The employees we employ are one of the resources, even the critical resource , for the success of any company. However, they are also a very important cost factor . It is above all a question of making the best use of it to obtain maximum productivity while avoiding absences. This is what is called workforce management. Here we show you what professional workforce management is and how you can make your daily work easier in the long term.

Definition: what is workforce management?

Workforce management is a branch of workforce planning, which itself falls under personnel management more generally. Personnel management covers all day-to-day administrative tasks relating to personnel; Workforce planning, on the other hand, aims to cover the company's personnel needs from a quantitative , qualitative , temporal and physical point of view . In concrete terms, this means ensuring the availability of a suitable number of staff (quantitative) with adequate qualifications (qualitative) at the right time (temporal) and where needed (physical). Workforce planning thus contributes to the achievement ofcompany objectives (such as increasing production or improving the efficiency of after-sales service).

Workforce planning is divided into several areas:

  1. staff needs assessment
  2. recruitment
  3. Career Management
  4. workforce management
  5. job cuts

What is Workforce Management?

Workforce management aims at a good assignment of employees to their positions , that is to say at an optimal adaptation of the skills of the employees to the profiles of the positions. In doing so, it is necessary to take into account the operational requirements from the quantitative, temporal and physical point of view as well as the capacities and interests of the employees .

Purpose of Workforce Management

Good workforce management must ensure above all:

  • Adequacy of staff to needs  : this involves ensuring a permanent balance between the volume of orders and working time. This avoids bottlenecks that can cause lost productivity as well as costly overcapacities (when order volumes fluctuate, for example).
  • Simultaneous increase in productivity and reduction in costs : the assignment to positions of employees with the most suitable skills makes it possible to optimize the value creation chain within the company. But productivity and lower costs are not without staff satisfaction. A good workforce manager must therefore know both the qualifications of employees and their work needs, and he knows not to ask too much of them. In practice, this means that good workforce management avoids as much as possible overtime such as periods without work, overwork such as downtime. It is also necessary to ensure constant monitoring of training needs, hiring, transfers or dismissals.
  • Work flexibility  : A well-thought-out workforce management system also makes it possible to react flexibly to work overloads (e.g. in the high season in tourism) as well as to shortages of staff (e.g. due to simultaneous leave requests or unplanned sick leave).

Workforce management and workforce management (WFM)

Workforce management used to be very narrowly defined. Today, however, it is understood more as part of workforce management , although the terms are often considered synonymous.

In both cases, it is a question of ensuring the use of personnel according to needs, and of optimizing this use. The concept of “workforce management” is broader and extends to a global process of increasing productivity combined with lowering costs . This means that personnel management must be able to react very flexibly to changes in capacity . And that means taking action taking into account areas such as human resources, recruitment, staff availability, needs forecasts and human resource analyses.

The notion of workforce management goes even further, and no longer concerns only the workforce but is also interested in "mobile resources" such as work vehicles , machines and materials , considered in a very broad sense as also "staff".

Workforce management, team planning and time management

Workforce management may particularly involve personnel planning . The main difference is that shift planning is generally fixed and long-term . Workforce management, on the other hand, very clearly takes into account the factor of flexibility. Staff planning is therefore always short-term, with constant adaptations as needed. In practice, hybrid concepts are often used , with a personnel planning where the activity peaks are covered within the framework of the workforce management by means of additional teams.

As workforce management is also concerned with methods of recording working time , it also touches on time management , which includes all methods of evaluating, processing and using data involving time.

Workforce management planning deadlines

In his daily practice, the workforce manager is faced with many challenges. Arguably the biggest challenge is to strike a balance between long-term planning and flexibility . In this regard, there are different planning horizons that workforce management must take into account:

  1. Annual planning  : Given that variations in capacity are difficult to predict in the long term, managing the workforce on an annual scale is considered particularly difficult. But it is crucial. Indeed, the better we know in advance who is going to do what and where, the more employees will be likely to meet the objectives set, or to organize their own replacements. However, the annual plan remains most of the time a rough draft to be used only as an indication.
  2. Monthly and weekly  planning: this planning takes into account, among other things, leave, training and planned replacements, to be considered within a horizon of 4 to 6 weeks.
  3. Effective situation  : finally, workforce management must be able to react flexibly to very short-term changes in working conditions, depending for example on peak periods combined with numerous sick leaves.

It is therefore a question, by a progressive approach, of first developing a long-term, rough plan , then of refining it gradually over time taking into account the feedback from experience. To enable a good assessment of future staffing needs, it is necessary to engage in a continuous analysis of workload and staffing . Using indicators such as sales or the number of customers, we can spot recurring trends and draw forecasts from them. These forecasts make it possible to estimate the needs in terms of manpower and availability of personnel, and to take measures to avoid overstaffing and understaffing.

Workforce management in practice

Among the major instruments of workforce management are, among others, rosters and team planning. If once this planning was done by hand, there are now many tools to facilitate and accelerate this work.

Workforce Management with Excel

For the establishment of duty rosters Excel is widely used . While this spreadsheet is favored by small businesses, it's also widely used in many other medium-sized businesses. Excel makes it quick and easy to build weekly rosters for workforce management . There are many ready-made templates on the Internet, for example for shift planning.

Computer duty rosters are not only used to visualize work schedules and the distribution of teams , they also provide many  very practical formulas , as well as macros . These tools make it possible to automate complex calculations , such as weekly hours worked or wages , and also to program additional features such as lists of employees or checkboxes. Duty rosters can be printed or sent directly by email  or intranet .

However, since working with Excel largely involves manually entered data, this is a source of relatively frequent errors . A simple lack of attention can lead, for example, to double entries, which the formulas cannot prevent. Furthermore, the functionalities of Excel remain very limited compared to dedicated workforce management software.

Workforce management software

Due to the limitations of Excel, many companies use specialized tools to perform tasks associated with workforce management. There are two main types of software  :

  • Free programs  : freeware such as - external-link-window "Precyplan site">the Precyplan working time recording tool is more suitable for small businesses.
  • Professional workforce management software  : entailing significant management work, companies employing many employees prefer to use professional software, which is most of the time part of integrated management software packages ( ERP). Such software packages are most often used in the context of paid subscription formulas, for a minimum period of twelve months, for prices ranging from some €40 to €130. Monthly payments are either fixed or based on the number of employees. This type of software package is either universal or designed for a particular sector, such as call centers, temporary work agencies, catering, health or shift work in industry. For example, we can recommend - external-link-window "Eurecia site">the solutions developed by the company Eurecia.

Good workforce management software usually has a certain versatility, allowing for example the recording of working time and other data, the management of absences or the management of tasks. Most programs are similar in structure and operation  :

  • a well-designed and aesthetic user interface allows a good visualization of capacities, holidays, absences 
  • direct synchronization with the employee database allows skills to be directly matched to job profiles 
  • assignment to tasks is done by simple drag and drop , a mouse movement sufficient to assign an employee to a team 
  • workforce management is done in real time , which means that any change, even improvised, is immediately reflected and can be taken into account 
  • many tasks such as recording working hours and overtime are automated 
  • automatic alerts draw attention to duplicate and overlapping positions (conflict management) 
  • by letting employees access the workforce management system, we have the guarantee that they are all informed of their schedules and positions at all times; it also promotes direct feedback and continuous adjustments; Of course, this does not prevent the printing of duty rosters and team schedules. They can also be sent by email.

The advantages of such software are notorious:

  • access to all relevant data
  • friendliness
  • flexibility
  • ease of use
  • time saving, cost reduction
  • better reliability than alternatives (Excel or lists drawn up by hand)
  • possibility of external intervention
  • possibility of direct feedback from employees
  • attractive visual

Employee participation in workforce management

If the management of the workforce is a task that falls to the company, it is in every interest to involve the employees, who are the first concerned, in the preparation of the schedules. The first question that arises is whether the collective agreement allows this flexibility. Either way, before, during and after introducing a workforce management system, remember to involve the works council or employee representatives in its design and implementation. , in order to meet legal co-management obligations.