How workforce management enhances performance of your staff
Everything starts with one question: what is workforce management (WFM)? Workforce management describes a set of activities and approaches to managing staff in the way that is the most efficient, effective, and in the way that results in a higher employee engagement-all while still delivering the best customer experience.
Given the fact that WFM deals with numerous employees, and numerous ways to manage and lead them, it is a very sensitive topic. For one thing, successful WFM can seem a bit expensive, and employee costs already represent one of the largest expenses in an organization. Secondly: sensitivity. Making the wrong decisions in relation to your employees may lead to lower employee morale and disengagement.
So, what are the best levers to use to drive performance via WFM? Read on to find out.
WFM component - smart training and coaching
One of the key objectives of workforce management is to provide enough coaching and training for your staff to ensure that they can continuously grow and develop into future leaders and/or experts.
Here are some key strategies for achieving that objective:
The first thing you need to remember is to coach, coach, coach. It is essential that your leaders (e.g. team, department, etc.) dedicate enough time to coach staff and equip them with the additional skills that are required to complete their tasks in a proper way. Focusing a significant part of your workforce management approach on both hard and soft skills will ensure that the whole team works smoothly and professionally.
You also need to remember to cross-train your staff members. If some staff members are cross-trained on the jobs of other teams, it means that they are able to jump in and help out when they are needed (e.g. in the event of unexpected workload peaks due to unplanned events in insurance or RRSP seasons in banking).
Next, put a proper learning management system (LMS) solution into place. Having a proper and modern LMS solution ensures that you can offer your staff necessary training tools, thereby equipping them with the skills they need. These solutions can be a learning platform to providing workforce management knowledge, but they can also be used to verify existing knowledge (e.g. in the form of interactive surveys). Skilled and knowledgeable staff members will contribute to the overall operating efficiency of your company.
Don't forget to capture and leverage your learnings. Holding weekly meetings in which you can discuss every past week allows you to make sure that key learnings are incorporated into the company's future planning, and that allows you to manage your workforce even better.
Finally, ensure you plan for proper skill levels and mixes. Having operations teams that consist exclusively of experts might be too expensive, but having an operations team of all junior members won't be efficient, either. It is important to target a particular skill mix in your workforce; you want to ensure that there are a few junior level employees and a few senior employees. This will ensure the newer employees are gaining training and experience from those who are able to coach them and help with the complexes cases. In addition, some team members should be cross-trained on the tasks other teams complete to ensure resources can be borrowed and lent across teams, adding to your overall operational efficiency.
WFM component - Creation of harmony in teams
Managing a team of people is not easy. There are many topics that a skilled workforce manager should keep in mind to maintain focus on both efficiency and making sure people are happy. Below are some examples of the best management practices:
The first and foremost step is to ensure strong leadership. Strong leaders, both at team and department levels, represent an essential component of efficient and high-performing operations. Great operational leaders can lead, engage, and manage teams on a day-to-day basis. It is important for the workforce managers to be visible on the floor and to be close to operations.
To maximize operational efficiency, you then need to minimize unnecessary meetings. Many organizations have too many meetings. While meetings are important to operations, it is important to make sure that no unnecessary meetings are taking up people's time-and to ensure that everybody comes prepared to the meetings that do take place. This can save many hours per week and will significantly increase operational efficiency.
You also need to manage your teams in cycles to maximize your company's operational efficiency. Adhoc/ firefighting management styles confuse people and result in lower performance. Setting up a cadence of activities to manage operations and teams will help drive better performance results (e.g. use Monday to discuss the new week; use Tuesday to review the previous week, along with key insights; use Wednesday to plan for the coming week; or have daily morning huddles). There are many pieces to a successful, recurring operations management routine.
Don't forget to use voluntary free days (if there is not enough work). If there is not enough work on some days, like just before or after holidays, some operations staff members might be happy to get an unpaid day off. Check with your staff to see if this is an option-it decrease your overall costs, and it can typically result in higher employee engagement.
Finally, remember to leverage your remote staff. As an experienced workforce manager knows, there are many benefits to leveraging remote staff, including: lower real estate and utility costs, decreasing time spent in traffic, and increasing access to specific resources and skills that can not be accessed otherwise (e.g. due to geography, family situations like parental leave, etc.). The most important thing here is to design the program in the right way: you want your employees to perceive it as a reward rather than a simple perk.
WFM component - Time Management and Future Planning
Intelligent time management is another important component of WFM. There are only so many hours in a workday, and they need to be used wisely to ensure effective overall operations.
Here are a few tips that can help you achieve better time management throughout all aspects of your company:
First, ensure flexible, real-time workforce management. Workdays don't consistently operate at the same level throughout their duration. There are intra-day workload spikes and quiet times - that's where real-time workforce management can drive efficiency, softening extremes by providing additional resources (in case of workload spikes) or letting people leave earlier (as unpaid hours off on a voluntary basis during the quiet times).
However, you also need to monitor trends and embed them into your planning. Knowing what the trends are and embedding them into your workforce planning is important because it allows you to right size your organization as work volume grows or decreases-otherwise you are risking an increased backlog and lower performance.
Improving your resource forecasting is another important strategy for maximizing time management. Knowing what resource demands are in your company's future and forecasting for those properly means you will end up with significantly fewer wasted resources as a result of being able to hire exactly the right number of people instead of "a few extra positions just in case." That is where workforce management solutions like Reveal software can help.
However, don't forget to account for seasonality in your planning. Workforce planning should consider the difference in workloads that occur during different seasons-otherwise you run the risk of having too few or too many resources, and that heavily impacts performance (e.g. the beginning of winter is often a more work-intensive time for auto insurance due to the first signs of frost/ice on the roads).
Finally, leverage your regular huddles to maximize efficiency. Spending 15 minutes per day checking in with the entire team and aligning on the tasks for the current day goes a long way. It brings everybody onto the same page, demonstrates leadership, and drives transparent team communication, and that results in higher performance as well as higher operational efficiency.