Staffing Management

Defining workforce management: Leading teams for success

By Jana Reserva

Jun. 23, 2020

In 1922, James R. Angell, president of Yale University and the Carnegie Corp., led a joint initiative between the Engineering Foundation and the National Research Council. The goal was to take workforce science to new heights through unifying modern engineering, labor, management, and educational bodies. It has given birth to what we know today as Workforce.com and workforce management.

Since then, the team behind Workforce have delved deep into the science behind workforce management — from productivity, labor regulations, workforce challenges to the evolution of work. All of these insights have been put into practice with a full-featured workforce management platform that is being used by companies across the world.

The anatomy of effective workforce management 

So what is workforce management? Based on almost a century’s worth of research and study, we identified three main components that are crucial at effectively leading teams. Each of them requires a unique approach, but as a whole these areas should function seamlessly. Let’s look at each of them. 

Operations. When talking about workforce management, the first thing that comes to mind is operations management. It is all about making sure that quality output is created, within the given timeframe and resources in an organization. This involves planning and organizing. Some of the processes are creating employee schedules, timekeeping, output management and budget forecasting. 

Labor compliance. Labor regulations govern workforces around the world. These laws are set to protect workers and regulate certain business practices concerning the welfare of employees such as wages, work conditions and employment relationships. 

Labor regulations can differ by country or region, and these are taken into account in company employment rules and policies. While increasingly difficult to remain compliant, failure to do so can mean costly penalties that can greatly damage not just an organization’s bottom line but also its reputation. 

Employee engagement. Employee engagement is an area of workforce management that focuses on enabling employees to perform their best in alignment with their individual purpose and the objectives of the organization as whole. 

Employee engagement is typically correlated with happiness with work. But it’s important to note that they are not one in the same. Happiness at work is just one of the byproducts of good employee engagement.  To achieve good employee engagement, there has to be a clear communication in the workforce — from onboarding to getting the job done. 

Also read: How to make your onboarding process engaging and easy

Debunking common workforce management myths

Workforce management can spell success or failure for an organization. Let’s look at some of the common beliefs that can hinder success for an organization. 

It’s just scheduling. While creating schedules is an important part of workforce management, it’s not just all there is. It has a lot of moving parts that are tightly integrated with each other. This includes timekeeping, budget forecasting and engaging employees. 

Also read: Leave management should be as simple as submit, approve and hit the beach

It can be done manually or using spreadsheets. This can be done manually, but such an option can be prone to mistakes. One wrong value input can mess up the entire sheet and end up being counterproductive. It can result in wasted time to find the problem. 

It is easier for smaller organizations. There are many factors at play in workforce management, and one of them is company size. But that doesn’t mean that a smaller organization has it easier than a big corporation. Each organization, regardless of size, has its own unique sets of goals, objectives and needs. And all of these come into play when managing the workforce. What makes it easier or harder is not just how many employees they have but also the alignment of roles, resources and objectives.

Upskilling or training can lead to more skills and less staff. Nurturing the potential of staff is vital in workforce management, but developing their skills and training them to gain new ones doesn’t necessarily mean a lesser need for staff. 

There needs to be a balance in mentoring staff to be able to do more and making sure that they still have the space to master their newly acquired skills. Leaders need to be careful not to unnecessarily push staff from task to task or they can risk driving them to burnout. 

Culture doesn’t have an impact on business performance or bottom line. Culture is one of the vital components that sets the tone for employee engagement. A company may have a strong set of policies but it will all be for nothing when the culture doesn’t sit well with the employees. It can lead to high turnover rates, lower productivity and overall low workforce morale, which can all impact the bottom line.

Also read: Give managers the time they need to sharpen up their all-around skills

It’s a one-time deal. Establishing processes for operations, labor compliance and employee engagement is a good start. But workforce management continuously evolves. There are always changes that will influence the needs of an organization and leaders need to be quick to adapt to those changes. Optimizing is constant in workforce management, and it’s something that leaders need to pay more attention to. 

Setting up the workforce for success

Workforce management involves many processes that can be daunting and time-consuming for managers or team leaders. Here are some best practices that can make workforce management more efficient.

Use a workforce management platform. Leverage technology for the admin tasks involved in workforce management. Use a workforce management platform to accurately keep track of attendance, automate timesheet to payroll processing, scheduling, time-off management, and to make sure that labor laws are accounted for in computing for pay.

An effective workforce management platform goes beyond borders and allows for teams to work together no matter where they are. Go for a solution that can be accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device. 

Before going for a workforce management solution, it’s imperative to look at your needs as an organization. According to the Workforce Management Trends for Hourly Workers, 46 percent of respondents say that poor integration with other systems is a shortcoming of their current workforce management platform. Avoid this type of challenge by understanding your requirements and considering ease of use for staff. 

Monitor and optimize. Workforce management is all about maintaining efficiency and employee well-being. One advantage of automation is having data and analytics that can be a source of insights as to how you can optimize your operations and what areas you can improve on. Analyze your data and make informed decisions about how you can improve productivity and employee engagement in your organization. 

Listen to your employees. Communication is key to a successful workforce. Always keep channels open to your employees. Since staff are always on the front lines, it pays to listen to them to gain better insight on customer service, identify operational gaps, and improve working conditions for staff. 

Effective workforce management is all about employing smart solutions to spend less time on repetitive tasks and paperwork and more time on improving the business and empowering staff for success. It’s all about creating value for customers and employees alike. 

Jana Reserva is a content manager for Workforce.com.

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