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If you’re in charge of a workforce, there’s bound to be a lot of responsibilities weighing on your shoulders. First and foremost, you have to ensure that the right people, with the right skills, are being set the right tasks. It’s essential that your workforce has the support and the guidance it needs to flourish, and that your business isn’t full of square pegs in round holes.
This is where workforce management comes in. Fundamentally, workforce management is about making sure the right processes are in place to ensure that employee productivity is maximised. In short, that the respective members of the team are tasked with the appropriate job. There are various workforce management tools to help firms make the most of their employees’ skills.
In this guide, we’ll provide you with a concise but detailed introduction to workforce management. We’ll start by defining it and then explain just why it’s so important to businesses. Then, we’ll take you through the key WFM processes, discuss the benefits of workforce management, and which industries can make the best use of it.
Finally, we’ll conclude by discussing workforce management software, and explaining how RingCentral can help your business with employee engagement, thereby allowing your team to deliver an even better standard of customer service.
What is workforce management (WFM)?
Workforce management (or WFM), in a nutshell, is concerned with allocating individual workers with a particular set of skills to the tasks that best align with those skills. All in order to meet customer and client demand. The objective is to balance workload more efficiently, maximise productivity, and streamline costs at the same time, all while ensuring customers’ needs are met.
The term ‘workforce management’ has come to encompass a range of interconnected processes, which we’ll discuss in more detail subsequently. Together, these processes are intended to optimise workforce productivity and resource management, ensuring the best possible use of the labour force while also allowing for more accurate forecasting of staffing requirements.
There are numerous WFM systems now in use by businesses. These can include mobile apps that have features such as self-service shift trading, allowing employees to view their own impending schedules and those of colleagues and to request any changes. The goal, ultimately, is to eradicate poor customer service while ensuring good employee engagement.
Why is workforce management important?
Workforce management matters a great deal. It’s often said that the most important resources are human resources, and there’s certainly a great deal of truth in that. This is why so many businesses devote so much attention to the employee experience as well as customer satisfaction. Increasingly, businesses realise that there’s a positive correlation between the two.
The main reason workforce management is crucially important, therefore, is that it enables firms to ensure not only that the right numbers of staff are on hand to help customers and maintain service levels, but that staff with the right skills are available. In addition, workforce management solutions also gather data providing key insights into staff performance.
WFM is particularly important in environments where high volumes of customer enquiries are continually coming in – such as in a call centre or a contact centre, for example. With WFM, it’s much easier to forecast the number of calls and provide the right number of staff – with the appropriate skills – to match. It allows firms to make better staffing decisions, informed by robust historical data and performance metrics.
All businesses saw during the COVID-19 pandemic how fragile staffing levels, and thus the maintenance of good customer service standards, can be. Workforce management, therefore, makes it easier for firms to make sure that enough staff, and the right staff, are available to meet customers’ needs, come what may.
Workforce management processes
As we noted earlier, workforce management covers a range of related processes. Workforce management software encompasses human capital management (HCM) tasks, including the following:
1. Staff scheduling.
With WFM software, companies can use automation to determine staff based on a number of relevant variables, such as workload, availability, holidays, and absences. Prior to the introduction of WFM, scheduling had to be done manually—a time-consuming and inefficient process.
2. Timesheets and time tracking.
Workforce management systems allow firms to track employees’ punctuality and attendance, which in turn can enable them to determine staffing patterns. They can use these insights to better anticipate changes in customer demand, and plan on-premises staffing rotas with this in mind. It also helps them to uncover persistent issues with timekeeping and attendance.
3. Forecasting and budgeting.
Following on from the previous point, workforce management makes it much easier to forecast. staffing requirements. I.e., which staff you’ll need, how many of them, and when. It also makes budgeting simpler, so businesses can determine what staffing levels they can afford at certain times.
As with manual staff scheduling, manual payroll administration—the traditional way of doing things—can be highly inefficient (as well as being more prone to error, with its associated financial costs). Workforce management, with audit-ready custom reports, timesheet, and payroll syncing, and instant payment options, makes the payroll process far simpler and more efficient.
Businesses that fail to comply with the applicable labour laws in their particular jurisdiction may risk heavy fines or even legal action by employees themselves. WFM helps to reduce this risk substantially by simplifying compliance with appropriate labour standards, training and certification, sick leave, healthcare requirements, and so on.
6. Leave planning.
With workforce management software, it’s much easier to keep track of which members of staff are taking holidays and when. Requests for time off and approvals can be handled via WFM software solutions, allowing employers to keep a watchful eye on staffing availability at any one time.
7. Employee performance management
By providing detailed insights into employee engagement, workforce management facilitates better employee performance management. Employers are provided with a more comprehensive understanding of what makes individual staff members tick, including work-life balance, and which rewards they might respond positively to.
Benefits of workforce management
Workforce management has a raft of potential benefits for businesses, including the ones we’ve already mentioned. It can, potentially, allow businesses to cut labour costs, enhance efficiency through better planning, and deliver improved standards of customer service by allocating the appropriate staff to meet demand at the right times.
It also enables businesses to make better, more data-driven decisions. That’s by providing them with detailed insights into how they operate and highlighting any areas for potential improvement, including time management. In addition, it helps them plan more effectively, using hypothetical what-if scenarios to determine how they might respond to particular situations.
Firms can also draw on historical data to create future forecasts, better enabling them to ensure that staffing levels are adequate to meet changing patterns of consumer demand. The use of real-time analysis, meanwhile, can help businesses allocate the right staff to the right jobs as and when they’re needed to meet customers’ needs.
Which industries can benefit from workforce management?
Workforce management can have benefits across a variety of different sectors and industries. Indeed, any business that has its own contact centre could derive multiple uses from it. There are, though, some sectors that can derive particular benefits from adopting it.
Businesses in the hospitality and retail trades, as well as the financial sector, are among the most enthusiastic adopters and exponents of WFM. In more recent years, the public sector, too, has increasingly adopted workforce management techniques, as it attempts to ameliorate the effects of spending cuts and adapt to lower budgets.
For retail and hospitality, meanwhile, hanging on to talented and experienced staff can be difficult. This is partly because working in these sectors can be such a challenge. As such, a lot of retail and hospitality businesses struggle to recruit and retain staff. Workforce management is helping them boost retention rates, making life easier for employers and their staff alike.
However, in listing sectors such as the aforementioned as the prime beneficiaries of workforce management to date, we don’t mean to suggest that only these sectors potentially stand to benefit from it. There are many other niches where businesses have successfully introduced WFM systems, including utilities and insurance.
Workforce management software
Businesses are increasingly turning to workforce management and field service management software to help them make the most effective use of their staff. WFM solutions are increasingly technologically advanced, incorporating artificial intelligence and various other types of functionality to help businesses go the extra mile.
The rise of cloud computing, too, has led to the growing take-up of workforce management systems. While WFM itself isn’t anything radically new – the processes it covers have, in some cases, been in place for decades – WFM software is helping to ensure that these processes are better integrated, enhancing efficiency and customer service.
In choosing the right workforce management software, there are various factors you should consider. You’ll need to ensure you choose a software solution that’s easy and intuitive to use, with a well-designed user interface that even relative novices can get to grips with. You’ll need a solution, too, that offers finely detailed, real-time reports and that’s scalable enough to meet the overall requirements of your business.
You also can’t afford to neglect employee engagement, in particular. RingCentral understands that engaged employees equal happier customers and, in turn, higher profitability. RingCentral’s one-stop business communications solution can help your team communicate more effectively, thus improving workflow and overall customer service.
Originally published Jun 02, 2021, updated Apr 16, 2023