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What is workforce management (WFM) and how can it work for your team?

Team Asana contributor imageTeam Asana
February 2nd, 2024
5 min read
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Workforce management (WFM) is a set of techniques used to improve internal processes, drive efficiency, and create a more enjoyable place to work. If your team productivity needs a boost, WFM may be your solution.

Looking to improve team productivity and overall performance? Workforce management can streamline your team’s workflow and operational costs. That leads to enhanced efficiency, better employee engagement, and higher team morale. 

From key functions to benefits of WFM, we’ll detail how to effectively implement a workforce management strategy of your own. 

What is workforce management (WFM)?

Workforce management (WFM) is a set of processes used to increase team productivity and efficiency. From call centers to healthcare services, many industries have employed WFM to successfully optimize their processes. 

[inline illustration] What is workforce management? [infographic]

Workforce management encompasses all activities needed to maintain a productive workforce. This method is made up of a variety of workforce techniques including: 

  • Human resource management (HRM)

  • Human capital management (HCM)

  • Performance management

  • Data collection

  • Budgeting and forecasting

Workforce management tasks often closely resemble those of human capital management (HCM), which is a framework of recruiting, managing, and developing employee value. The main difference between the two is that HCM aims to maximize ROI while WFM aims to maximize employee performance and productivity. 

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What are the key functions of a WFM strategy?

From hiring employees to forecasting, there are many parts that make up a workforce management process.

While a project manager can’t necessarily manage all of these tasks, it’s helpful to ensure key initiatives are running smoothly by partnering with department leaders and collecting team feedback. This is especially important considering that nearly 70% of workers feel they’d be better equipped to hit targets if they had clearer processes to manage work in place.

[inline illustration] Workforce management functions and features [infographic]

Let’s dive into each of the workforce management elements and how they work to create a solution that you can implement for your team. 

Time tracking

Time tracking may seem simple enough, but there’s more to it than punching a time clock. Not only is tracking time good for analyzing efficiency, but it’s also helpful in identifying patterns of overtime or undertime. 

Implementing a time tracking process ensures that you:

Effective time tracking can also help you improve your time management skills and create an overall productive daily routine. The best way to do this is by using a work management tool to track work in real time. 

With effective tools and good time management best practices, each team member has the autonomy to get their best work done. 

Read: 29 time management templates and examples to enhance efficiency

Staff scheduling

In addition to time tracking, it’s also important to properly forecast and schedule staffing needs. This helps create a successful workforce management process that offers work-life balance. Whether you have multiple staffing levels within your organization or manage a team at the same level, employee scheduling can be complex. 

You need a system that takes into account variables such as vacation, availability, workload, and absences to create a schedule that works for the entire team. 

WFM scheduling responsibilities include:

  • Managing staff scheduling

  • Resolving overstaffing or understaffing issues

  • Forecasting for team growth

With a reliable scheduling system in place, companies can rest assured they won’t be understaffed during critical times or overstaffed when business slows down.

Forecasting and budgeting

Analyzing historical data can help you forecast when labor demands change so you can optimize deployment and balance workload. For example, a retail store may need twice as many associates working during the holidays than they would in the off-season. 

Other ways you can use WFM processes for forecasting include:

  • Addressing high turnover rates

  • Accounting for “shrinkage” or unproductive time spent 

  • Preparing for special days or events when workload is significantly impacted

  • Examining past project data for accurate labor and resource estimates

You can also incorporate workforce planning into your budget. For most companies, human capital (your employees) is likely your most costly—and most variable—expense

A WFM process automates scheduling, shift swaps, and adherence to labor laws to ensure you aren’t spending more than you need to on labor costs. In fact, studies have shown that workforce management solutions have the highest return on investment of all HR technology investments. 

Employee reviews

While performance reviews can be time-consuming, they are important for evaluating team performance, productivity, and overall employee experience. These metrics can also be valuable for measuring customer satisfaction based on team member performance.

Managing team performance involves:

  • Tracking employee experiences

  • Measuring employee productivity

  • Gauging customer experience and satisfaction

Every team has a different way of managing team performance, though conducting quarterly reviews is one way to achieve these results.  

Payroll and benefits

Whether you have a dedicated team for payroll and benefits or not, it’s another important part of a larger workforce management plan. This includes day-to-day pay and benefits, but it can also encompass any additional incentives you offer your employees. 

There are a variety of tasks that stem from payroll, including:

  • Analyzing labor costs

  • Tracking paid time off (PTO) 

  • Tracking timesheets

  • Offering employee incentives like happy hours

Beyond the mere need to process paychecks, improving payroll and benefits can be a great way to enhance employee performance and morale. 

Training management

Creating a training program for new and existing employees is critical for building a successful workforce. Not only should you create training materials for onboarding new members, but you should also provide opportunities for continued growth and development. 

Training materials could include:

  • Onboarding materials

  • Tool management support

  • Industry news

  • External educational resources 

When building a training program, it’s important to organize documents and materials in a shared space where all team members can easily find information. This can be done using a digital tool or even a shared folder. 

Regulatory compliance

A workforce management system can make it easier to comply with wage and labor laws, overtime requirements, and other employee policies in your area. Always check with your internal legal team to ensure your workforce management process is taking all necessary considerations into account. 

Workforce management benefits

Implementing a robust workforce management process can help your team feel empowered to make an impact.

In a perfect world where all parts of a successful workforce management process are in place, you’d see a positive impact on a wide range of tasks and departments. Here are some of the top workforce management benefits. 

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Increased productivity

Productivity is at its highest when work is delegated and communicated correctly. By forecasting workload, tracking time, paying fairly, and communicating performance, workforce management can help team productivity flourish. 

With increased productivity, your team will not only see an improvement in the amount of work being created but also in the quality of work. This is a win-win for both organizations and individual team members. 

Effective communication

An efficient workforce management process can improve communication and self-reliance, especially when working with multiple teams. While one person may be in charge of the majority of WFM tasks, encourage key stakeholders across your organization to share their observations and feedback for more effective processes. 

With a WFM strategy that connects tasks, workflows, and systems, you can streamline communication channels and lessen the load on your internal communications team. Not only will effective communication help improve team collaboration, but it can also help work stay on track and meet quality standards. 

Improved morale

Team morale can be affected by a number of variables—both negatively and positively. Whether that’s due to workload, pay and benefits, scheduling, or all of these factors, morale can make or break a productive team. 

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to improve morale with the help of a workforce management plan. Both curiosity and empathy create an engaging dynamic between managers and team members. These simple, yet powerful, attributes can help improve the overall working environment for your team and contribute to high morale. 

Resource maximization

With increased productivity and improved communication and tracking, you’ll be able to maximize resource utilization. Not only will this increase the amount of work you’re able to create, but it will also lower labor costs.

Resources can be anything from a tangible product to something intangible like time—both of which are invaluable and shouldn’t be wasted. 

Read: Resource allocation tips for project managers

Reduced expenses

Automating time tracking, scheduling, and pay calculations not only saves hours of work for managers and payroll departments but also eliminates costly human errors and compliance risks. The time spent on these tedious tasks can then be used for more productive means. 

Workforce management processes also gives organizations the data they need to adjust staffing levels as needed. When companies are able to forecast the ebbs and flows of their workload, they can reduce labor costs and unplanned overtime.

Quality work

In the end, the quality you put out results in what you get back. So if your quality isn’t up to par, you won’t see a significant revenue stream. That’s why improving quality is such an essential part of workforce management.

Whether you believe the quality of your work is the best it can be or not, there is always room for improvement. Process optimizations could be anything from product changes to website development and beyond. The possibilities are truly limitless.

Will workforce management work for you?

A WFM process is a set of techniques to help improve internal processes, automate where possible, and create a more enjoyable place to work. It’s not every day you find each of these in an organization, but with a little help, you can ensure your organization checks these boxes and more.

If you’re looking for a tool to manage your team’s workload in real time, work management software is an efficient solution for time tracking, scheduling, and much more.

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