When we think of workforce management, we often think of it in terms of managing massive workforces. Perhaps call center workforce management where there are a number of staff on rotational shifts or even an Amazon warehouse. But what has been often overlooked are small businesses and their struggles with managing their workforce.

What is scarier from the perspective of workforce management? 10 employees not turning up for a shift in a 1000 employee business or an employee leaving without notice in a 25 member remote team.

Clearly, with limited resources and mountains of work, small businesses need to focus on workforce management. In this article, we’ll take you through the workforce management definition, workforce management software, and the best practices for managing remote teams.

What is Workforce Management?

Workforce Management. (WFM) is a set of processes that forecast requirements, create staff schedules, and make sure that productivity is maximized by analytics. WFM is simply ensuring that the right employees are there at the right place and at the right time.

Although traditionally WFM has been reserved for larger companies with massive workforces even SMBs, who’ve been forced to work remotely, are now recognizing its importance.

Why is Workforce Management Important for Small Businesses?

Improved Employee Engagement and Attrition

Happy employees are productive employees. Through workforce management, small businesses can ensure that employees aren’t burning out due to overwork. This can be done in quite a few ways. A few examples are:

  • Tracking vacation time of employees to ensure that they’re taking at least 2 weeks off in a year
  • Providing employees opportunities to talk to management about project allocations and workloads through one on one meetings
  • Tracking time spent on tasks and projects by employees to benchmark productivity
  • Using a mix of junior and senior employees for projects to divide tasks basis experience
  • Set company-wide goals only after discussing them with employees

Employee productivity has been linked to lower attrition rates. Employees who are happy and know that they’re doing good work are less likely to leave the organization in under a year. This can save small businesses a lot on hiring and training costs.

Improved employee engagement is one of the key benefits of proper workforce planning.

Better Operational Efficiency

The pandemic forced a lot of companies to go remote fast. Although it’s been a while now, some are still trying to find their bearings when it comes to operational efficiency. Small businesses in particular always found it much easier to do workforce planning when meetings and workspaces existed in person. It’s so much easier to just randomly check in on employees and their workloads in person.

But remote work is here to stay and small businesses can cut overheads considerably by opting for it. In such a situation, remote workforce management can improve efficiency. Knowing exactly what your employees are working on, how much bandwidth they have available, are KPIs being met and what work is pending is key. Although managers can do all this manually a remote workforce management software can help streamline the process.

Ensuring a Consistent Supply of Talent

Any workforce planning worth its salt will give management complete visibility on the demographics, skills, weaknesses, and forecasts on the current workforce. A workforce plan ensures that management understands where there is a dip in productivity and where employees need to be trained to ensure a consistent supply of talent.

Respond to Change Proactively

Proper workforce management allows management to predict future staffing requirements and skill shortages to allow for a consistent recruitment strategy. A recruitment strategy that is a result of workforce planning ensures that time frames and costs are locked well in advance.

By making sure that development needs are met, management can respond to change proactively instead of reacting to changes in the business. Identifying talent that can be promoted will also help the organization respond more strategically to change.

How to Manage a Remote Workforce?

Workforce management for a remote workforce is a unique issue. It was an issue that was long overdue but pushed into the forefront due to the pandemic.

In general, we need to understand remote working isn’t the same as in-office working. There are a lot more distractions but employees also get to do away with unproductive tasks like long commutes. But how can a workforce be managed remotely?

Do Regular Stand-Ups with Team Members and Managers

Stand-ups are a tech team requirement that is now being used in cross-functional teams. A standup early in the day allows team members to set goals for the day and make sure that project goals are being met. For remote teams working from different time zones, this can be done on Slack/Microsoft Teams asynchronously too.

Use The Right Workforce Management Tools

When we work remotely, we need to understand what we’re working towards, how we will get there, and how to collaborate with teammates. None of these tasks can be done without the right workforce tools.

Our marketing team at Harmonize uses Jira for project management, Slack for internal communications, AttendanceBot as a time tracking solution and workforce management clock, and G-Suite for files. Using these tools makes sure that all team members are on the same page and management is able to understand what every employee is doing.

Set-Up Leave Management

Did you know that managers can spend almost 15% of their day dealing with HR queries from employees? With remote work, this figure will only rise. If we don’t help automate these tasks we’ll find that management will begin to be less productive.

Employees often turn to their managers or HR to keep track of leaves and applying for leaves. Unfortunately, this can lead to a large amount of back and forth regarding leave balances, approvals, reasons for the leave, and so on. By using software like AttendanceBot, management can automate this process to the extent that all managers need to do is approve/reject the leave.  Employees can even find out which of their co-workers will also be on leave and thereby schedule their planned leaves without harming productivity.

Set up Time Tracking

Employees want to work and deliver their best. No one wants to laze around all day and have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. For us, time tracking isn’t the same as Big Brother watching over an employee’s shoulder. It means that employees track their time and let management know how much time they spent on each task/project.

This allows management to:

  • Set productivity benchmarks for departments and teams
  • In the case of agencies, price their projects more accurately
  • Find tasks that have automation opportunities
  • Check if there are any issues with communication within a team that is leading to undue delays

If you’re interested to find how exactly AttendanceBot can help your remote team with workforce management, read more here.

Make Sure that Employees Feel Heard

In the silence of our homes, we may often feel isolated and disconnected from the company and our team members. Even though a lot of us may be going through the same problems we may not vocalize them. Regular one-on-one meetings with managers, teammates, and skip level managers are forums to vocalize these issues.

Have Some Fun

Remote work can be great for managing a multigenerational workforce. Older employees can enjoy time with their family between work and younger ones can take up side gigs in their free time. But, we’ve lost those fun office retreats, parties, and Fridays.

HR needs to work extra hard to ensure that employees still have those fun sessions at home. It can be in the form of swag bags, Friday lounges, Secret Santa, and other virtual team-building activities.

What are Workforce Management Tools?

Workforce management tools are software that can help improve employee productivity and efficiency. Although there are full-service HR workforce tools that have a number of modules, they may be too expensive for a small business. In that case, piecemeal workforce management software can be a solution.

In this, small businesses can opt for only the workforce management solution that they require. The commonly used piecemeal workforce management software can be classified as follows:

Time and Attendance Tracking Software

As we’ve mentioned before this is one of the first workforce management software that any small business adopts. Tracking time and attendance can be easy when you have only 10 employees but as the growth accelerates they get harder to track. Time off requests, punch in and punch out times, and leave balances can be easily tracked with time and attendance tracking software.

Scheduling Workforce Management Software

Scheduling software isn’t just a mainstay for high-volume call centers. They can also be important for teams functioning in different time zones and customer support teams for small businesses. Most shift scheduling software companies provide a high degree of customization to suit businesses’ needs.

Employee Self Service Software

Employee self-service software does away with the need for employees to badger HR for basic questions. With ESS software employees can access all their information on a portal and they can even be given access to limited information for teammates. Although ESS software is easily available in a comprehensive HR software it is rarely available stand-alone.

Project Management Software

Project management software facilitates team collaboration and communication. It is used to create projects and tasks within the project which can then be tracked and assigned individually.

Workforce Management Analytics

All software is useless if it doesn’t add value. In the case of workforce management software, all of them must work towards the goal of workforce planning. They must each have readily available dashboards and KPIs to track for management to have full visibility of the workforce.

We are happy to inform you that AttendanceBot ticks a lot of these boxes. It has the following features:

If you’d like to take it for a spin, feel free to add AttendanceBot to your Slack or MS Team workspaces. Use the software in its entirety for 15 days and see if it works for you.