Managing a workforce involves numerous challenges, including cost management, attendance tracking, compliance with labor laws, and resolving scheduling conflicts. Ineffective workforce management (WFM) can create a disconnect between your people and the company’s management, often resulting in high employee turnover levels.

Good workforce management helps maintain happy, productive, and skilled team members.

What is workforce management?

Workforce management is the strategic organization of labor to achieve optimal productivity and company objectives. Workforce management typically includes:

  • Employee scheduling
  • Time tracking and attendance
  • Forecasting
  • Compliance tracking
  • Payroll and benefits
  • Time off and vacation planning
  • Employee safety

A basic form of workforce management has always existed. For example, businesses would track work hours or plan team members’ vacation times. Today, workforce management has evolved into an integrated part of HR software systems, automating and streamlining HR processes to create highly efficient, precise, and reliable results.

How does it work?

Workforce management involves achieving an optimal balance between the business’s workload and the number of individuals required to handle the work. Building an effective system ensures your company isn’t understaffed and that your people have the skills to perform their assigned tasks effectively.

The steps to developing and implementing a WFM strategy include:

  • Setting a strategic direction
  • Analyzing and auditing your current workforce
  • Identifying solutions to optimize WFM
  • Creating standardized procedures to guide team members
  • Implementing automation
  • Monitoring changes and progress

You can streamline this process by implementing employee management solutions with WFM features. Workforce management tools use machine learning and historical workforce data to forecast staffing needs and then properly schedule team members based on the results.

Why is workforce management important?

Companies achieve their business goals most efficiently when they successfully manage their most important resource: their people. WFM helps organizations build a people management framework, including features to track leaves and absences, encourage team building, and monitor employee performance metrics.

For example, in a call center, WFM can help the business determine the daily number of agents on shift based on the volume of emails, messages, or calls. This way, the call center always has the right amount of agents with the skills needed to handle the estimated volume of transactions.

Without proper WFM, the organization may struggle to create a balanced work schedule for team members. WFM gives HR managers visibility over their people; without it, it would be difficult to place the right number of people in the right jobs. This can lead to increased attrition risk and lower productivity.

Who should use workforce management?

Any organization, regardless of size and industry, can leverage workforce management to improve team productivity and satisfaction.

You can implement WFM strategies for efficient people scheduling, absence tracking, and payroll management. Team managers can use WFM solutions to optimize operations and make strategic decisions.

Benefits of effective workforce management

Effective workforce management plays a key role in maximizing your company’s productivity, efficiency, and overall success.

Higher productivity

Management can set daily, monthly, or yearly productivity benchmarks to cross-reference performance. WFM provides a structure for identifying and eliminating productivity gaps, and motivating team members.

Better workload management

You can review workloads and design schedules according to department, job, or location. This helps to quickly identify gaps in job coverage and fill vacancies before they cause understaffing or overstaffing issues. It also ensures that the workload is effectively assigned so that no team member is overwhelmed by their tasks.

Reduced compliance risk

Almost 80 percent of businesses say that workforce management software has enabled them to better comply with labor laws. Effective workforce management allows businesses to automate workflows for overlapping FMLA and state and local labor laws.

If a government agency wants to audit the business for compliance, you can easily track each team member’s eligibility and leave balances and record all team member data.

Cost optimization

Monitoring workloads helps businesses avoid unnecessary labor costs. This ensures the right number of team members are hired and that each team member works their assigned hours—saving costs such as unapproved overtime and unutilized labor.

Benefits for employees

Workforce management allows you to focus on your people’s happiness, satisfaction, and development. You can schedule shifts and tasks efficiently to prevent unnecessary overtime. Additionally, through proper WFM, you can communicate much more clearly as an organization to your team members, fostering transparency between both parties.

With streamlined processes that simplify team members’ access to schedules, work tools, and learning opportunities, they can focus more on their roles—improving team success, wellbeing, and productivity.

Improved company culture

Workforce management contributes to a positive work experience for team members. Businesses can nurture team satisfaction by implementing a system that promotes self-service, team relationships, camaraderie, and organization.

Keeping pace with fast-paced tech innovations while providing your people with reliable, real-time services can support a motivated and engaged workforce. Strategically building an organization based on strong work relationships and seamless teamwork, in turn, nurtures a robust company culture.

What can HR leaders do to enhance workforce management?

An infographic on how HR can improve workforce management. 1. Assess the state of your workforce. 2. Implement an organizational network analysis chart. 3. Integrate a user-friendly performance management system. 4. Incorporate a hybrid work system. 5. Prioritize the individual's experience

Maintaining a high level of workforce management demands constant attention and readiness to fine-tune the system. The following practices can help HR leaders organize and direct team members in a manner that’s beneficial to the company while promoting professional work performance:

  • Implement an organizational network analysis chart (ONA). HR leaders can establish a strong WFM foundation by using a visual org chart to facilitate collaboration, teamwork, efficiency, and goal-oriented decisions.
  • Integrate a dynamic performance management system. A user-friendly platform that facilitates frequent feedback between individuals is essential to an effective performance management system. Individuals can receive support, encouragement, and direction, while managers gain valuable insights to promote productivity. Furthermore, due to the many employee classifications, an integrated performance management system helps keep all team members organized.
  • Incorporate a hybrid work system when possible. Establishing a hybrid work model, when appropriate, can fuel greater productivity, innovation, job satisfaction, and employee wellbeing.
  • Assess the state of the workforce. HR leaders can analyze people’s productivity and engagement using pertinent KPIs. For instance, measuring turnover, absenteeism, and retention can provide insights to improve the employee experience and boost efficiency.
  • Prioritize the employee experience. Nurturing a pleasant, simple, safe, and meaningful individual experience is key to maintaining a motivated workforce. Addressing the differing employee needs and implementing a centralized, user-friendly digital platform can support overall job satisfaction and employee enthusiasm. 

What are workforce management tools?

Workforce management tools are industry-specific software designed to automate workforce management processes, including scheduling and deploying team members efficiently, managing people’s time, boosting productivity, and ensuring team members’ satisfaction.

The core components of these tools include:

  • Absence management: Reduce team member absenteeism costs and attrition risks and comply with absence management regulations. 
  • Time and labor organization: Gain visibility and control over team members’ utilization. 
  • Workforce planning: Analyze historical data to make predictions about future workforce needs in terms of required skills and the number of team members.
  • Workforce health and safety: Manage health and safety incidents at work by automating the process of reporting, capturing information, and investigating the root cause of incidents.

Benefits of workforce management tools

HR leaders can use WFM software tools to:

Reduce manual errors

Leaders can leverage workforce management tools to automate many error-prone manual tasks, such as hiring processes, time tracking, payroll, and leave balances.

For example, you can use a WFM tool to manage information during hiring instead of tracking candidate applications and resumes using an Excel sheet.

Improve workflow optimization 

Managing team member data across multiple Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and payroll software leads to inefficiencies. Teams can optimize and unify workflows using centralized WFM software.

Access automated analytics 

You can use WFM software to integrate team member data and track KPIs such as retention rates, headcount, surveys, and absenteeism. It also makes it easy to send customized reports to management.

You’re able to answer questions much more accurately, such as:

  • Are team members engaged?
  • Is everyone fully utilized?
  • Are we complying with employment and labor laws?
  • What was the company turnover for the year?

Workforce management functions and features

Some important workforce management features include:

Time tracking

HR managers can use WFM solutions to automate time tracking by capturing data from time clocks, web-based time sheets, Point of Sale (POS) devices, and mobile apps. They can then monitor employee attendance patterns to address issues like absenteeism

Accurate payroll

Teams can use a centralized WFM system to manage clocking in, clocking out, individual absences, regular hours, and overtime. HR managers can also quickly update payroll functions with new information, like when an individual receives a raise or earns overtime pay.


When creating work schedules and assigning tasks, HR leaders must consider many variables:

  • The skill and experience of each person
  • Team members’ availability
  • The amount of work needed
  • How many team members it would take to achieve business objectives

HR teams can use WFM to automatically create schedules that assign the right team members to the right job so there are no gaps in job coverage. Team members are happy because they’re not being overwhelmed by work.


Factors like consumer demand, holidays, and illness can make it difficult to balance workloads and schedules. You can model scenarios using workforce management software to create strategies that prepare for overstaffing or understaffing.

For example, superstores like Target experience higher consumer demand during the holidays. On a normal day, they might need forty team members, but during holidays, they may need double that. WFM forecasting tools can remove the guesswork by using historical data related to this scenario to estimate the number of team members needed to optimize team deployment.

Absence management

You can easily process time off requests and approvals, track staffing levels and leave balances, and minimize conflicts due to absences with WFM software tools. This lessens the administrative burden and reduces human error, ensuring a fair and efficient system for managing team member availability.

You can also use WFM analytics to gain insights into patterns of absenteeism and turnover. These can help inform staffing strategies and highlight areas that may require attention, such as burnout or engagement issues.

Reporting and analytics

With advanced analytics, you can view real-time workforce data through customizable dashboards. You can see how many team members are available today, how many have clocked in, how many are absent, along with other information, which means schedules can be adjusted as needed.

Analytics can also uncover insights from historical trends and patterns, enabling HR to make data-driven decisions.

Employee performance management

According to research, more than half of American professionals are disengaged from work, leading to lower productivity and performance. Using WFM features, you can view individual team member performance and engagement levels. This information can indicate why team member performance levels are dropping and how you can best engage and support your people so that they feel motivated to work.

WFM software enables you to use customized performance management templates for monthly, quarterly, or half-year performance reviews. These templates make it easier to track the month-to-month performance of team members and reward them for achieving their goals.

Download a free performance management template here


Failure to comply with employment and labor laws can lead to lawsuits. But with so many federal, state, and local laws guiding how labor should be utilized, it becomes hard to keep track of everything, especially with a large workforce.

Proper workforce management helps you stay up-to-date with union agreements, family/sick leave requirements, and workforce training needs.

Learn more about workforce management

Here are answers to other questions you might have about workforce management:

Is workforce management part of HR?

Yes, workforce management is a crucial part of HR. HR managers use workforce management to ensure team members are happy and satisfied at work while also maximizing productivity and output (ROI).

What is remote workforce management?

Remote workforce management combines technology, communication, and processes specifically designed for managing remote professionals and ensuring a productive remote workforce.

What is mobile workforce management?

Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) systems schedule, track, and analyze the performance of mobile teams that work in more than one office or travel frequently as part of their jobs.

What is workforce management in a call center?

Workforce management in a call center involves forecasting and budgeting to determine the right number of call agents with the desired skill set to be hired based on the workload.

What is contingent workforce management?

Contingent workforce management is a WFM strategy for hiring, managing, and monitoring the performance of non-permanent staff.

Why should HR leaders care about workforce management software?

Workforce management software removes a portion of the heavy work burden from HR professionals.

Through automation, WFM can:

  • Improve labor planning
  • Lower labor and administrative costs
  • Boost presenteeism
  • Promote agile business functioning
  • Support transparency and equity

Team members also benefit from WFM software. Workforce management software can enrich the employee experience, particularly for hybrid and remote professionals, through a platform for a supportive onboarding process and virtual relationship building.

WFM tools help you provide an efficient framework for individuals, enabling them to receive real-time updates, adjust their schedules, and clock in and out with ease.

Meet Bob: Streamline workforce management

Whether you’re a small or large business, workforce management can be complex, especially considering heightened regulations and the increasing diversity of the average workforce.

A great HR tool like Bob can streamline this complex process. Leverage Bob to manage your workforce effectively, using the platform’s Core HR, hiring, onboarding, workforce planning, and people analytics features. You can also use Bob to collect individual feedback through surveys, monitor time and attendance, and manage payroll.

Connect your global tech stack to Bob, such as the ADP marketplace, 360 Learning, Gsuite, and Hireful, to streamline processes, drive accuracy, and ultimately foster a happy, satisfied, and productive workforce.