Workforce Management

What is a workforce management application?

WMA is a computer-aided tool that helps supervisors in forecasting needs and scheduling staff for the standard period of time (one day, one week, one month).

What WMA can do for my business?

What in an Excel spreadsheet?

Benefits of a dedicated application

The planned activities of the company are split into several daily tasks. The supervisors decide the workload of each task, i.e. the type and number of resources needed to accomplish it.

A company that wants to survive and prosper in a time of increasing concurrence and rising personnel costs needs to optimize the use of internal resources, meant as both personnel and equipment.

Overtime should be kept to a minimum. Total hours of work of each employee must be saturated, i.e. used in full.

A supervisor who wants to fill a daily (or weekly or monthly) schedule needs to comply to a number of different (and often contrasting) rules.

Each work contract implies a list of rules:

  • maximum number of work hours
  • maximum number of overtime
  • minimum qty. of rest between 2 shifts
  • minimum number of days of rest in a week
  • minimum number of vacation days in a year

Scheduling can be compared to a sort of big Tetris game where each task is a hole of a different shape and a resource is a bolt of a different shape.

Each hole must be filled with a suitable bolt but

  • not all bolts are available at a given date
  • not all bolts are available at a given time
  • the use of a bolt must follow a large number of rules
  • not all bolts follow the same rules

Most supervisors nowadays use an Excel spreadsheet to manually fill the schedule.

An Excel spreadsheet has several benefits over paper:

  • data can be easily cut/copied/pasted
  • some counters can be automatically updated
  • data can be easily updated and printed

What a spreadsheet cannot do is:

  • keep track of changes
  • pass data to different applications using custom formats
  • allow reports and statistics that extend over several spreadsheets

The manual scheduling needs a high degree of skill. Only supervisors with many years of experience can do that. A supervisor who manually prepares a scheduling cannot be easily replaced. This is bad for the company, which heavily depends on the supervisor attendance. This is worse for the supervisor himself, who cannot ask to be moved to a higher/more satisfying role. The person who is in charge of the schedule is stuck to this role forever.

When using a WMA, the intelligence rules are stored in the system. A young supervisor only needs to learn how to use the application. He is not asked to have the skills of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind or the long years of practice of his white-bearded forerunner. The newcomer can become proficient in a few days.

Employees are conscious they have to work, not to party. They won’t question being called to a heavy row of working shifts. However, employees are very sensitive to equity. They expect the workload to be equally shared between all the colleagues. Now for some strange reason, each employee is sure in the depth of his heart that he is treated worse than anybody else, even if this is not the case, of course.

Often employees feel frustrated for no reason, and the relations between the scheduler and the staff become tense.

When the schedule is prepared by a computer, employees have nobody to blame. Even if this week’s schedule is obviously bad for John, he knows that nobody did this on purpose: John has nobody to hate.

Besides, the application is usually able to balance the workload in the long term. If John had bad cards served this week, things will be better in the future.

The use of a WMA can have important benefits for the satisfaction of employees and for improving human relations in the workplace.

If we sum up the benefits explained above, we find a lot of stuff. Using a WMA, we can get better schedules in a shorter time using less-skilled supervisors and rising employee satisfaction. We can be sure to comply with all labour and union rules--the best of all possible worlds.

However there are three major benefits that we haven’t met yet that deal with attendance/payroll, invoicing, and company-to-employee communications.

They say that, of the pig, nothing is thrown away. This seems to be pretty true in the case of a WMA. Data stored by the supervisor at scheduling time. What is thrown away in case of manual scheduling becomes gold to be spent to get payroll and invoicing for free and to largely improve company-to-employe communications.

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