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Workforce Management: What You Need to Know in 2021

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In the modern work world, workforce management (WFM) has become crucial to retaining talent, engaging employees, building an employer brand, and more. Yet, like so many other areas of business, WFM is evolving rapidly as we proceed through the digital revolution.

Below, we’ll cover what you need to know about WFM in 2021 – what WFM is, why it matters, and how it’s changing.


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A Quick Intro to Workforce Management (WFM)

Workforce management (WFM) refers to a discipline dedicated to optimizing employee productivity and performance.

This discipline focuses on several areas, such as:

  • Operations. How a business operates can have a significant impact on employee performance, workflows, engagement, and more. Factors that should be considered include planning, team organization, scheduling, timekeeping, budgeting, and resource allocation. All of these factors work together to impact how effectively and efficiently an organization operates.
  • Compliance. Laws and regulations affect business operations in every country and industry. Adhering to these laws can impact many areas of WFM, since employers must pay attention to wages, working conditions, laws, and so forth.
  • Engagement. Another key focus of WFM is employee engagement, which can be affected by several factors, including those mentioned above, such as salary, working conditions, and work conditions. At the same time, however, it is also crucial to pay attention to areas such as the employee experience.

While some define WFM as scheduling, this definition is far from complete – many other factors affect the engagement and productivity of the workforce, after all. Also, it is important to note that WFM has a long history and has been evolving for decades, if not longer.

As we enter the digital-first era, those tasked with managing the workforce will need to adapt to the latest trends and disruptions, many of which are technology-driven.

Below, we’ll look at a few of these trends and how organizations can adapt.

Trends that Will Impact WFM in 2021 and Beyond

Over time, we have seen several changes affect WFM, from the digitization of analog practices to the expansion of WFM to encompass more methods and tactics, such as those covered above.

In the years ahead, expect to see other trends reshape this industry, such as:

WFM for a hybrid work world

During 2020, remote working became the new normal and in the years ahead – the post-COVID next normal – we can expect new working arrangements that combine both online and offline approaches.

For instance, many companies will be more willing to implement remote working strategies. Not only is teleworking more cost-efficient, many employees prefer remote working

Yet many companies will need to maintain some onsite operations, which will lead them to implement WFM strategies such as:

  • Flex-time
  • The increased use of contractors and gig workers
  • An increasingly distributed and global workforce

The hybrid office model, in short, will become more common – and while it is not perfect, it does offer a number of benefits over traditional workplace models.

Increased adoption of a multi-faceted approach to WFM

As mentioned above, modern WFM approaches are complex and take many factors into account, including everything from budgets to scheduling to employee engagement.

However, many companies still only tackle a small subset of these disciplines, such as scheduling.

In the coming years, though, the world will see more disruption, more competition, and more change, which will compel many businesses to adopt a multifaceted approach to WFM.

Data-driven WFM

One of the biggest consequences of the digital era has been the adoption of data-driven business practices.

There are several reasons for this transition:

  • New technology enables the mass collection of new data types
  • Data technology also allows for the collection of more data than ever before
  • Advances in computing technology enable new insights that weren’t possible just a few years ago

Altogether, these shifts have given managers in every department – including WFM professionals – new tactics and intelligence that can significantly improve their operations. HR data analytics, for instance, can optimize everything from recruitment to team synergy to employee training.

In fact, the implementation of modern data-driven techniques can even change the very way a department operates.

The adoption of digital WFM tools

Finally, it should be noted that there are centralized SaaS platforms that are specifically designed for WFM.

These platforms offer several advantages, including:

  • Centralization of all WFM processes and practices
  • The ability to automate many WFM tasks
  • Modules and functions that leverage data and offer insights

WFM platforms, like any other enterprise-grade software, will be built around the needs of the enterprise WFM practitioner. They promise a number of benefits to those who adopt them and make full use of them.

A greater focus on employee training

Employee training has always been a central focus for growing and large enterprises. And it plays an important role in WFM.

After all, employee training programs can impact:

  • The effectiveness of employee onboarding programs
  • How proficient and productive employees are
  • Employer branding
  • Engagement and job satisfaction

In short, employee training can have a significant impact on the workforce, employee performance, and organizational behavior, among other things.

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