Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

What Is Workforce Management & How Can WFM Software Benefit Companies

  • HCM
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 05/02/2023

an employee using a workforce management software

Table of Contents

The goal of Workforce Management (WFM) is to strategically deploy workers and resources to boost productivity across an organization. All too often, businesses find themselves exposed to unwanted risk due to circumstances that may be beyond their control (e.g., manufacturing errors, human or natural disasters). With a solid management plan in place, the risk of many potentially destabilizing circumstances can be lessened, and businesses can move forward with confidence.

A range of operational processes, centered on employee productivity, serves as the foundation for workforce management. A WFM plan often enhances a company's capacity for tracking employee attendance, scheduling, and daily performance. Once business leaders fully grasp the principles guiding this approach, they often find WFM metrics to be of essential value to the organization.

What Is Workforce Management?

Sometimes, when businesses grow their product line or expand into numerous physical locations, the "HR factor" is neglected. A growing business can undergo a range of challenges revolving around their workforce, including:

  • A shortage of needed workers
  • Greater costs incurred in locating and retaining employees
  • Minor or major violations of local, state and federal laws
  • Diminished output of goods or services
  • A worrying turnover of workers

Sometimes these challenges occur due to a lack of planning or ineffective production execution. Successful businesses understand the value of their workforce and focus on attaining high-quality recruitment, training, and management of staff. Some businesses do this all on their own, but many others rely on some type of human capital management strategy to achieve their HR goals.

What Is WFM Software?

Generally speaking, WFM software focuses on programs that aid in managing aspects of workforce performance, like employee scheduling and attendance. This software may be used as a stand-alone function, but for many companies, it's part of a larger scope of vendor-supplied HR applications, designed for integration with HR systems.

A key feature of effective WFM software is its capacity to provide self-service options, through which employees can monitor their Paid Time Off (PTO) balances and/or place a request for days off from work. When they are able to complete these (and similar) functions on their own, it frees up busy HR team members from unnecessary paperwork and enables them to focus their strategic energies elsewhere.

Although workforce management tools have existed for a long time, automated time and attendance tracking features--among other key software features—have become much more sophisticated and efficient than in years past.

How Does the Workforce Management Process Work?

While the approach to managing a workforce may differ somewhat from company to company, certain underlying action steps form the essence of workforce management.

Key steps include:

Assembling data. It's not possible to understand and enhance employee performance without a baseline assessment of current productivity levels. What employee positions are most critical and how well do employees fulfill their job duties? What areas or job responsibilities are the most difficult to hire for? Assembling information based on current employee productivity and scheduling serves as a first step towards future HR forecasts.

Predicting work capacity. What will your workplace and workforce ideally look like a year from now, or five years down the line? Based on your company's priorities, where is the largest growth likely to take place? Analyzing the data gathered in step 1 may enable you to better anticipate future needs, which might include expanding the number of employees you have in place. These estimates facilitate long-range workforce planning and help determine the best methods of achieving your corporate objectives.

Gauging performance. Tracking employee productivity and their use of time offers insights into levels of individual capabilities and the time needed to complete assigned tasks or projects. When employees take an inordinate amount of time to finish a task or miss a strategic deadline, it can be a signal that either (a) training is required and/or (b) additional hiring is needed to ramp up productivity.

Evaluating employee output. WFM enables HR and business leaders to more accurately evaluate just how well individual employees (and/or teams) are doing. The process can help answer key concerns, such as whether or not the right employees are given the right assignments, or if a new focus on recruitment may be necessary.

Workforce management processes that leverage available analytic information enable HR to better anticipate future needs, design a distinct recruitment and retention strategy, and meet HR objectives in the years to come.

Benefits of WFM and Why It's Important for Businesses

As noted, improved productivity is a prime objective with workforce management. Built into this overarching goal are many additional benefits to the organization:

  • Without adequate management, expenses rising out of absenteeism or, conversely, too much overtime, can be considerable. WFM enables managers and others to monitor and manage costs.
  • WFM offers significant benefits in terms of employee scheduling. For example, if a major sales campaign is planned or some other key corporate initiative is forthcoming, it may be essential to plan for shift vacancies or other scheduling issues.
  • Business owners sometimes find out about federal, state, and local violations too late. Automated processes growing out of WFM--and the accompanying record-keeping—may help employers avoid or minimize their risk of non-compliance with these laws.

Several other key areas may be favorably impacted when implementing workforce management, including payroll, tracking time, scheduling, and so on. When fully incorporated into a company's culture, WFM can dramatically boost understanding of worker time and attendance and help get more work done.

Workforce Management Software: What Features To Look For

What type of WFM software is best for your company? While organizational workforce needs and challenges may differ in some respects, broadly speaking, businesses want to monitor and boost productivity, and better manage their workforce. Choosing the right WFM software involves a deeper understanding of the specific issues your company might face.

Desired workforce management features often include software tools for:

  • Predicting the need for added labor, as in a seasonal business
  • Establishing employee schedules that boost productivity
  • Generating user-friendly, self-service options
  • Managing employee overtime and absences
  • Complying with local, state, and federal workplace regulations
  • Using mobile devices to manage workflow and employee time

Mobile or desktop software solutions are often most effective when integrated within a larger HR approach to employee productivity. WFM software can be incorporated into an existing HR system, enabling HR managers and others to plan strategically for staffing needs and the appropriate distribution of mission-critical job responsibilities.

The Right WFM Tools Can Help Your Business Grow

Any workforce management system you choose will require some time and effort from your HR team. This involves access to detailed, real-time information on benefits, compensation, time and attendance, etc.

The good news is that with the right WFM software, your business can reap many benefits when you run short of needed workers. This software also can help keep employee recruitment and retention costs down, while simultaneously helping ensure compliance with laws regulating the workplace.

An external provider can help owners and HR managers of small to mid-size businesses manage human resources administration tasks, streamline talent management, and access critical data to help them make informed business decisions with confidence.


We can help you tackle business challenges like these Contact us today

Streamline your human resources workflow, provide access to employee records, safeguard data, and integrate personnel, payroll, and benefits management today.

* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

About Paychex

Paychex was founded over four decades ago to relieve the complexity of running a business and make our clients' lives easier, so they can focus on what matters most.

We provide: