Workforce management has become a buzzword in the business world. Even so, putting a buzzword into practice in an office setting isn’t an easy task. Effective workforce coordination can provide the edge needed to adapt and thrive in a constantly evolving marketplace.
A business should develop a workforce management strategy that:
- maximizes individual and collective output;
- raises standards across the office;
- and enhances flexibility and response speed to changing situations.
It doesn’t even have to be rocket science. A simplified approach that prioritizes clarity of roles and purpose over needless complexity will work best for everyone. You just need to keep a few guiding principles in mind while developing an effective workforce management strategy for your organization.
What Is Workforce Management?
Before anything else, let’s discuss the meaning of workforce management. Also referred to as WFM, this institutional process is designed to get the most out of a company’s human resources. It is a set of systems and procedures that optimally matches skills with schedules to realize the best productive outcome possible.
The strategy can include processes such as field service management, human resource management, performance monitoring, and training management. You can also factor in data collection, recruiting, budgeting, forecasting, scheduling, and analytics.
A workforce manager is responsible for assigning tasks to the people who can do them best. When everyone is given roles they’re adept at, not only will the business flourish, the workplace will also be in harmony.
The Importance of Workforce Management
Workforce management developed from singular origins into a model with widespread usage across various industries. The growth can be attributed to the positive relationship between good employee management and customer satisfaction.
Here are some reasons why much importance is, or should be, placed on effective workforce coordination:
- It ensures that the right person is always available for a given task. This will likely increase the company’s productivity. The speed and quality of work are sure to go up when people with the right skills for a given job are assigned to that task.
- It leads to better customer satisfaction. Your clients are more likely to be happy when their requests are handled by employees who know what they’re doing and are the best at their job.
- It helps to reduce wastage and streamline operation costs because tasks can be optimally assigned.
- It helps the company stay on the right side of the law.
- It contributes to a happy work environment since everyone is doing what they’re good at. Also, it reduces the chances of some people being underemployed and others being overworked.
This is why effectively coordinating the workplace is crucial enough that it’s a specialist role in some organizations.
Workforce Management Processes to Keep in Mind
Effective employee management comprises certain activities that collectively track, incentivize, and allocate productivity in the office. These include:
- Forecasting – Predicting outcomes and required input based on current output and level of productivity.
- Budgeting – Allocating company resources for current and upcoming projects.
- Performance monitoring and management – Tailoring employee performance to the company’s goals and needs.
- Scheduling management – Arranging work and other activities such as time-offs in a sequence that optimizes productivity.
- Data collection and analytics – Using real-time employee statistics to make informed judgments and recommendations.
- Time management – Obtaining employees’ productivity benchmarks using time and activity tracking. With the collected data, managers can make informed forecasts and optimize role allocation.
- Recruitment and training management – Tailoring new intakes to specific organizational needs and upgrading the skills of current employees through training programs.
These processes form the bulk of workforce management and exist within the broader field of human resources management.
How to Effectively Manage a Workforce
There’s no hard and fast rule about how to plan your business. However, the company’s needs and the capabilities of the employees must form the core of any strategy. These nine tips will help you to develop a practical and coherent approach towards managing the employees.
1. Assign Roles to People with the Right Skills
Every successful workforce management strategy begins with this principle. People are the core of any business and finding the right person for a task while enabling structure around them is a sure banker. Your customers will surely relish the efficient service
It can be tempting to reserve critical roles for workplace friends or employees you’re comfortable with. However, competence, along with reliability, should be the most prized characteristic in the workplace. Familiarity won’t grow your business—quality will.
Don’t be afraid to take an unscheduled dip into the labor market if you have to. The business might take a small hit because of it, but the cost of putting a task in the wrong hands will be even higher.
Beyond picking the best people for available roles, creating a schedule that maximizes the time they spend on what they’re good at is very critical.
2. Understand Your Employees
Just hiring the right people isn’t a guarantee that your business will succeed. They may not be the right person when certain factors are thrown into the mix. Personal, familial, or health considerations can stop a valuable employee from being available or productive when you need them.
In a small business, it’s important to gain a good knowledge of any situation that might impact productivity. This way, you can have time to formulate an appropriate plan to mitigate any loss of output.
Let’s say Mary and Virginia are two valuable members of your workforce. They are due to proceed on maternity leave in a few weeks. It would be bad workforce planning to wait until they’re gone before scrambling around for a substitute.
3. Pay Attention to Your Market
A good workforce manager must observe the market, forecast trends, and pivot the workforce accordingly. This could be by training employees to handle a new technology that impacts the industry before it goes mainstream. They can also test a new schedule strategy that could be potentially more effective.
Meanwhile, employees should be primed to respond to seasonal changes. More staff should be available to handle the increased volume during the peak holiday period, for example.
Questions like these can help you to better maximize your workforce around customer needs:
- What do the customers need most at this time?
- How have their needs evolved?
- Is there more or less demand for this product/service?
4. Let Technology Help You
The days of pen and paper have sailed away into the past—at least when it comes to managing your workforce. There’s only so much you can do with manual management methods, not to mention the strain on your limbs, eyes, and mind.
Replace your simple Excel spreadsheet with an automated tracking and activity monitoring tool and watch productivity go through the roof. There’s no need to settle for less when business optimization software can offer you so much more.
The correct activity tracker will give you the following benefits:
- Real-time employee activity tracking from wherever you are and wherever they are.
- Non-intrusive tracking that prevents workplace distraction.
- Protection against privacy breaches through robust data encryption.
- Visual testimony of employee activity through background screenshots and videos.
- Detailed timesheets that measure time-based activity levels.
- Individual and collective activity reports at your convenience.
5. Make Educated Forecasts
Business tools will do more than tell you which employees are the most productive and what hours of the day little or no work gets done. You can use the reports in conjunction with customer data to prepare for times of peak demand and preemptively slot in the top-performing employees to hold down the fort.
By making informed judgments on what is likely to happen and when you can optimize workforce productivity. You can ensure that the right people are in the right place at the right time.
6. Don’t Just Give Orders – Communicate
Effective communication is the icing on the cake of effective workforce management. In many ways, the success or failure of a business boils down to whether the employees feel invested in what they’re doing. Communicating the company’s broader goals, as well as the purpose of a specific task or target is a great way to make everyone in the office feel a sense of belonging.
Foster a culture where ideas and information are freely shared both vertically and horizontally. Make sure that instructions are accurately conveyed and understood. If you need to contact an employee outside working hours, use an official medium that doesn’t interfere with their personal space.
When you communicate effectively in the workplace, you can achieve the following:
- Provide clarity and purpose
- Bridge the gap with employees
- Boost employee motivation
- Foster a positive work culture
- Create a chain of accountability
Make yourself friendly and approachable and keep all communication channels open. As a result, you’ll be better prepared to receive positive feedback or deal with ethical issues in the workplace.
7. Strike a Balance Between Fixed and Flexible Schedules
A stable schedule does more than settle the company into a routine. It helps the employees to plan their day, the managers to set natural deadlines, and customers to maintain reasonable expectations
However, if there’s a good reason, don’t be afraid to shake things up a little. A fresh schedule now and then will keep everyone on their toes, generate excitement, renew motivation, prevent stress and boredom. You can also use it to optimize the workforce and save costs.
When adjusting a schedule, consideration and communication are important. Everyone affected should get ample notice before the new routine takes effect.
When COVID struck, many companies, not knowing how to handle the new reality, simply sank without a trace. Others, better prepared or quickly adapting, went on being profitable. There’s probably not going to be another pandemic anytime soon but that doesn’t mean your company won’t face situations that require a novel approach to resolve.
Technology has made it easier to be more flexible with work. This practice can enhance productivity, reduce overhead, save time and increase work-life balance. Beyond that, it alleviates some of the psychological pressures associated with on-site work.
Your employees will be happier with a more flexible schedule, and so will you. Giving workers more control over their work hours unlocks a new level of enthusiasm and loyalty. At the end of the year, their motivation will translate into better output for your company.
9. Hire the Right People
There are two kinds of good additions to the workforce. The first type comes in with fire in their bellies, disrupting a stagnant culture and shaking the environment with their exemplary work ethic. The second type slots seamlessly into a well-oiled machine with no drop in quality in sight.
Remember that you’re not just hiring someone: you’re hiring them to work with other people. Compatibility with current employees should be considered when selecting a new hire. Try to make them buy into the company’s culture, values, and goals. This will foster staff retention.
Nowadays, as more and more people are shifting to remote work, employee monitoring apps are becoming a common solution to tracking the work time of employees and calculating billable hours accurately and effectively.
Workforce management combines business evaluation, activity tracking, time management, forecasting, and other processes in the service of organizational goals.
Employees are central to the concept. It’s all about matching each worker with what they’re most suited for at any given point in time. Effective workforce management takes place when the business achieves maximum productivity, customer satisfaction, and employee happiness with minimal costs.
For this reason, it should be a staple of any business that desires to optimize resources. The tips in this guide, along with the right workforce management tools, should help with managing and retaining productive employees.