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    When should you consider an in-depth workforce management solution?

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    Workforce management systems (WFM) have been around since the 1980s but sharply increased in gain popularity in recent years. The sudden popularity is no mystery. The potential benefits of the systems are huge –– particularly for companies that work on tight schedules and pay their employees an hourly wage. They include improved employee productivity, better planning for labour shortfalls and hiring needs, reduced operational cost, efficient time and attendance tracking, employee empowerment and engagement, and ultimately, better customer service.

    Workforce management systems can also provide powerful tools for reaching company benchmarks and goals. They can be used by employees to build schedules and request time off and clock in. They can standardize payroll processes and collect banking direct deposit information, keep track of bonuses and automate onboarding tasks for new employees.

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    More advanced WFM systems have cloud compatibility and high-level security and backup features. They offer an analytics component as well. That may be the most powerful part of the system for HR and operations managers. Labour forecasting allows employers to plan for times of business peaks and downtimes, by modeling for parameters such as holidays and weather events. Analytic software can allow managers to analyze trends ahead of time to make effective preparations and plans. Add a demand forecasting component and the system can alert the management team to upcoming staffing changes, allowing HR staff to begin the recruiting process for new staff well in advance. The system can budget for new projects, monitor employee performance, match skills to specific jobs and tasks, and keep track of company assets that move between departments and teams.

    They also integrate with other systems, like ERP production, to deliver accurate, real-time unit production data.

    It’s powerful software. But there is no single recipe for success when it comes to workforce management systems. The key is to make sure the system is tailored to your company’s specific needs. “An effective strategy is to think of WFM as a series of components that can be mixed and combined to develop the perfect solution for every company,” says Spiros Paleologos, Group VP, UKG Canada. “That doesn’t mean designing a WFM from scratch but it does mean giving careful consideration to exactly what your company needs the system to accomplish.”

    An effective WFM system should be visible and user friendly for employees to use. It should be easy to automate repetitive processes, to schedule processes ahead of time and to access real-time evaluation tools. And like any digital tool, the system needs to be fully scalable.

    In recent years WFM has developed beyond simply completing tangible task items into an arena called “workforce tracking,” which monitors data over time. This can be a powerful analytic tool for HR and leadership. Making the system mobile also has huge potential for efficiency within the company.

    WFM software that is mobile-enabled give managers the power to fill open shifts or make replacements almost instantaneously, from anywhere. If someone calls in sick, employers can quickly use the system via a smart phone or tablet to quickly search for available employees and make sure the shift is covered. Or, they can enable capabilities for employees themselves to request shift coverage or shift swaps, with built-in rules to ensure that certifications are in place where needed or unnecessary overtime is avoided – while also giving staff the possibility of picking up extra shifts and managing their work life balance.

    Fine tuning a workforce management system to suit your specific company needs can be a challenge. But the goal is always the same: to streamline and standardize internal processes with the goal of maximizing productivity.

    The nature of work is changing. The global pandemic only accelerated that trend. Remote work has become standard operating practice in many companies, and freelancer workers, consultants and the gig economy are all becoming more and more acceptable as models of work. WFM systems are ideal for managing these widely separated resources. “A well-tuned WFM system allows you to manage a complex suite of talent and human resources in a way that’s very powerful and effective,” says Paleologos.

    The ultimate goal of any WFM is to produce a workforce that works efficiently and effectively as a team. That is achievable, with some careful consideration and planning.

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    Tom Mason
    Tom Mason has been a business and technology journalist for more than three decades, writing extensively for publications including Canadian Business, Reader’s Digest, The Chronicle Herald, Atlantic Business, Innovation.ca, and many others. When he’s not writing he loves traveling, the outdoors, making music, and any activity that involves skis or a bicycle.