Many organizations have a limited definition of Workforce Management (WFM). By restricting their view, and therefore the depth of workforce planning activity, many important and costly components can be lacking. Additionally, the more coordinated these activities are carried out, the greater the benefit an organization can realize in their bottom line.
Comprehensive Workforce Management is a combination of several planning factors and human capital management components.
- Long term capacity/hiring planning
- Training programs
- Payroll administration
- Benefits management
- Career development
- Business recovery/disaster recovery strategy
- Vacation and leave planning
- Workload forecasting
- Performance monitoring
- Talent management
- Employee scheduling
- Time and attendance tracking
- Daily operations monitoring
All of these activities revolve around measuring the amount and type of work at varying intervals (annually, monthly, daily, hourly), optimizing employee productivity, and matching skills to labor. With so many levels of planning across the spectrum of necessary employee management activities, there are several key coordination efforts that will lend to effective Workforce Management practice.
- Involve all parties in regular conversation. Human Resources, WFM, Business Leaders, Finance, Marketing, and Training should conduct regular reviews of the staffing plans – in the same conversation. If HR and WFM agree that a plan for next year’s hiring makes sense, but do not include Finance and Business leaders in the conversation, they may find that their efforts will not be supported by the budget. All partners may agree to the second quarter plan to hire 20 new employees every month, but if Training does not have capacity to onboard the new recruits, plans may need to be rewritten. Valuable time can be lost by not coordinating conversation with all key stakeholders in the workforce planning process. These stakeholders include decision makers from any department in the organization that conducts activity that will impact the front line employees, workload, and financial decisions.
- Know how far out your strategic hiring plans need to be solidified. If your typical recruiting process lasts 12 weeks, new hire training is 4 weeks, and Finance review and leadership approval of hiring takes 2 weeks, then hiring activity must have a minimum of 5 months lead time to occur ahead of the anticipated workload demand.
- Calibrate long and short term planning activities. Organizations will plan for varying levels of non-productive time in their long term plans, such as training, meetings, and vacation time, which need to be regularly compared to the actual scheduling and carrying out of these activities. If the long term plan (and thus the budget!) includes 2 hours per month of training per employee, but the actual activity is only averaging 1 hour per month, the impact can be significant. Review of these gaps can uncover issues in workforce planning that might be improved upon – is training decreased because workload is greater than originally forecast, was the original level of training not actually required, is increased employee absenteeism (another factor that should be planned for in both the long term and scheduling processes) preventing training from occurring…many, many questions will arise from a comprehensive review of the plan versus actual staffing and activity. The more questions and answers that are uncovered, the better the plan can become over time.
- People, process, technology – all require robust attention and support. An organization can spend millions on a full suite of top of the line ERP software modules, but if the people supporting it do not have the skills or the processes are not comprehensive and robust across the departments involved in employee management, the investment in the technology is wasted.
Comprehensive WFM requires a LOT of coordination throughout the spectrum of planning and management activities. As business changes, the supporting practices, programs and planning will undergo changes as well, making WFM an ever dynamic field of practice. While the level of complexity and continual adjustment may seem to prevent achieving “the perfect plan”, the attention to coordination across the organization and broad inclusion of planning activities will allow for an ever improved understanding of baseline staffing and productivity, and ultimately tangible results for the bottom line.