Workforce management

Is Workforce Management the Same as Scheduling?

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Is workforce management the same as scheduling?

While many equate the two, there is a significant difference between scheduling and workforce management.


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Below, we’ll find out why that is, what workforce management really is, and how this business function is evolving in today’s world.

Is Workforce Management the Same as Scheduling?

The short answer: no.

Workforce management is fundamentally about optimizing workforce performance, but there is much more to be unpacked from the idea of improving employee performance.

Scheduling certainly does play a role in ensuring that business units are fully staffed. And scheduling can certainly affect employee performance, in that employees have their own scheduling preferences which can impact attitudes, behaviors, and more.

However, managing employee performance goes far beyond simply scheduling.

To maximize that performance, workforce managers, such as HR leaders, must focus on areas such as:

In other words, workforce management focuses on managing the workforce by overseeing and improving every aspect of the employee experience. Risk management, compliance, and regulations also play a part, since labor regulations must be adhered to.

Components of an Effective Workforce Management Strategy

According to Workforce, an HR software platform that focuses heavily on workforce management, the aforementioned points can be boiled down into three core areas:

  • Operations
  • Labor compliance
  • Employee engagement

From this perspective, we can clearly see that the discipline of workforce management takes a much more comprehensive approach to maximizing performance and managing workforce operations.

This should come as no surprise to HR managers, since there are many factors that impact employee performance.

It is also important to connect workforce management with adjacent business functions, such as workforce planning. These disciplines, after all, are interdependent and must be developed in conjunction with workforce management plans.

HR Disciplines Related to Workforce Management

Here are a few other important HR disciplines that are closely tied to workforce management, and, as mentioned, must often be coordinated together, often under the larger umbrella of HR strategy.

Workforce Planning

Workforce planning is designed to ensure the workforce meets the needs of the organization, both now and in the future. 

This means:

  • There must be enough employees to help the organization achieve its objectives
  • Employees must have the right capabilities to fulfill those objectives
  • Employees should be agile and adaptable, which can enable key organizational capabilities such as speed, innovation, and flexibility

Additionally, all of these tasks must be accomplished cost-effectively and delivered within an acceptable time frame.

Workforce Strategy

Workforce strategy refers to a higher-level approach to workforce management. 

While the exact strategy design will differ from organization to organization, a few other areas of focus can include:

  • Recruitment and retention strategies
  • The work environment
  • Employee training 
  • Innovation
  • Organizational culture
  • Organizational structure

Some companies may view workforce management and workforce strategy as the same practice. 

What should matter most isn’t whether one uses the term “workforce management” instead of “workforce strategy.” What matters is whether or not there is a function that integrates workforce strategy with organizational strategy.

Employee Experience Management

Managing the employee experience has become more common in recent years, since HR managers and other business leaders have come to see the connection between experience, engagement, productivity, and other employee metrics.

As with the other disciplines mentioned above, each organization will take its own unique view on this function and its role in the organization. 

Some, for instance, may view the employee experience as separate from workforce management. Others may consider the employee experience to be a part of workforce management. Yet others may not even manage the employee experience at all.

One useful model of the employee experience comes from Gallup, which defines the employee experience as the sum total of all the interactions an employee has with a company.

According to this model, the employee experience can be divided into seven stages:

  • Attract
  • Hire
  • Onboard
  • Engage 
  • Perform 
  • Develop
  • Depart

This roadmap is a useful tool because it allows managers to analyze and measure each stage of this journey separately – and, as the saying goes, “you can’t improve what you can’t measure.”

What Is the Future of Workforce Management?

Workforce management will continue to evolve and, over time, we will likely see more emphasis on trends that have become popular in recent years.

For instance:

  • Organizational culture has become a hot topic, since many business leaders recognize that it plays an important role in organizational effectiveness and agility
  • Employee training has also become a greater concern for many organizations, since the digital revolution demands new skills
  • Digital transformation will continue to reshape workforce management, spurring, for instance, the adoption of new data-driven methods
  • Workforce management strategies will also need to adapt to changes in the work environment, which will likely see a permanent increase in, for instance, remote working and digital-first workflows

While there is no “right way” to approach workforce management, it is important to keep up with the changing times. 

As we have seen in this article, part of those changes involve the adoption of new technology, but they also involve the implementation of new strategies, new operating models, new business models, and – some might argue – a new definition of human resources.

Forward-thinking HR managers, therefore, should be open to new ideas and new approaches to workforce management.

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