Jump to section
Your HR team has probably been through a roller coaster.
In the last two years, many global workforces shut down their offices. The pandemic forced companies to quickly shift to remote or hybrid work. Many organizations had never managed a workforce entirely from home.
In these moments, HR professionals everywhere kept the lights on with good workforce management. How? Hard work, adaptability, and working across leadership to create new workforce strategies. They also leaned on their systems for workforce management.
Workforce management (WFM) systems have been around long before the pandemic. But with the rapid disruption to the way that we work, effective workforce management has proven to be more important than ever.
Workforce management is like the motherboard behind the operations. A good WFM system and strategy help the company excel with the workers the business needs to perform.
What is workforce management and why is it beneficial?
Your human resources team has a big job. If your business is an orchestra, HR is the conductor. Recruiting, onboarding, and new hire tasks. Time management and staff scheduling, workforce planning, leave administration, and employee productivity. Forecasting, human capital management, and employee scheduling.
These are just some of the things that make up workforce management.
What is workforce management?
Workforce management is a set of processes or a system that helps the company run efficiently. It also helps the company manage its people, processes, and systems effectively. Workforce management systems help these processes run more efficiently and create a smoother employee experience.
It’s likely your organization has some form of workforce management in place. It’s also possible that you’d like to improve workforce management at your organization. So, what’s the benefit? It sounds like a lot of work to put together an efficient system that ties all of these components together. But doing so will support your people management and can benefit the business overall.
An improved employee experience
There’s no shortage of ways to get work done. But sometimes, the more options you have, the more confusing it can be for employees. With the right workforce management system, you can help streamline the employee experience.
An efficient workforce management strategy can help improve communication and autonomy, especially across teams. While HR might take the bulk of the work, it’s possible that your organization has other key stakeholders in other departments.
With a solution that makes connections between tasks, processes, and systems, you can change the way your teams communicate. It’ll likely help lessen the load on your internal communications team as well.
Increased employee engagement and productivity
Let’s say you have an employee named Bob. Bob knows when his shift starts, when he can expect a paycheck, and how to submit for his weekly expenses. This is a sign of a good workforce management system and a good employee experience.
But what happens when Bob doesn't receive his paycheck on time? Or what happens if Bob doesn't know how to enroll in benefits — or find his coverage details? Well, Bob gets frustrated.
When employees are having a good experience, they’re more likely to be more engaged. Better employee engagement leads to increased productivity. These benefits are all beautiful ripple effects of a strong workforce management strategy.
Elements of a successful workforce management strategy
Each workforce management strategy is unique to the organization. Every company has different needs, different demographics, and a unique workforce. Generally speaking, there are common elements to a successful workforce management strategy.
- Recruiting or applicant tracking system
- Time management (including handling time and staff scheduling)
- Human capital management (HCM)
- Forecasting and budgeting
- Benefits management and enrollment
- Data reporting, analytics, and other key metrics
- Compliance (including mitigating compliance risk)
- Learning management system
- Performance management
Of course, depending on your organization, you might also look for other aspects to fold into your WFM strategy. In the last couple years, it’s more important than ever that organizations can complete these operational tasks remotely.
This means many workforce management systems need to be built for flexibility and hybrid work. It’s also important that once the strategy is put into place, your HR teams internally communicate to your employees. Driving awareness and education is a key part of a successful strategy (and is sometimes overlooked).
How to build a workforce management process
Building a workforce management process can seem daunting, especially if you’re starting from scratch.
However, you’ve probably assembled bits and pieces of your process internally. You might have systems and processes in place. But perhaps they aren’t working together as well as they could be. Or, maybe you’re in a place where you want to tear down your current processes and reimagine something new.
Remember, as tempting as it may be to view this as an IT tools and systems issue, a new tool won't help you without a well-considered workforce strategy and leadership committed to it.
No matter what stage you’re in, here’s some guidance on building a workforce management process.
- Assemble the right stakeholders. Your HR team will play a critical role and will likely drive the project forward. But it might require input from various stakeholders across the business, like finance, your leadership team, and more. Rosie Ceja, HR generalist at BetterUp, shares why cross-functional teamwork is critical to the workforce management process.
"As companies grow, it's important the systems can scale and grow along with it. Bringing cross-functional partners into the planning process has been helpful to ensure all stakeholders are aligned on the shared goal. It also helps to ensure shared access and visibility into data, extra eyes on data management, and even shared business processes."
- Establish what’s working well — and what needs work. Take an audit of what aspects of workforce management you may already have in place. Then, assess what’s working well — and what isn’t. Ask for feedback from your employees and encourage open lines of communication. Your HR employees are on the frontlines of workforce management. It’s important to listen to their feedback and adjust accordingly.
- Identify the right system (or systems). This might just be one line item in this guide but it’s a big one. Once you’ve assembled your project dream team and established what you’re looking for, it’s time to find a solution. Do your research and due diligence with tools as there are lot of options out there.
- Standardize procedures and policies. Once you’ve selected a solution (or solutions), standardize your internal policies and procedures. This might entail updating your internal communications with the most up-to-date information. This could also require some general education and awareness to your broader employee base.
- See where automation can play a role. Time is money. If there’s an opportunity to automate low-value tasks, explore it. Your employees’ productivity hinges on the availability of time in their day. If there are ways to make their jobs easier with automation, consider it.
Be careful that you consider the entire effect of automation. You want to avoid optimizing HR at the expense of the organization. Ensure that you aren't pushing additional work and friction off onto individual employees or managers and taking their attention and energy away from their important work.
- Identify self-service options and functions. Your HR team can’t shoulder every task related to workforce management. They’d be fast on the path to burnout if that were the case. Instead, identify a self-service function to empower employees to complete tasks on their own. By doing so, you’re freeing up your HR teams’ time for more impactful work.
- Formalize strategy based on work environment and offer guidance (in-office, hybrid, and remote). Depending on your company’s approach to future work, your strategy will look different. It’s possible that you might have slightly different strategies based on where (and how) your people work. Consider how hybrid or remote work will play a role in your workforce management strategy.
Workforce management in call centers
Call centers are no strangers to workforce management systems. In order to operate an effective call center, the workforce management system has to be stellar.
There are loads of employees shuffling in and out of call centers, each with fairly rigid schedules and shifts to adhere to. Call centers also typically experience a high volume of inbound calls. This means that forecasting and understanding incoming needs are critically important.
Call center agents also need to be assigned to an appropriate workload — on top of making sure they’re assigned regularly for shifts. With an imbalanced workload, employees (and customers) won’t be happy.
A strong workforce management system can streamline both the employee and customer experience. Respectively, a better experience means increased employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
If your organization is looking for a workforce management system for your call centers, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Can the workforce management system leverage artificial intelligence (AI) or automation to help reduce “busy” work?
- How can the workforce management system reduce frustrating and cumbersome steps in the call center process?
- What ways can a workforce management system capture real-time data and metrics to measure success?
Workforce management software
We know there are plenty of options for trusted workforce management software. We do recommend leaning on up-to-date recommendations from objective sources to find the system that meets the particular needs and priorities of your organization.
We know that each organization has unique needs. There are a number of trusted tools out there designed for a range of organizational structures and priorities, and new tools and updates are coming to market all the time. For example, Trust Radius provides ratings and detailed reviews of the following five workforce management systems.
- UKG Pro
- NICE CXone
- Oracle Cloud HCM
- Ceridian Dayforce
- UKG Ready
It’s always a good idea to socialize with HR leaders and professionals (and peers in your space). What systems are their organizations using? What’s working well, and what isn’t? Go on a listening tour and source software recommendations from trusted professionals in your field.
From there, you can ask for referrals and make connections to a software provider. Explore your options and get quotes. It’s also important to reflect on the initial feedback gathered from your HR employees. Whatever software solution you choose, it should help make their jobs (and lives) easier.
The role of a workforce analyst
Once you’ve created a workforce management system, it’s probably time to think about a workforce analyst.
What’s a workforce analyst?
A workforce analyst is someone who will ownership of WFM software and strategy. Workforce analysts make recommendations to reduce overhead, increase customer satisfaction, and increase employee productivity.
This person often serves as the project manager for everything around workforce management. This includes workforce management policies, optimization, strategy, and even workforce planning.
Benefits of hiring a workforce analyst
Why should you hire a workforce analyst? Just like with any other system and program, it needs nurturing and attention. It needs someone who can track, monitor, and problem-solve should anything arise.
If you’re serious about workforce management, investing in an analyst can ensure your system is getting the care and attention it needs. Having an embedded HR teammate solely dedicated to your WFM strategy is beneficial for a number of reasons.
First, the analyst will likely catch if something is off before the business realizes the impact. The analyst will keep a close eye on data collection, metrics, and real-time feedback from employees. This means that they’re better equipped to problem-solve any bumps in the road earlier rather than later.
Second, the analyst can help implement the workforce management strategy. But even better, they can help evolve it. It’s almost a guarantee that every business has changed rapidly in the last few years. So why wouldn’t your workforce management strategy? An analyst will be able to keep the strategy agile and adjust for any changes (planned or unforeseen).
Should I hire a workforce analyst?
Consult with your human resources team and leaders. Go back to peers and other HR professionals at other organizations. Gather feedback from folks who have already implemented a workforce management strategy.
Rosie Ceja, HR generalist, BetterUp, shared it's probably just as important to have a dedicated workforce management person as it is to have a workforce management system.
"Without a workforce management system, we know we'd drop some balls. But I think it's almost just as important to have an HRIS analyst to help us navigate and learn the system. With a dedicated HRIS manager, the workforce management system can feel less daunting and more manageable for the rest of the HR team."
A learned experience and shared insights will help you make your decision on whether or not you should hire a workforce analyst.
Start your transformation journey
You might be looking to reduce operational costs and streamline efficiency. You might be overhauling your digital strategy and looking for new human resource management tools. Regardless of where you are, it's worth having a discussion around WFM.
You might sift through a number of workforce management tools and approvals to get there. You've got all the resources at your fingertips to find the right workforce management solution. With some time, motivation, and feedback, you can create an exceptional employee and customer experience.
If you do make the leap, it'll be a big change for any organization. Consider the role of coaching while rolling out change management. With BetterUp, you can ensure your employees are well-equipped to handle the change. With coaching, you can support your employees' performance.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.