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Workforce management (WFM) is an integrated set of processes that a company uses to optimize the productivity of its employees. WFM involves effectively forecasting labor requirements and creating and managing staff schedules to accomplish a particular task on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis.
Importance of workforce management
WFM systems enable organizations to gain insights into such business metrics as the exact number of employees needed to complete a particular job at a given time of the day, week or month. It also helps track employees' daily performance.
For example, in a contact center, WFM helps maximize the use of agent labor by forecasting the volume of transactions -- calls, messages or emails -- and scheduling the correct number of agents with the proper skills at the right time to handle the expected volume of transactions.
A comprehensive workforce management system encompasses a range of activities within the broader framework of human resource management (HRM), such as:
- forecasting and budgeting;
- staff scheduling;
- time and attendance;
- employee performance management;
- payroll and benefits administration; and
- vacation and leave planning.
The potential benefits of using a WFM system include improved employee efficiency, better labor planning, lower operational cost, efficient time and attendance tracking, and better customer service.
Owing to these benefits, organizations in sectors that involve highly time-sensitive tasks and that pay employees on an hourly basis are increasingly using workforce management software to augment their overall business productivity. Such sectors include retail, insurance, banking, healthcare, distribution and transportation.
Workforce management software
Typically, companies use WFM software -- a mobile or desktop program that helps with staff scheduling -- either as part of an integrated HR management suite or as a stand-alone program.
Workforce management software is often integrated with third-party HR applications and with core HR systems that serve as central repositories for workforce data. WFM software also offers self-service options that enable employees to request days off or to check paid time off balances without having to ask the HR department, resulting in reduced paperwork and enabling HR employees to focus on strategic activities.
It is important to note that WFM is not a new concept. Workforce management processes have been automated by organizations for decades to deliver improved outcomes -- time and attendance tracking being one of the first processes to be automated. However, the concept has evolved significantly over the years, and it is now used in tech-savvy organizations and HR departments to monitor and improve labor effectiveness and efficiency.
Recently, due to the proliferation of cloud computing and the rapid expansion of workforce analytics, there has been significant growth in the adoption of workforce management software and in the workforce management market. According to a study published by Market Research Future, the global workforce management market is estimated to reach $9 billion by the end of 2022, with IBM, Kronos, Oracle, ADP, SAP, Workday, WorkForce Software, Infor and ClickSoftware being prominent competitors in the market.