to optimise the productivity of its employees.

Typically, this involves:

  • Forecasting labour requirements, and
  • Creating and managing staff schedules to accomplish specific tasks.

Strategic workforce management looks at workforce optimisation as a whole in the company, and typically includes methods to enhance employee engagement in order to achieve organisational goals.

Workforce Management

Why workforce management is critical to the success of your business

Even the smallest business requires a lot of work for it to function properly, and most people have no clue how much work goes into the running of a business behind the scenes.

Some of what is involved in workforce management includes:

  • Scheduling relevant employees.
  • Recording time and attendance.
  • Payroll and benefits.
  • Performance management.
  • Leave and absence management.
  • HR functions.
  • Forecasting.
  • Recruitment of talent.

To be effective, workforce management requires strategic planning, hiring the right staff, using the right technology, and setting up automated and streamlined processes and procedures.

When we consider that it’s the employees that run the business and therefore are the most important assets of the company, managing an entire workforce needs to be by design instead of left to default, so strategic planning in order to fulfill company objectives is critical.

Here are some of the reasons why workforce management is especially vital to the success of every business:

High employee engagement = increased profits

Things like addressing company culture to attract the best talent, and then managing that talent is key, and we’ll get into that a little later.

What you need to know for now is that creating a positive company culture – by design – results in highly engaged employees. Companies with high engagement employees see an increase of 21% profit as opposed to companies whose staff are not highly engaged.

Decreased operational costs

The goal is workforce optimisation: when the right elements are in place, productivity is increased, so less time is wasted and employees provide more value, and therefore operational costs are pushed down.

Additionally, by minimising overstaffing with the use of workforce management software, companies achieve a reduction in labour costs and administrative personnel reduce costs by making fewer payroll errors and spending less time with tasks related to correcting those errors.

There may also be less costs due to fewer bank fees generated because of errors, plus reduced overtime pay, and reduced payroll costs through optimised scheduling.

Lastly, with the use of the right tool, manager productivity is increased through reduced time spent scheduling the workforce and processing timesheets.

Meet compliance requirements

Workforce management software is not just about scheduling, absenteeism or vacation tracking.

Instead, when companies implement workforce management solutions as part of their processes, they get an added benefit: as compliance rules and other labour laws became more strictly enforced, WFM software helps them to identify potential HR issues that could result in fines or litigation, and meet compliance requirements.

Workforce Management

Improve service delivery

Effective workforce management brings improved service delivery as a by-product.
This is due to fostering a high-efficiency corporate culture in addition to using workforce management technology and creating automated and streamlined processes and procedures.

What this all means is that employees that are highly engaged also tend to deliver better service, and serve their colleagues more efficiently.

Workforce management software enables efficiency of staff allocations for companies who sell man hours, and this drastically improves overall service delivery.

Your customers benefit from your automated and streamlined processes because you are able to manage your human resources more effectively.

Effective workforce management increases efficiency

When the right technology and processes are put into place, operations run a lot more smoothly.

For example, the old-fashioned time and attendance systems can’t measure up to Biometrics, which eliminates theft of time and decreases staffing overhead. It cuts out buddy punching, unnecessary time spent by clocking in and out, as well as the reconciliation of paper timesheets.

Managers are automatically kept informed about who’s in and who’s out at any location, and over and under postings are easily identifiable so that action can be taken immediately.

Effective workforce management:

  • Automates the most time consuming tasks so your resources can spend more time on other more important things.
  • Substantially decreases human error in Payroll, HR, and Quality Assurance departments and eliminates excess costs. Even complex payment systems can be adhered to with precision.

Now, before we get to the real meat of this article, we need to understand what’s happening in the workforce management area right now, and how it’s evolved, because it’s evolution impacts your organisation, and if you implement steps around it, your company will be rewarded with happy, highly engaged employees who are productive.

Ready? Let’s go.

Human Resources and People Networking Concept

Workforce management evolution

Workforce management started evolving with technology, but things have accelerated specifically over the last few years, in terms of people, technology and mobility. It’s essential to know about the changes to plan accordingly:

The people

Traditionally speaking, the industries whose core businesses revolve around workforce management, have not typically given much of a voice to it’s people.
People in those types of careers live with uncertainty about when they are working next, because schedules are more often than not only posted a couple of days in advance. Whatever they planned to do needs to be cancelled, as their needs and desires are routinely not catered for.

And up until recently, staff accepted this, even if they were not happy about it, so the organisation always won.

Workforce Management

But the rise of the Millennial (18 – 35 year olds) has forever changed that. Employees are becoming more demanding and when they are not happy in their work, a company won’t keep them as they are quick to leave, making employee retention a primary target for many companies. Due to technology, Millennial workers want clear, open channels and instant communication, and they want to feel valued, and purpose driven. They also demand control over their lives.

Essentially, combined with the forward surge of technology, Millennials require a new way of doing things, because these people are a lot more individualistic; willing to switch jobs frequently to get what they want.

How does this impact your business?

In terms of workforce management and Millenials, your business must strive to create a positive employee experience, that takes into account their needs and desires. If you do so, you will be able to hold onto them for longer, and this decreases costs and impacts service delivery. The happiest employees also tend to work harder than unhappy employees.

The bottom line? Empower your organisation with the right processes, culture and software, and your workforce will also be empowered as a result.

Technology

Technology has had a huge and positive impact on workforce management, and best of all, WFM software is affordable.

Advances in technology allow for better integration and robust security.

Technology provides organisations with the ability to automate and streamline operational processes, cutting out wasted time and costs dramatically. No more are companies reliant on the old Excel spreadsheet and all the effort and frustration that the old, outdated way entails.

How does this impact your business?

Technological advances is great news for companies whose core business revolves around selling man hours, or managing a workforce, because workforce management software simplifies the process, empowers management, saves time and kills human error. (We’ll get into more detail about software a little later in this article).

Workforce Management Technology

Workforce management goals to strive for

The objective of workforce management is to get the right number of people and the right workers, in the right place at the right time, doing the right tasks.
In order to achieve this objective, the organisation needs to develop strategic workforce planning around:

  • Developing a high performance culture.
  • Structured processes and procedures.
  • Hiring the right staff.
  • Using the right workforce management technology to automate time and attendance and employee scheduling and simplify the management of absences and leave.

Let’s get into each area a little more:

#1: Workforce management technology

If you had to choose just one of the areas to achieve the objective of workforce management, and to experience the greatest impact to the business in the shortest period of time, it would be to implement workforce management technology like EasyRoster.

Workforce management software (WFM) is an automated set of processes that optimise productivity, reporting and payroll. WFM software allows for effectively forecasting staffing requirements and creating and managing staff schedules to accomplish tasks.

Workforce planning software:

  • Eliminates human error.
  • Substantially improves productivity of both manager and employee, because repetitive tasks are automated, and employees are able to access schedules with a simple click.
  • Minimises wage costs.
  • Allows for no buddy punching because of Biometrics (fingerprint scanning).
  • Time and attendance and scheduling of employees can be done on any device from anywhere in the world.
  • Simplifies leave management and absences.
  • With just a click, management can view the status of any site at multiple locations.
  • Ensures that clients get what they pay for.

What are the features of workforce management software?

Contract management

Contract details for every site/location are captured and maintained in the system for easy viewing and so that all relevant parties can access them.

Employee details

All employee details are entered into the system. Some tools (like EasyRoster) allow for information to be captured and viewed by both HR and the Operations departments.

Schedule employees per location

Scheduling of employees can be done manually or automatically, and per location which is essential for companies who sell man hours.

Time and attendance for each location

Capture time and attendance per person, per location.

Reporting to keep on top of things

Get reports with many different views, and which highlight any rostering errors, for example, incorrect number of people, or grades/skills. Find out projected and actual costs of wages, for each location, overtime, non-productive time, how profitable each site is and so on.

Reports help managers stay in control of daily operations to keep costs to a minimum.

Clocking technology integration

Software should integrate with clocking technology in order to keep processes as automated as possible.

Biometrics/RFID/Proximity card technologies eliminates fraud

Either biometric (finger print or facial recognition), RFID or proximity card technologies are used in the checking-in process at each site, so that buddy punching is eliminated.

Management alerted when staff arrive or leave

There is no need for management to manually check up on the status of multiple locations, as the system alerts relevant parties to know who’s checked in and out.
Systems can be set up to alert management when staff attendance does not meet requirements.

#2: High performance culture

Organisations with highly engaged employees consistently outperform companies who don’t. This is because highly engaged employees create a high performance organisational culture, which leads to higher profits.

What does “highly engaged employees” mean? It’s the emotional attachment that employees have towards the company they work for; how passionate they are about their jobs, how committed they are to the organisation, and how much effort they put into their work. It’s the difference between how proud they are of the work they do, or lack of pride.

Gallup says, “Organizations have more success with engagement and improve business performance when they treat employees as stakeholders of their own future and the company’s future. “

Happy Employees

While many companies classify employee engagement as staff feeling happy or unhappy, it’s actually a lot more than that. John Baldoni, leadership educator at Harvard Business Review, describes engaged employees as: “People who want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know their work contributes to the success of the organisation.”

And that does not mean the motivation is self-driven. Instead, it is the company’s responsibility to create that kind of atmosphere by design.

How?

  1. Employees need to understand how their role fits into the bigger picture of the company, and how the overall mission applies to their individual role.
  2. Processes must be standardised so that staff know what’s expected of them from the get-go.
  3. Communication is key. Provide clarity where needed and communicate everything relevant to make all employees feel they are genuinely a valued part of the company.
  4. Give staff what they need to do their jobs well.

Setting up a high engagement culture is especially important for staff who work remotely, or on client’s sites; this is because it’s easier for them to move away from the company emotionally, and this is not a good thing in terms of brand management – when employees are on-site, it is absolutely essential to keep them highly engaged with the company, because it’s easy for them to do a dishonour to your brand while they work for clients.

For example, gossiping to the client about how “bad” their company is, coming late for work, dressing badly, acting badly etc. – that is all your problem and it will affect your brand’s reputation.

You want to keep those staff engaged with lots of communication, interaction and team-building events, and most importantly, by helping them to understand their value and their role on-site.

When employees feel engaged to the organisation they work for, you can expect the following benefits:

  • Less absenteeism.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Lower staff turnover.
  • Greater commitment to quality.
  • Increased customer satisfaction.
  • Higher profits.

The results of highly engaged employees obviously makes the entire workforce management process a lot easier and far more effective.

#3: Processes and procedures

Developing processes and procedures describes the establishment of a set of rules that govern how people in a company are supposed to complete any given task or a sequence of tasks.

Processes and procedures can be applied to any task or procedure that is relevant to the business, such as how to answer the phone, how to do payroll, how to name documents, how to lay placements at tables, and so on.

Some of the major benefits of standardising processes and procedures are as follows:

  • Provides clarity and eliminates guesswork and doing things in a way that is not beneficial.
  • Guarantees quality and consistency of how certain tasks must be completed.
    Saves time when new people are employed, because they can simply be pointed towards the process instead of needing to spend time teaching them.
  • Boosts employee morale because everyone knows what’s expected of them, and how to do things.
  • Customer service is dramatically improved because staff perform tasks with the same consistent quality, even if tasks are allocated to different people.

A popular example of process standardisation is McDonalds, who prides itself on making sure that every piece of food, no matter the location, has the same taste as customers expect, and is served the exact same way, no matter the location.

By implementing processes and procedures, the business minimises the chance that crucial details will be overlooked.

In a very broad sense, processes are associated with leaner, high performance, cutting waste and using resources more intelligently.

Hiring the right staff

#4: Hiring the right staff

If you want to make workforce management easier, then it makes sense to start by hiring the right staff.

Hiring the right staff though, is dependent on your company’s overall values, so business strategy needs to drive the recruitment process.

What are the company’s values? To live up to those values, what are the desired character traits of the people you want to employ? These are the types of questions to ask when a business is trying to design a desired culture.

What’s important is that all parties involved in the hiring process are able to identify critical characteristics that gel well with the culture.

Major benefits of hiring for culture fit include:

  • Employees who fit well with the company, coworkers, and management.
  • Greater job satisfaction.
  • Low turnover rates.
  • Superior job performance.

Hiring the right staff simplifies the workforce management process, saves time, boosts morale as a team, and reduces costs.

Most important points to remember

The objective of workforce management is to get the right number of people and the right workers, in the right place at the right time, doing the right tasks.

In order to achieve this, every business requires strategic planning to understand how employees fit into the vision of the company.

To achieve the biggest impact in the shortest period of time, using the right WFM technology is key. After that, hiring the right staff, and setting up automated and streamlined processes and procedures will accomplish the overall objective of effective workforce management.

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Albert Brits

Albert Brits

Albert co-founded EasyRoster Software in 1995 and helped grow the business to where it is today. Albert has over 25 years of experience in Workforce Management and Software development which has helped the EasyRoster team build one of the best WFM systems on the market today.