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What Is Workforce Management?

March 22, 2023
min read
Dylan Sharek

Workforce management (WFM) is a valuable strategy for teams to make the most of their human resources and achieve business goals more efficiently. But, with the major challenges spanning across industries in 2023 and beyond, the process can quickly become complex and time-consuming. That's where advanced WFM solutions come into play.

Understanding Workforce Management and Its Value

Workforce management refers to how employers strategically allocate people and resources, track attendance, and ensure compliance with ever-changing workplace laws and regulations. This requires organizations to evaluate their top priorities and anticipate human capital challenges so the proper steps can be taken. The main goal of WFM is to optimize workforce productivity and efficiency while mitigating risk and liability. 

Businesses use workforce management to perform several key tasks including:

  • Strategic workforce planning
  • Employee scheduling
  • Time and attendance tracking
  • Data analysis
  • Absence management
  • Regulatory compliance

Who's in charge of workforce management?

Once you’ve decided your organization is ready to tackle the workforce management process, you might be wondering what departments and professionals need to be involved — and you’re not alone. Because WFM involves strategically allocating and tracking people and resources, your human resources (HR) department is generally responsible for the bulk of workforce management and planning initiatives. 

However, C-level executives can offer valuable support, including the CEO, COO, CFO, and other leaders responsible for developing and implementing business strategy. Organizations might also consider calling on the help of an external workforce planning manager who can provide specialized, consultative, and analytic support in the strategic WFM process. 

The Advantages of Effective Workforce Management 

Businesses benefit considerably from introducing a comprehensive workforce management system, regardless of their size, location, or industry. By ensuring that you have the right people in suitable roles performing tasks they’re well-equipped to execute, your organization can enjoy key benefits including:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity: Strong WFM efforts aim to better align employees and their roles with a team’s goals and objectives. Putting workers in a position to excel — where they have the right skills and training, and clear responsibilities have been established — encourages better employee performance. This ultimately leads to both higher quality work and increased output. 
  • Reduced costs: By analyzing labor costs, workforce management can help businesses determine areas in which costs can be reduced or even eliminated. What’s more, strategic workforce planning throughout the WFM process can aid teams in forecasting labor needs to ensure accurate staffing levels long-term. This can be significant considering that labor costs can account for as much as 70% of total business expenses, according to Paycor. 
  • Boosted employee satisfaction and morale: Powerful workforce management systems are a key step in improving talent management and encouraging transparency in communications. By ensuring workers are filling the right roles and that they feel valued and supported, organizations effectively drive employee engagement, morale, and happiness. This will be a linchpin in reducing turnover rates, which saves a significant amount of time and money in the long run. 
  • Improved compliance: Compliance can be daunting, but the WFM process can quickly boost these efforts for the best results. How? Because increasing visibility into workforce scheduling, attendance tracking, and more helps businesses stay compliant with labor laws and regulations and minimizes the opportunity for workers to be compensated incorrectly. As a result, HR managers and employers can avoid legal issues and protect their businesses from hefty fines and penalties. 
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction: One of the main goals of the WFM process is to guarantee that workers are properly trained and equipped to meet customers’ needs. It’s also aimed at projecting labor needs to promote adequate staffing levels, which reduces wait times and ensures customers can get the attention they need as soon as they need it. This leads to improved customer interactions, faster response times, and, eventually, increased customer loyalty. 

Successful WFM strategies can go a long way toward helping companies support their workforce, minimize costs, and increase productivity. And, with the right tools and techniques in place, managers and employers can create a positive work environment that benefits both the employees and the organization as a whole. 

Industry Challenges Impacting Talent Management Today

Workforce management is a crucial component of any organization, regardless of industry. However, there are several difficulties that virtually all organizations face today that impact WFM and its use, such as:

  • Inflation and economic uncertainty: According to Harvard Business Review, experts agree that there’s a chance inflation will ease slightly in 2023, but it will remain high on average. In combination with a looming recession, this will force organizations to navigate increased operational and labor costs, reduced hiring, and potentially lower employee morale. To combat this, businesses are leveraging WFM strategies to optimize their use of human capital and other resources, effectively reducing operational costs. 
  • Supply chain disruptions: Industries have been struggling with severe supply chain issues in recent years which are projected to continue into 2023. They’re a result of fallout from the pandemic, high demand and bottlenecks slowing international trade, enduring labor shortages, and evolving policies and regulations. Proper WFM analyzes employee needs and introduces contingency plans that address potential disruptions to help overcome supply chain concerns. 
  • Accelerated digital transformation: With the growing availability of powerful technologies, organizations are expected to continue introducing digital transformation strategies. Zippia found that 70% of organizations either have a digital transformation strategy in place or are currently working on one, with more and more teams planning to prioritize this moving forward. Workforce management systems are being used to reveal what digital tools will offer the most value and where training and upskilling opportunities exist within the team. 
  • Increasing consumer expectations: While customers have always looked for friendly, reliable service and a seamless experience, the State of the Connect Customer report from Salesforce reports that 80% of consumers now consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services. These rising expectations are attributed to key factors such as the pandemic, evolving purchasing behaviors, and emerging technologies. WFM is helping organizations keep pace by aligning workforce strategies with customer needs and introducing agile workflows that support an improved customer experience.
  • A competitive talent landscape: The war for talent is far from over: According to SHRM, HR professionals from all industries are reporting a highly competitive market for potential candidates, with recruiting difficulty reaching considerable levels. Growing skills shortages, a low number of applicants, competition from other employers, and unqualified candidates are among the top reasons this trend has endured and will continue to do so. Fortunately, organizations can turn to workforce management to recognize employee-centric practices to adopt, competitive compensation and benefits to offer, and emerging technology that can help attract and retain top talent. 

5 Projected Workforce Management Trends in 2023

As organizations introduce WFM strategies to combat overarching industry challenges in 2023 and beyond, there are several management trends to consider:

1. Quiet hiring is on the rise

Most organizations have faced the difficulty of “quiet quitting” — where employees put in the minimum time, effort, and enthusiasm to do their job — as it’s continued to gain popularity in recent years. But, this trend is expected to be turned on its head in 2023, as “quiet hiring” takes the lead. This practice will see HR managers promoting internal talent, helping workers acquire new skills and capabilities without adding new full-time employees. This focus on upskilling and giving current employees more responsibilities can help organizations expand their talent while minimizing the need to hire more people.

2. Managers need more support

Burdened with frequent change, industry challenges, and conflicting leader and employee expectations, the demands of today’s working environment have left HR teams and business leaders discouraged and burned out. These obstacles are also making great leadership more important than ever. As a manager’s role continues to evolve, organizations are expected to take action to relieve pressures on managers by providing support and training to mitigate the widening managerial skills gap and clarifying the role’s responsibilities and priorities. 

3. Organizations are prioritizing skills-based hiring

In the modern labor market, companies are increasingly dropping traditional college degree requirements from prospective candidates, in favor of skills and experience. A report from the Burning Glass Institute found that job postings with a degree requirement dropped from 51% in 2017 to 44% in 2021. The rise of skills-based hiring as degree requirements fade is a result of:

  • Candidates exploring different career paths
  • The growth of remote work increasing access to global talent pools
  • Continued workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts 
  • Progressive automation and AI implementation 
  • Increasing employee expectations 

4. Focusing on employee well-being will be crucial

After the pandemic, the rise of remote work, and the general uncertainty companies have seen in the past few years, attitudes about employee mental health have drastically shifted. Not only do industry reports indicate that the corporate well-being market is expected to quadruple by 2026 to reach $87.4 billion, but also that a majority of HR leaders will prioritize employee wellness moving forward. This might look like offering workplace flexibility or expanding well-being benefits (e.g., free online counseling sessions or training opportunities on empathic leadership). 

5. Contingent workers will remain a valuable resource 

In addition to shifting employee priorities, the pandemic also accelerated the introduction of flexible workforces. A report from Intuit found that 80% of corporations in the U.S. plan to increase their use of contingent workers in the coming years. Why? Because flexible employees have become a valuable resource in overcoming the challenges plaguing industries today. Amid variable demand, economic uncertainty, skilled labor shortages, and increasing consumer expectations, a flexible workforce provides specialized skills and flexibility that allow organizations to reduce costs and quickly scale up and down as needed. 

Taking these trends into consideration will be critical throughout the WFM process to optimize management and meet changing workforce needs effectively. Overall, staying up-to-date on WFM projections will be key to building a more agile workforce that can meet the challenges of an ever-changing business landscape — while remaining competitive and relevant in the market. 

Introducing Workforce Management Tools and Solutions 

To ease the burden on your workforce manager or HR team, you can turn to workforce management solutions for support. A WFM tool is essentially a solution that helps employers achieve their workforce objectives. In its simplest form, a workforce management solution will schedule and track employee time and attendance. Whereas more advanced options might offer labor forecasting, data and analytics, AI, and industry benchmarks to improve the process even further. 

Enhancing employee management and anticipating your workforce needs effectively is one thing, but finding and retaining the talent needed to carry out these workforce goals is another. With help from Bluecrew, your teams can leverage advanced workforce-as-a-service solutions to solve your employment needs efficiently. 

Our technology platform makes finding well-qualified, pre-screened W-2 workers simple, transparent, and accessible. In addition to accessing talent on demand, Bluecrew’s platform handles everything from scheduling and time tracking to payroll and compliance — improving your visibility and boosting management initiatives. 

Ready for technology and tools that provide powerful control and support your workforce optimization efforts? Contact Bluecrew today to learn more and get started. 

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