Workforce management is an approach that companies use to make sure the right staff members with the right skills are scheduled at the right time on the right project. It includes processes like staff scheduling, time tracking, and demand and workload forecasting. When done right, workforce management increases workforce utilization, prevents team burnout, optimizes performance and productivity, lowers operational costs, and even improves customer satisfaction.
The concept isn’t new. Rooted in time clocks and punch cards, it was initially just about workforce planning—tracking time and attendance, and making schedules. The practice has matured significantly to encompass a breadth of both operational processes and long-term strategic initiatives.
As workforce management becomes more complex, many organizations are turning to workforce management software to automate the processes and analyze the data involved.
Why Use Workforce Management Software
While many organizations attempt to apply workforce management processes through complicated spreadsheets, this is really only a viable option for very small companies. Spreadsheets for workforce planning aren't the answer; they're hard to understand, prone to errors, and incredibly time-consuming to update.
Larger companies often turn to workforce management (WFM) software to automate and streamline the processes involved with workforce management.
WFM software goes way beyond the capabilities of spreadsheets to deliver a whole new set of capabilities that are key to solving many of the major challenges enterprise organizations face today. Companies turn to workforce management to:
- Eliminate countless manual hours creating, manipulating, and reconciling spreadsheets.
- Accurately forecast workload, demand, and pacing toward profit projections.
- Analyze skills and talent gaps across teams to create strategic hiring roadmaps.
- More accurately scope project resources and protect profit margins.
- Strategically schedule staff to projects, and provide them with clear action plans.
- Support productive communication and project collaboration across teams.
Capabilities of Workforce Management Software
Workforce management software includes a range of capabilities, from basic task automation to AI-powered optimizations. Common features of modern WFM software include forecasting, scheduling, time and budget tracking, demand-capacity analysis, performance reporting, and more.
Forecasting is the practice of identifying how many staff members and which skills are needed for a particular project or time period. Instead of poring through past years’ spreadsheets, WFM software can pull from past projects to automatically calculate this answer.
Manual scheduling is time-consuming, inefficient, and lacking critical information, leaving companies at risk of not being properly staffed in times of need. WFM software eliminates this risk by taking business variables like availability, vacations or absences, workload, and skills into consideration. With the proper forecasts at your fingertips, you can quickly staff projects and shifts with a few clicks.
Time and budget tracking
Using WFM software to track time reveals eye-opening insights. Beyond issues like attendance patterns, some workforce management tools compare time planned vs. actual time spent. And others use their time-tracking feature—or integrations with time-tracking systems—to report on utilization rates. This critical information helps companies that bill for staff resources hourly to optimize their profitability.
Because WFM software tracks the workload demand for every role and compares it against the capacity of staff in those roles, it can anticipate when demand will exceed capacity. Some solutions also help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team so you can create smart, proactive hiring plans.
When you have hundreds or thousands of employees, it’s tough to understand engagement, effectiveness, and efficiency at the individual or team level. WFM software gives you a clear picture of how staff and team are performing. Leaders can use this information to create valuable performance reviews, inform performance improvement plans, and create incentive packages.
Project planning is not built into all workforce management tools. But some advanced WFM software includes all the capabilities of multi-project planning tools. Having this data inside of your WFM solution unlocks a greater ability to analyze workload, shift resources, and get a more unified view of the business.
Who Needs Workforce Management Software
WFM software was historically most commonly found in customer support and call centers. These vital tools help staffing managers forecast the volume of calls, messages, or emails expected, and then schedule the appropriate number of agents for each shift who have the necessary skills to handle the expected volume.
But modern workforce management software solutions include a whole new set of capabilities that go beyond managing schedules and people to managing projects and company-wide resources. Workforce management software is being increasingly implemented in industries that previously relied on project management and/or resource management software—like marketing agencies, engineering firms, consultancies, and construction companies.
With the right feature set, workforce management software goes beyond supporting HR teams and staffing managers to serve all facets of the entire company.
- Executive leadership: Obtain quick answers to business-critical questions with high-level dashboards that can be configured to forecast profit projections and identify risks to productivity.
- Staffing/team managers: Get a full picture of who's doing what and when, increase planning efficiency, and streamline staffing meetings.
- Client services/customer success: Access clear work plans and deliverables needed to beat deadlines and effortlessly track time.
- Business development/sales: Identify which opportunities to pursue by analyzing available talent, past project profitability, and more.
- Project managers: Easily create multi-project plans, manage scope, and monitor project budgets, so teams are more efficient and customers are more satisfied.
What to Look for in Workforce Management Software
There are hundreds of companies that fall into the category of workforce management software. Many have limited feature sets focused on staff scheduling, time and attendance, payroll and benefits administration, and time off planning and tracking. These solutions are great for shift-based scheduling managers responsible for staffing call centers or success teams, or deploying deskless workers and field teams.
But, like all software categories, an evolution is happening. WFM software is no longer strictly confined to the realm of shift workers and those without desks. Workforce management software providers like Mosaic are delivering a new level of value to project-based teams as well as managed and professional services.
This evolved WFM software incorporates additional feature sets from project management and resource management tools—elevating the approach to project planning and resource allocation. Additionally, Mosaic:
- Integrates with existing HR, CRM, project management, and accounting/ERP systems
- Offers AI-driven insights to optimize workload, strategic planning, and hiring
- Deliver organizational-wide insights to improve the business
When you’re choosing your workforce management software, look for a solution that’s easy to implement, integrates with your existing systems, has a clearly developed onboarding process, and guarantees a strong ROI.