What is workforce management?

What is workforce management?

A company’s most valuable asset is its workforce. Such a crucial part of business needs to be engaged, communicated with, and managed as effectively and efficiently as possible. Workforce management is an institutional process that maximizes employee performance levels and competency for an organization.

New technologies such as smartphones and enterprise mobility tools like Red e App now allow companies for the first time to incorporate and connect non-desk employees (those without corporate email or who don’t work at a desk), to mobile workforce management and field service management.

This greatly increases the operational control and ability to optimize workforce efficiently across the entire company including various departments, factories, job sites and countries.

How does workforce management work?

Workforce management (WFM) involves making sure you have the right person or team, with the right skills, motivation and ready to work on the right project.

Aside from the two core facets of optimization and demand orientation, workforce management may also include:

  • Engagement of the non-desk workforce
  • Employee participation in the scheduling process
  • Management and coordination of work times, shifts and accounts
  • Analysis and monitoring of entire process from the individual employee to the project and corporate level
  • Forecasting of workload and required staff

The starting point for a successful workforce management is the clear definition and communication of the work required, the engagement of the workforce and the optimal method of performing the job as efficiently and safely as possible. 

Based on this premise, you must first have a way to notify and communicate with employees, assign duties, provide guidance, measure performance, analyze data, provide feedback, and compute and pay out incentives.

When managing a non-desk workforce, a central hub where all of this information is easily accessed and communicated is key to adoption and usage by these employees.

In addition, mobile cloud and online training is provided along with supervisor-based coaching to ensure that all assigned employees have the required skills and that they are operating at optimal capacity.

Workforce management is a comprehensive procedure ensuring the workforce is connected, as productive as possible, labor cost is reduced, quality established, employee engagement guaranteed, and even to improve customer service.

What is the importance of workforce management?

WFM systems enable companies to gain insights into businesses metrics and data, such as time saved by individuals throughout the company, managerial communication skills, employee retention, and labor optimization.

Workforce management also helps track employee and team performance, making sure you place the right worker in the right job at the right time, supporting detailed and accurate workforce planning.

What are the advantages of efficient workforce management?

The benefits of a WFM system include improved workforce and employee productivity, transparency, structured communication, better labor planning, lower operational cost, efficient time, increased employee retention, improved training, real-time employee permissions and access, and better customer service.

Easy shift swapping and management is crucial for labor optimization in an efficient workforce.

Other workforce management benefits include:

  • Improved payroll efficiency through automation of time-consuming, often complex processes and tasks.
  • Employers are given better insight into worker engagement, motivation, attendance, and productivity, which allows them to adjust training, coaching, and processes for maximum performance.
  • Reduction of labor costs through optimization.
  • Automation, instant-accessibility, and simple reporting for workforce-related information from instructions, safety notices, and data to improve HR productivity and reduce administrative costs.
  • Higher retention rates and less employee turnover.
  • Increased employee productivity with reduced absences and late arrivals.
  • Lower non-compliance risks under local, state, and federal labor laws.
  • Increased operational efficiency and agility so that as production schedules and market demands change, companies can easily allocate people with the right skills at the right time.

Improved employee engagement and morale due to increased transparency and communication between management, managers, teams, and co-workers.

Workforce management processes

The process begins with employee communication and includes all the activities needed to maintain an engaged and productive workforce, such as field service management, human resource management, performance and training management, employee safety, compliance, data collection, workforce recruiting, on boarding and retention, budgeting, forecasting, optimization, and analytics.

Managers and employees with instant access to critical resources at their fingertips are more connected and engaged.

Benefits of workforce management

The potential benefits of using a WFM system include:

  • improved employee productivity
  • better labor planning
  • employee engagement, communication, and improved transparency
  • lower operational cost
  • efficient time and attendance tracking
  • data analysis
  • automated reporting
  • better customer service

What are Workforce management platforms?

Typically, companies use a WFM platform – a mobile or desktop-based technology that helps staff engage employees, improve communication, and optimize productivity – either as part of an integrated HR management suite or as a stand-alone platform.

Mobile cloud technology now for the first time provides non-desk employees with a centralized hub accessed on their personal mobile device where they can access the same company news, forms, team and individual communications, training, safety improvements and job opportunities that deskbound workers have enjoyed easy access to for years.

Workforce management platforms like Red e App are often integrated with third-party HR applications and with core HR systems that serve as central repositories for workforce data.

Recently, due to the proliferation of cloud computing and the rapid expansion of workforce analytics, and the ability to connect non-desk workers, there has been a significant growth in the adoption of workforce management platforms.

What does a Workforce Manager do?

A workforce manager oversees productivity at a company. Their duties are to assess, analyze, and report on employee productivity at the individual, team, department, location, and or at institutional levels.

What do Workforce Management Analysts do?

The Workforce Management Analyst works to improve workforce efficiency. They will also implement and optimize the usage of Workforce Management tools.

Workforce management case study HJI.

HJI Supply Chain Solutions has been a Red e App customer since 2018 and has over 500 employees spread across 3 locations.

Before adopting Red e App, employee communication to frontline workers consisted of whiteboard messaging, stand up meetings and word of mouth directions. Workers could only trade and pick up shifts at the location they worked at, and employees didn’t feel they had equal opportunities to pick up shifts and overtime.

When COVID-19 struck a year later and the company faced staffing shortages, Red e App provided HJI the capability to offer shifts across plants, allowing workers the opportunity to pick up shifts on the mobile phone app across the three facilities, this also created a level playing field where everyone had a fair shot at picking up overtime.

This addressed the staffing shortages caused by COVID-19 and boosted employee morale. Adoption of the Red e App platform among HJI employees is 95% and usage rates are over 83%.

Red e App is also credited with enabling employee communication amongst peers, allowing them to become better managers and team members, providing the opportunity to mentor coworkers, and creating career advancement opportunities and promotion within the company.

“We could have never fully staffed our facilities during COVID-19 if it weren’t for Red e App. They allowed us to share shifts across plants, communicate to our non-desk employees outside of the traditional break areas and message boards, and to come together as a company.

While many companies struggled through the pandemic, Red e App helped us to grow and expand. Thanks to our partnership with Red e App, turnover has been reduced, productivity is up, morale has been boosted and profitability increased.”

K.K. HJI Supply Chain Solutions

Steps to creating a successful workflow

Workflow management is all about defining and improving existing activities and processes.

The steps for creating a successful workflow include :

  1. Ensure that all team members can be engaged through communication.
  2. Identify your resources.
  3. Look for areas that can be automated.
  4. Digitize forms and processes.
  5.  List the tasks that should be accomplished.
  6. Find out who is accountable for each step and assign roles.
  7. Create a workflow diagram to visualize the process.
  8. Use highly structured communications to reduce chaos and build connections.
  9. Test the workflow you created.
  10. Train your team on the new workflow.
  11. Deploy the new workflow.
The foundation of a successful workflow begins with easy communication.

Steps to successful forecasting

 They include:

  • Ensure you have the right people for every task.
  • Remain on budget.
  • Give accurate information to leadership.
  • Provide insight into potential issues or resource gaps.
  • Robust data analysis and reporting.

1. Make sure that you know exactly what skills are required for the project

Forecasting for a project differs from both resource capacity planning and human resource management. Forecasting for a project requires a highly detailed analysis of your needs in small distinct parts.

Go over the entire project, look closely at all the deliverables, consider what people and skills will be required to accomplish every task.

2.  Know inside and out the weaknesses and strengths of the team you have assembled

As you select team members for each task, analyize the time requirements needed for each sprint and every milestone along the path of the entire project.

Determine the skill and aptitude required; just because someone has the right title, doesn’t mean they are the right choice for the task. Look at their past performance on projects, using parameters like how fast they work, quality of work produced, oversight required, and their skill level.

This is the time to decide if the employees you have at your disposal have the skills necessary to complete the tasks, if they will need additional training and whether it will be worth the investment to train them, or should you find someone that already has the skills the job requires.

3.     Consider past projects to determine right asset allocation

No matter how carefully you staff a project, as the project progresses, it is not unusual to find that some people have too much work and others have hardly any.

You realize that some workers with valuable skills don’t get used, while others get buried and burnt out by too much responsibility as well as the pressure.

By analyzing previous projects you can review resource allocation and determine which workers will be needed for the entire length of the project and who can be brought in on a as needed basis.

You will also be able to spot trends where certain tasks require more than one or two full time people. Plan for the natural fluctuation of work and build in a cushion for time lost when or if some of your employees leave.

4.    Align the right person to the right job

It is important that once you have identified the skills required and who the right resource in each area is, you can then assign tasks and assess the entire team before you kickoff the project.

This final examination may reveal potential issues common to resource management like:

  • Assigning the wrong tasks:  Often project managers have made the mistake of thinking that certain people have specific skills based on their job title.

Assumptions like that may cause the assignment of the wrong task to a person based on a perception of their ability and may result in major problems that may appear when it is way too late.

Time spent upfront performing due diligence and learning an employees’ knowledge base, skill level, speed of work and communication skills will help to guarantee you assign the right people to the right tasks.

  • Miscalculating time: By misreading the time required for a task to be completed, or not building in enough of a buffer around your resource’s time estimate, you may jeopardize costs, as well as affecting other tasks, and run the risk of damaging or killing the whole project.

It is important to identify resources with the levels of experience and skill required for each task, make sure to review with them the time required and potential issues each task may face.

  • Miscalculating resource requirements: To avoid running short of resources while the project is underway, make sure your capacity planning is calculated on Full-Time Equivalents, this will provide you with a more precise assessment of the resources required.

5. Appraise employee turnover rates, retention, hiring trends and company performance

Losing key employees or losing employees at critical times can cause your project to be delayed or even fail.

The most important facet of resource forecasting is to be prepared, especially for employees leaving. There may seem to be no way to plan for attrition, but using past projects and trends will help you to prepare for losses in the correct way.

Recent data from Gallup, has shown that workforce retention can be significantly improved with employee engagement and communication.

Make sure to identify workforce attrition trends like:

  • Expertise/Skills: To analyze if your company is losing employees due to a lack of growth opportunities for workers with specific expertise/skills or career objectives.
  • Project progression: Look to see if employees leave at the end of previous projects or in the middle? That could indicate the existence of relationship or communication issues, or frustration with previous projects.
Surveys encourage communication which promotes retention and help reduces turnover.

Steps to successful assigning of tasks

Many companies perform poorly when it comes to assigning tasks.

This comes from ineffectual task delegation and is caused by several factors including:

  • lack of training for managers on this
  • belief by managers that employees can’t do the job as well as they can
  • a lack of trust by managers that their teams have the same commitment to quality

It is important to keep these things in mind when assigning tasks.

1.     Determine what you need accomplished

Assign that task to the most qualified team member to ensure that you achieve results. Don’t just assign tasks to whoever is available.

2.     Choose the right team member

Things to consider when picking the right employee include:

  • skills
  • experience
  • responsibility
  • training and need to learn
  • speed of work
  • other work assigned to the individual
  • enthusiasm for approaching the task

3.     Assign work positively

Before assigning a task consider if the individual is well suited for it, don’t just assign tasks randomly and expect workers to deliver. Consider every assignment carefully and check your team roster to determine who could accomplish the task as well as you can.

4.     Engage employees, communicate with them, and gather input

This may require setting up a meeting. Discuss tasks with your team, ask for ideas what can be improved, who should be involved, how to measure success and define results. When managing large teams or a company, it is important to have discussions with sub-teams, especially with managers. Ensure that you can engage and communicate across the entire team as well as with individuals and that they have this capability also. Having this ability to communicate with the teams will save your managers countless hours every week and create a record of communication.

5.     Set deadlines and schedule progress reports

Assign timelines and responsibilities, then schedule times to hear progress reports. Doing this is very important, especially on large projects that require weeks, months or years to complete. Make sure you provide progress updates to all members of the team.

6.     Provide supervision and training

Will some of your employees require training in order to receive more responsibility? Who needs to be supervised closely and who should be left alone? Every employee is different and they each respond differently to supervision. Always encourage independent thinking and action-taking and provide them the time to exercise this freedom.

7.     Assign power

Who on the team can you delegate a certain level of power to? How much power should you give them and what kind do they need to accomplish their task?

8.     Consider the particulars of assigning control

What aspects of control do your employees want or need? What are ways you and your managers can feel in control while still providing individuals the ability and power to act independently.

9.     Keep track of progress

It is important that you maintain control of the project, paying particular attentiveness to the plans most important details. Keep in mind that managers are answerable regardless of how successful or unsuccessful a project is.

10.  Provide feedback

Providing positive feedback for work well done as well as coaching for where the result is not as positive will always be highly prized and valued. Make sure that you never abandon anyone, and that you schedule regular progress updates and meetings.

11.  Learn from your experience

This applies to both managers and employees, what did you learn independently as an individual and what did the team learn from the process? It is important that you document these and share with the people you work with. Learn from each other’s successes as well as from each other’s failures, to guarantee future success and individual improvement.

12.  Analysis and post-project evaluation

Determine how you, as the manager, could have done a better job helping the team succeed and the project more successful. Provide helpful feedback and make sure you accept the same from your team.

Conclusion

There are many workforce management tools that claim to improve productivity and profitability, however the majority of these are not focused on or built for the non-desk worker. It is vitally important that you find a partner who has expertise in your specific industry.

If they claim certain ROI results and usage stats, be sure to understand how they are claiming these results. Employee engagement isn’t someone checking their pay stub twice a month, employee engagement should be a foundational metric for measuring the employee experience.

If you have any questions, I will enjoy answering those or if you would like a personal demo of the Red e App workforce management tool, I would love to walk you through what has been called the world’s best employee engagement tool for non-desk workforces. 

It all begins with simple and easy to use communication, if you aren’t communicating with and engaging with your non-desk workforce, it is costing you money, productivity, and employee retention.

Jim White
Communications Director
Red e App

About the author:
Before joining Red e App as Communications Director, Jim acted as Chief Creative Officer for some of the country’s largest brand agencies. Throughout his career as a creative, agency owner and Vice-Chairman, Jim has led the marketing efforts for many of the world’s most well-known brands including Budweiser, British Airways, Philip Morris, Hanes, Mars, Miller, JOOP!, PepsiCo, Siemens, and many more. His campaigns for Miller, Shoney’s, Hanes, and Wachovia set historical marks for highest scores achieved to date.

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