News and Insights


10 Dec

What is Workforce Management?


Author: Robin Hayman

In a competitive retail landscape, effectively managing your workforce is the keystone to achieving organisational objectives. Historically, workforce management meant getting the right people with the right mix of skills in the right places at the right time.

Today, leading retailers take a more advanced approach by implementing workforce management (WFM) software that helps them gain a competitive edge.

In this article, we look at the core elements of a workforce management system including:

Performance management
Payroll, time and attendance
Employee engagement

Why is Workforce Management Needed in an Organisation?

From shop floor to back office and warehouse employees, your operations won’t work well without the right people. This relies on your managers piecing together a challenging workforce management jigsaw puzzle. One that involves matching individual staff in multiple roles to the right shifts across a complex multi-site organisation.

Relying on spreadsheets and archaic manual systems to manage your workforce is time-consuming and carries the risk of human error. It also makes management reporting, workforce management analysis and data tracking and sharing more difficult.

It’s also why big retailers use workforce management software: so it can do all this for them and more.

What is Workforce Management Software and What Does it Do?

A workforce management system brings the organisation of a firm’s human resources online using a single or connected pieces of software. WFM typically provides the following features.

Workforce Forecasting

Cutting edge workforce management systems provide granular data insights to retail operations. They employ machine learning to analyse complex data sets and the software understands trends, spots patterns and predicts workforce requirements. Both for the short and long term.

Workforce management software needs to be agile so it can adapt to your business goals, challenges and operating infrastructure. As well as all the relevant details about your people and the places they work from. This allows it to forecast appropriate staffing levels so your managers can plan in good time.

Here are some examples of the kinds of factors a workforce management system can help you prepare for:

  • Football matches – if local matches drive greater footfall to a particular location (or reduce it) the workforce management software will let local managers know in advance so they can schedule the right number of staff.
  • Busy times of year – Christmas is often a make or break time for retailers who can’t afford to get staffing levels wrong. Using data from previous years plus a range of other information, an advanced workforce management system will predict staffing levels with a high degree of accuracy, ensuring you capitalise at the busiest periods.

By analysing this kind of workforce management data, the system uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to build its knowledge year-on-year. This enables it to make increasingly accurate predictions about the numbers of employees you’ll need – next week, month or year – with which skills in which locations.

This kind of workforce management intelligence can help you plan strategically, putting you ahead of your competitors.

Scheduling Made Easy

Organising your staffing schedules is a balancing act. One that must take individual employee’s preferences, the needs of the business and the WFM system’s forecasts into account.

Your managers will also need to ensure they meet health and safety requirements including relevant break periods for shift workers. Or any other time-related regulations like your overtime rules.

Workforce management software takes all these requirements into consideration and more. Whatever your firm’s shift patterns – fixed, rotating or bespoke – workforce management software can be programmed to fit. By automatically assigning employees to shifts, it takes the time-consuming pain of managing staff rotas away.

Even the most carefully planned shifts can come unstuck due to occurrences that can’t be predicted too far out. But workforce management systems can help your leaders deal with these too:

  • Weather – bad weather might be great for outlets based inside retail centres but not so good for high street locations. Advanced workforce management software assesses the weather and flags the potential impact on your staffing levels. Your managers can spot any red flags and react by scheduling staff or cancelling overtime.
  • Flu season – if half a team suddenly calls in sick, workforce management systems come to the rescue. By flagging potential employees with the right skills to fill in for missing colleagues, your managers will quickly regain control.

With all the information they need at their fingertips, supervisors can ensure they have teams on shift with the right mix of skills and specialisms. Ensuring proficiency and maximising performance whatever the scenario.

Performance Management

An essential part of any workforce management system is the in-built performance management toolkit. It helps to align people, processes and systems to work towards a common goal like cost control, exceptional customer service or revenue targets.

By setting and tracking relevant key performance indicators, WFM helps managers act on a stream of reliable intelligence. For example, the performance of staff on the tills. Or the efficiency of distribution centre staff.

With a unified view of a wide range of data, managers can make informed workforce management decisions faster helping them to drive the right outcomes for the business.

Payroll, time and attendance records

Knowing who’s turned up for their shift, tracking hours and accurately calculating pay is critical to controlling costs and treating employees fairly.

WFM automatically tracks employee attendance and absence removing the risk of overpaying employees and having to recoup the cost. Or underpaying employees and impacting engagement.

With everything online, in one place, individual managers are well-supported to lead their team effectively by:

  • viewing, editing and approving employee timesheets
  • handling time-off and shift-swap requests
  • seeing a daily or weekly view of scheduled shifts and breaks
  • swiftly revising over or under-scheduling
  • accessing employee profiles to decide who would fit best in different roles
  • reviewing scheduling exceptions in real time and as an overview

Because every team’s data is captured within in a single system, it can also be used to provide enterprise-level workforce management reporting. This allows executives to rapidly access an accurate view of attendance and drill down into any people challenges.

Employee Engagement

It’s not all about employers: WFM benefits employees too. With system access at any time and from any location, employees can review their working patterns as soon as they become available. This gives them plenty of time to swap shifts without impacting the performance of the business.

Employees can also:

  • log in on-the-go to see their shifts
  • ask to swap to available shifts if an existing shift doesn’t suit them
  • claim available over time
  • request time off
  • see how many hours they’ve worked and check payslips
  • check their outstanding leave entitlement

By giving employees the ability to take charge of their work-life balance WFM minimises stress and provides you with a more engaged workforce. And by placing data online the number of common workforce management queries, like remaining leave, decreases. Which frees up time for managers and HR to spend on other priorities.

WFM is a critical part of any major retailer’s operation. By moving everything online into a single workforce management system, you gain greater operational efficiency and insight plus the power to make better decisions faster.

To find out more about REPL’s cutting edge WFM solution, get in touch on +44 (0) 808 200 7375.

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