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Workforce management (WFM) is an integrated set of processes that a company uses to optimize the productivity of its employees. WFM involves effectively forecasting labor requirements and creating and managing staff schedules to accomplish a particular task on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis.

Importance of workforce management

WFM systems enable organizations to gain insights into such business metrics as the exact number of employees needed to complete a particular job at a given time of the day, week or month. It also helps track employees’ daily performance.

For example, in a contact center, WFM helps maximize the use of agent labor by forecasting the volume of transactions — calls, messages or emails — and scheduling the correct number of agents with the proper skills at the right time to handle the expected volume of transactions.

Workforce management processes

A comprehensive workforce management system encompasses a range of activities within the broader framework of human resource management (HRM), such as:

  • Forecasting and budgeting – Forecasting is knowing how many and the type of staff resources are needed for a particular project during a certain time of the year, such as increased seasonal or holiday demand. Budgeting is knowing how much staff a company can afford to have on hand. WFM allows companies to use calculated forecasts to optimize staff deployment and balance workload as labor demands change. 
  • Staff scheduling – Scheduling is a significant aspect of WFM as it allows companies to automate staffing based on all business variables, such as vacations, availability, workload and absences. In the past, staff scheduling was done manually. Without a solid WFM system, this was time consuming, inefficient and often left companies understaffed in times of critical need.
  • Time and attendance – Tracking time and attendance using WFM tools and processes reveals attendance patterns and helps companies better predict changes in demand and manage planned and unplanned staff absences and/or leaves. By analyzing WFM data, companies can pinpoint potential gaps in coverage, improve payroll accuracy and address chronic absentee and tardiness issues.
  • Employee performance management – WFM gives businesses a better understanding of employee engagement levels so they can better focus on what drives employee productivity. Understanding how individual staff members work helps employers to reward employees who exceed expectations in a manner that aligns with what they value most.
  • Compliance – Compliance tracking is one of the most complicated and potentially costly areas of WFM. Non-compliance with state, federal and local employment laws can result in fines and employee lawsuits. Compliance issues also include the tracking of required certifications and training for specific roles, missed breaks, labor standards, family/sick leave requirements and union agreements.
  • Payroll and benefits administration – WFM reduces manual payroll and benefits administration with The availability of audit-ready custom reports makes payroll processes and queries quicker and easier. Workforce management also allows for instant payment options, such as end of shift payments, and syncing of timesheets to payroll.
  • Vacation and leave planning – WFM tools and processes allow companies to track staffing levels and digitally handle time-off requests and approvals. Through the use of automation and data analysis, companies can use WFM for management and tracking of leave balances, paid time off (PTO), absences, time-off calendars, schedule conflicts and banked time.

Benefits of workforce management

The potential benefits of using a WFM system include improved employee productivity, better labor planning, lower operational cost, efficient time and attendance tracking and better customer service.