Everything You Need to Know About Workforce Optimization

Understanding that workforce optimization can help you eliminate or reduce barriers to productivity is essential to your business.

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Everything You Need to Know About Workforce Optimization

Here's what you need to know about everything you need to know about workforce optimization:

  • The goal of workforce optimization is to get the best out of your employees in a way that benefits them and your company.
  • WFO can reveal inefficiencies that are slowing down productivity and help you decide which technologies to implement to speed up productivity.
  • WFO is about engaging in management practices that enable employees to deliver positive business outcomes.

You’ve hired employees for all positions in your company. But that’s only half the battle. You also need them to be productive. Though employees should be accountable for their performance, you need to assist them on their path to productivity.

The goal is to get the best out of your employees in a way that benefits them and your company. You can achieve this through workforce optimization.

What is workforce optimization?

Workforce optimization (WFO) is the strategic process of driving business success by:

  • Improving employee efficiency
  • Productivity
  • Performance

The focus is on managing and maximizing staff performance so you can foster a productive workforce that meets business demands. Understanding that workforce optimization can help you eliminate or reduce barriers to productivity is essential to your business.

What are the barriers to productivity?

Anything that gets in the way of employees meeting or exceeding their job requirements can be considered a barrier to productivity. These barriers can be work-related or associated with the employee’s personal life.

Once you’ve identified potential obstacles to productivity, you can work on eliminating or mitigating them.

Common barriers to productivity

  • Poor working conditions due to a cramped workspace, uncomfortable seating, bad lighting, a noisy office environment, too cold or too warm temperature, etc.
  • Inadequate training for new hires or existing employees
  • Lack of employee knowledge, skills, and/or abilities
  • Ineffective communication (e.g., not correctly explaining tasks to employees)
  • Stress that is caused by a heavy workload, long work hours, tight deadlines, monotonous work, financial anxiety, medical problems, family issues, etc.
  • Job insecurity, such as fear of being laid off or fired
  • Insufficient growth opportunities, which lead to disengagement or career stagnation
  • Workplace discrimination, bullying, or harassment
  • Employee dissatisfaction with pay or benefits
  • Unhealthy relationships between coworkers, including management
  • Failure to recognize and reward employees for their accomplishments
  • Employees not having access to technology that can make their jobs easier
  • Lack of flexible work arrangements, such as remote or hybrid work solutions that can improve work-life balance

That’s a long list, and it represents only some of the most common hurdles to employee productivity. The good news is that once you’ve identified potential obstacles to productivity, you can work on eliminating or mitigating them.

Remember that you cannot solve every employee issue. Certain problems may be out of your control.

Benefits of workforce optimization

The goal of WFO is to identify the ones within your control and find solutions to improve employee performance. These solutions should benefit the employee and your business.

Improved staffing, efficiency, and productivity

Workforce optimization helps you secure the appropriate number of workers to manage business demands at all times. During busy seasons, you can use WFO to determine whether to bring in additional workers, such as through a staffing agency or contingent workforce. What’s more, WFO can reveal inefficiencies that are slowing down productivity and help you decide which technologies to implement to speed up productivity.

Increased savings

Workforce optimization can deliver cost savings through:

  • A motivated workforce. By removing or mitigating barriers to productivity, you motivate your employees to perform better than ever. Absenteeism and presenteeism rates will likely decrease as employees will be more driven to come to work and perform well.
  • Task automation. Automation streamlines workflows, reduces human administrative errors, and saves employees from the stress of having to do everything manually.
  • Improved customer service. Workforce optimization provides insight into employee behavior, including how their performance affects customer decisions and outcomes. It gives you the information you need to strengthen employee service delivery and customer satisfaction.
  • Increased retention. By taking the necessary steps to keep your employees engaged and satisfied at work, you give them a compelling reason to stay with your company. This ultimately lowers your turnover rate and costs.

Key aspects of workforce optimization

WFO is about engaging in management practices that enable employees to deliver positive business outcomes. These practices include scheduling, time tracking, performance management, and employee engagement.

Scheduling

Managers should aim to schedule employees in ways that are conducive to both the employee and the company. For example, scheduling an employee for overtime without considering the employee’s ability to work overtime can cause the employee to:

  • Not work the overtime hours
  • Become burnout
  • Feel as though their input doesn’t count.

To optimize performance, managers should hire people capable of working the required hours and ensure those hours are reasonable, to begin with. Employees should know what to do if they cannot come to work or finish their shift because of an emergency. Employers should have contingency staffing measures in place.

Also crucial is adhering to predictive scheduling laws that may apply to your business. These laws require employers to give employees advance notice of their work schedules so employees can achieve better work-life balance.

Time Tracking

Time tracking lets you monitor employees’ attendance, so you can determine whether they are:

  • Arriving to work and leaving as scheduled
  • Taking their breaks and meal periods at the allotted times
  • Clocking in and out as required

In addition, time tracking can help you decide whether to keep employees’ work schedules as is or make adjustments. It can also show weaknesses in your time and attendance system so that you can adopt more advanced solutions.

Performance Management

This is an ongoing process in which you monitor employees’ performance, identify strengths and areas needing improvement, plus implement action plans for enhancing performance. This is a (manager-employee) collaborative process that requires one-on-one meetings and ongoing feedback for optimal results.

Employees should know the consequences of poor performance. However, it’s essential to avoid using performance management as a punitive tool because the goal is to help employees improve, not to punish them.

Disengaged employees are a flight risk, often leading to turnover. Workforce optimization can help you prevent these catastrophes.

Performance management makes it easier to spot an employee’s intention to quit. This allows you to promptly intervene and deploy retention strategies (if you want to keep the employee).

Employee Engagement

When employees are disengaged, their productivity tends to drop. They may also exhibit negative attitudes toward their coworkers, contributing to a toxic work environment. Also, disengaged employees are a flight risk, often leading to turnover. Workforce optimization can help you prevent these catastrophes.

WFO strategies for increasing employee engagement include:

  • Competitive pay and benefits
  • Recognition and rewards
  • Meaningful work
  • More challenging projects
  • Paid time off
  • Career advancement opportunities
  • Team-building activities
  • Wellness and well-being benefits
  • Healthy workplace culture
  • Flexible work options
  • Employee feedback system
  • Employee learning initiatives
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Open and transparent communication

Workforce optimization software

Imagine conducting all facets of scheduling, time tracking, performance management, and employee engagement by hand. In this case, you can expect an extremely cumbersome, chaotic, time-consuming, and error-prone process that causes:

  • Frustration in your HR team and managers who are responsible for optimizing employee performance
  • Compliance mistakes and penalties stemming from manual administration errors
  • Violation of employees’ labor rights, such as not complying with overtime laws
  • Employees filing lawsuits or leaving the company in a disgruntled state because their employment rights have been breached

You can simplify things by leveraging workforce optimization software, which automates and streamlines WFO processes.

WFO software provides tools for managing:

  • Recruiting
  • Hiring
  • Onboarding
  • Scheduling
  • Time tracking
  • HR administration
  • Health and safety
  • Compensation
  • Benefits administration
  • Payroll
  • Employee performance
  • Employee engagement

For access to these workforce optimization tools and more, check out Zenefits’ people operations platform.

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