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Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Who Needs WFM?

III. WFM for Human Resources

IV. WFM for Time and Attendance

V. WFM for Payroll

VI. WFM by Industry

What a Supervisor Should Know About Time Clocks


Workforce Management: The Nexus where Finance, Productivity, and Human Resources Goals for the Company Intersect.

Workforce Management (WFM) is the practical core of human capital management (HCM). In other words, WFM is about getting the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time. All of this needs to be done done in away that optimizes the productivity of both individual workers and the company's workforce as a whole while managing labor costs.

For human resources departments, using WFM techniques and tools is now essential to executing traditional HR responsibilities like recruiting the right talent and skill sets, minimizing employee turnover, and ensuring compliance with the complicated web of scheduling laws and requirements. Using WFM technology is also the best means to reduce the risk of labor law and obligations noncompliance in the increasingly complex workforce filled with a mix of employees, independent contractors, and contingent workers.

We'll dive into a number of WFM issues and techniques for HR below. However, the most effective WFM programs are those that the entrie company embraces. So you'll also find information to help you make the cast to other departments for improving the WFM tools and process used across the company.

Chapter One

Who Needs WFM?

This question may seem odd given that we've already discussed the need for WFM. The question here is really "What scale of WFM tools and processes does your company need?"

Due entirely to technological advances, there is a suite of WFM tools and processes available today on an unprecedented scale. The size of the workforce may affect what technology and WFM automation a company requires to execute WFM successfully.

The type of WFM tools and processes that a particular company requires, depends on the particular business challenges the company is facing. Consider these questions:

1.How well does your company understand what's driving its labor costs?

If there's no understanding of how and why labor costs fluctuate and impact profitability, your company isn't in control. WFM tools that can correlate scheduling to identify lopsided worker-to-manager ratios, empower HR to proactively handle labor costs without sacrificing productivity or quality.

2. Are high labor costs impacting cash flow?

Overpaying for labor through over-scheduling and uncontrolled overtime is a common problem. Scheduling tools, automated time and attendance data collection, and real-time notifications are all WFM tools that help managers forecast scheduling needs accurately, respond to real-time events without having to rely on expensive temp workers, and minimize overtime.

Time theft is a common cause of high labor costs. There are many WFM tools and processes that can help eliminate this practice often causing an overpayment of labor.

3. Are payroll and HR spending too much time manually doing tasks that can be automated?

Using WFM tools to automated what's currently done manually minimizes risk of human error, and frees up staff time to invest effort into higher value tasks. Just think about all of the time it takes for people in management roles to complete regular tasks, like creating and updating schedules, correcting timesheet errors or onboarding employees.

4. How complex is your employee scheduling?

The more variables involved in your company's scheduling process, the greater the need for a more sophisticated WFM scheduling tool. Number of workers is only one variable. Other variables to consider include quantifying the range of:

• Roles to be filled

• Skill sets needed and how specialized those skill sets are (i.e. what level of cross-skill proficiency does the staff have?)

 Types of shfits and hours that need to be covered

 Locations where workers may be sent

 Season or other demand fluctuations

 Types of workers available (e.g. employee, contingent, etc.)

The more variables in play, the more sophisticated a scheduling and forecasting tool your company needs.

5. How dependent is your company on hard-to-replace skill sets?

Whether it's institutional knowledge or technical skills, many company have a pool of employees they dread the thought of losing. If your company relies on having a certain depth of skill or expertise, WFM talent management tools can help you identify those skills and expertise currently reside, and which employees are candidates to get further trained to deepen your bench.

Your answers to these questions provide a starting road map for the types of business goals and functions you want an WFM program to fulfill. Here are two more issues to think about when clarifying the scope of the WFM program that will most benefit your company.

For Companies with Complex WFM Requirements

For large companies that have to juggle a high volume of workforce variables, the breadth of their WFM requirements and infrastructure adds its own layer to the complexity of executing a successful WFM program. Their WFM program will likely include integrating a variety of WFM software tools and conducting sophisticated data analysis to benefit from the WFM system and improve decision making.

IN addition to the IT needs, a company-wide WFM program often requires one person with ultimate ownership to oversee it. Part IT, part HR, some companies find creating the role of a workforce asset manager (WAM) brings some needed unified structure their WFM program.

Managing a Growing Contingent Workforce

The freelancer workforce grew by 7% over the last five years, outpacing the growth of non-freelance workforce at 2%.

The growing use of contingent workers and independent contractors brings a host of compliance and management challenges. Fortunately, various WFM tools can help. For example, a sophisticated WFM and time and attendance system can differentiate between employees and contingent workers for purposes of calculating hours and determining which payments fall under payroll and which are invoiced. Read more about WFM processes and tools to assist in contingent worker management.

Chapter Two

WFM for Human Resources

Workforce management tools and techniques can directly improve HR functions and free up HR staff time to handle more face-to-face issues. Here are three ways to different collections of WFM tools and process can make the HR department more effective and efficient.

Smart onboarding creates engaged workers

Studies on employee engagement have found that a company's onboarding program is an accurate predictor of strong employee retention. A successful onboarding program welcomes new employees operationally, technologically and socially into the company, using WFM optimizations techniques to do so.

60% of employees are more likely to still be with the company after three years when the company has a structured onboarding program.

  • Make the paperwork part easy. Automated WFM tools can guide new hires through every phase of onboarding paperwork, varying the onboarding workflow based on your company's business rules for different roles and hires. Automated online, self-service onboarding paperwork doesn't require anyone from HR to sit with the new hire(s).
  • Look beyond administrative paperwork. Onboarding is so much more than paperwork. Using WFM and other communication tools, HR can set up a welcome framework that starts before the first day and extends beyond HR contact. HR can deliver an automated email sequence that introduces the new hire to valuable information about the company and sets expectations on how their first days and weeks will go. Another leg of the welcome program can be to set up a buddy system between a new hire and an experienced peer.
  • Get new hires started quickly in the process of performance review. The talent and skills modules of many WFM tools will help standardize and manage expertise levels in different skills, use performance reviews to clarify an employee's current skill level, and track goals. HR and operations can use these WFM tools to outline performance goals with new hires and enforce an ongoing schedule to check-in with the new hire as they transition to company veteran.
  • On first days, start with technology proficiency. Your company has its own set of tools and technologies it uses to get work done. Even if the new hire used those tools previously, you probably have your own workflows and customizations. Get new hires comfortable on your technology tools before they join the team that will expect them to have a working knowledge of how to use them. A WFM or training tool that lets you build training modules and wizards can be invaluable here. Include both admin technology (like how to use the time and attendance system) and tools they'll need to know how to use to do their job.

Leveraging WFM solutions when there's high employee turnover

You already know the high cost of high employee churn. The costliest employee turnover happens when your company loses its most valuable employees. How well does your company do in identifying its most productive workers? Streamlining your employee retention programs and avoiding the costliest churn is the hidden gem of managing employee turnover. 

WFM analytics can help operations and HR identify what realistic benchmarks of high performance are. Let your high-performing outliers set the bar. By identifying your most valuable outliers, you know where to focus retention efforts for maximum return. You can also use these employees as templates to map out behavioral expectations, metric goals, and up- and cross-training plans to raise up other current workers into high-performing status.

Heres an additional discussion on how WFM can help your company address the two other main causes of involuntary employee turnover.

  • Identifying low-performing employees who can be trained and remediated into an acceptably performing worker.
  • Achieve efficiencies in labor management to recover budget without having to let go of valuable workers.

Empowering employees to self-serve reduces admin burden on HR staff

One of the best ways to use WFM tools is to empower workers and employees to self-serve on a variety of scheduling and HR issues without having to take up HR staff time. Implementing time clocks with an interface that can double as a self-service kiosk lets workers check their schedules, submit vacation requests and perform a variety of other functions based on the information in your company's WFM system.

Chapter Three

WFM for Time and Attendance

Time and attendance policies are key to productivity, as they increase workforce efficiency. WFM tools have been game-changers in the ability of the operations team to forecast scheduling and maximize productivity without having to increase labor costs.

Both operations managers and HR can use WFM data analysis to improve adherence to schedules and time and attendance policies.

Gain actionable insights into attendance trends

WFM data analysis can reveal where scheduling conflicts are often occurring, so managers can adjust future schedules to avoid common conflict causes. Worker-level analysis can identify those who have frequent attendance issues, giving the manager time to review, correct, or modify worker behavior to the benefit of the worker and the company. It can also highlight whether there are attendance issues that stand out by shift or department, enabling managers to address a larger situation.

If you find schedule adherence is a significant challenge at your company, here are three ways to reduce absenteeism and five ways to encourage employees to take attendance seriously.

Improves record-keeping and compliance

Every company has a myriad of federal regulations, state regulations, labor contracts and its own policy with which its scheduling of shifts, breaks, and total hours must comply. Entering all those business rules into a WFM scheduler engine reduces the risk of your company falling out of compliance with any of these requirements.

Using time clocks that deliver time and attendance data back to managers and other systems in near real-time is the back-up process that helps managers avoid unplanned overtime or over-scheduling a worker. It also ensures that team members take all their required breaks (we'll get into the issue of managing break time in more detail below).

Download the Minimize Absenteeism Guide

Chapter Four

WFM for a More Accurate Payroll

One of the most direct ways a company realizes savings through automated time and attendance and WFM systems is by achieving a more accurate payroll. Cost saving are achieved through:

  • Not overpaying workers, either due to issues like time theft or payroll calculation errors.
  • Minimizing the risk of wage and hours lawsuit (such lawsuits in 2017 paid out nearly $3 billion in damages) by underpaying workers, whether through misclassification of workers, mismanaging required break time, or payroll calculation errors.
  • Reducing the administrative time payroll staff spend running and correcting payroll and dealing with unhappy workers who've been underpaid.

These systems achieve such savings by:

  • Allowing your company to create custom rules to do things like track work hours so employees don't work longer than regulations allow.
  • Prevent workers from clocking in early from a mandatory lunch or break, or from clocking-in when they aren't scheduled.
  • Sending an alert to managers when workers aren't taking required breaks so the situation can be rectified in real time.
  • Enforcing data integrity standards that make it difficult to modify time and attendance data, which improves record-keeping for compliance

The right combination of WFM and time and attendance policies and tools can transform payroll from a cost center into a cost management tool.

Time clocks backed by sophisticated WFM tools collect a massive amount of hours and wage data that your payroll department can analyze for trends, now that they spend less time correcting errors. For example, they can assess the comparative costs of authorizing overtime versus hiring new permanent or temp employees.

Both HR and payroll can re-position themselves as a research and analytics team for the company, that can offer insights that influence company strategy.

Chapter Five

Taking a Closer Look at Specific Industries and Needs

Certain industries and worker segments present a particular set of challenges in managing their scheduling, time and attendance tracking, and payroll. WFM policies that are worker or industry-centric can help HR and payroll navigate these issues.

Challenges of contingent and mobile workers

  • Contingent worker time and attendance and WFM business rules need to get managed differently than that of company employees. Even if that contract worker is sitting next to an employee every day and clocking in at the terminal, their data needs to be processed appropriately for their role. The right WFM system can accommodate and process the full range of operational and compliance issues both of contingent workers and employees.
  • Mobile workers present a different challenge, not the least of which is tracking their time while in the field or working remotely. While mobile time and attendance apps offer a limited solution to time tracking, mobile apps introduce other challenges, such as the legality of requiring use of a mobile device and validating the data collected by them.

Needs of industries with primarily non-office workers

The bulk of the workforce in a number of industries don't actually work in offices. If that describes your company's workforce, here's some WFM guidance for two such industries. Even if your industry isn't represented here, you'll find valuable take-aways that you can apply to your company.

Health Care

Hospitals, care facilities and practices are typically chaotic workplaces. Health care providers also aren't in a position to enforce hard breaks when people need to stop working, as the "emergency" in this industry genuinely means emergency.

An effective WFM program for a health care employer needs to provide policies and tools so it can address how to allow workers to make up missed breaks, accurately calculate payroll for missed break time, provide an easy-to-use mechanism by which workers can inform managers of missed breaks, and generate compliance-worthy documentation about all of it. You can read more about some WFM best practices regarding such tools and policies in our article Staying on Top of Wage and Hour Laws.


The ability of WFM analytics to provide granular insight into shifts in demand offers great potential for hospitality venues like casinos, reservation centers, and hotels to realize significant cost savings through smarter scheduling.

Managers and HR can leverage the skills modules in a WFM system to improve cross- and up-training, resulting in a more loyal and flexible workforce.

You'll find a number of suggestions on how to use a WFM as a strategic talent development tool in our article Workforce Optimization Best Practices in Hospitality.

Since hospitality is an industry with a high percentage of contingent workers, hers' a list of WFM best practices on how to manage this fluid worker pool without sacrificing on customer service or compliance requirements.



Workforce happiness and engagement directly impact labor costs, and labor costs directly impact your company's revenue, profitability, and competitiveness. This relationship can either be a virtuous cycle of mutual reinforcement of good behaviors and results, can become a death spiral of high employee turnover, high costs, and unhappy management. 

Having an effective WFM program with its comprehensive set of tools, policies, and culture is the foundation that supports the virtuous cycle of happy, productive employees and profitability.

As workforce requirements and the makeup of the workforce are evolving in new ways, the WFM program needs flexibility to change along with it. Be sure the check back for updates on new trends and opportunities to streamline your company's WFM protocols for continued success.