Have you ever felt trapped in a working harder, not smarter hamster wheel? It happens to the best of us. With a zillion different tasks and needs to run your small business—like employee scheduling and productivity to managing and lowering labor costs—it can be tough to make a change. Where do you even begin when you’re rightfully concerned with the growth and success of your business?
But there is a way to get off the hamster wheel and work smarter: Workforce optimization.
Workforce optimization is a streamlined approach to managing a number of different parts of your business. It helps make sure that if you’re growing, your problems don’t grow with it.
Here, we’ll go through what exactly workforce optimization (WFO) is, the key benefits and pros and cons of workforce optimization, and some strategies to get you going.
What is workforce optimization (WFO)?
Workforce optimization (WFO) is a set of strategies designed to streamline and automate essential aspects of your business processes, like staff scheduling, data visibility, and increased customer satisfaction.
WFO is linked to every part of your small business. Do you need to make sure operational costs are managed and in order? WFO can do that. Are employee schedules and time clocks bogging you down and taking time away from other priority work? WFO automates this essential process and resource for employees.
Why is workforce optimization important? It puts the right resources in the right places with the right technologies to make the business of growth less of a burden. Just because your business is growing, it doesn’t mean you need to deal with more. Workforce optimization strategies and processes embrace the less is more adage.
What industries need workforce optimization?
Workforce optimization can help almost any industry and any type of worker from permanent to billable or a gig worker. Running a business is a nuanced endeavor, but there are common practices and themes where workforce optimization strategies can help. Employing staff or contracting specific workers to bill to your clients and managing happy customers are great examples
Here are a few industry examples where workforce optimization is needed the most.
In retail businesses, owners and managers are faced with complicated and specific scenarios. Employing and paying staff while maintaining high customer service can be particularly tricky. Scheduling employees for shifts sometimes feels like a full-time job in itself. It’s a delicate balance of being overstaffed, understaffed, and staffed with the right people on the job.
Workforce optimization technologies and resources can help retail businesses streamline all things retail management. Employee scheduling, tracking employee time, implementing a time clock, notifying staff of shift changes or when a new schedule is out, and even handling time off requests are suddenly way easier. It helps ensure data is accurate and centralized in one spot, without having to search down a printed version 12 of that week’s schedule to confirm.
The healthcare industry has all different kinds of specific businesses dedicated to maintaining and measuring our health. It’s one that can absolutely benefit from the data visibility, hiring and retention, and task management practices of workforce optimization.
Assess gaps in employee performance by benchmarking and tracking healthcare workers through goal setting and reviews. Remain on budget targets by planning ahead and consistently checking in on the data. Schedule healthcare workers like nurses, permanent or contract, with more ease and have an employee pool to pull from rather than relying on ad-hoc scheduling maintenance and requests. Easy, right?
Customer support and sales
Businesses that have a dedicated customer support center need workforce optimization technologies. Maintaining great customer service is necessary for any business, especially those that have virtual or phone assistants helping buyers with product needs, information on returns, or anything else specific to your business. For customer support employee management, workforce optimization helps scheduling and coverage. That means you’ve always got the right number of agents taking calls and chats.
5 key benefits of workforce optimization
You and your employees need to be able to make the best decisions for your business. That comes with having the best, accurate data at hand.
Let’s look at five key benefits of workforce optimization.
1. Lowered business costs
A key way to lose money is by overstaffing or understaffing. That means you could lose out on money back into the business because of potentially bad customer service or paying employees for idle time. Workforce optimization helps you understand where and when you need to have more or less employees. Let’s say Fridays are a big sales day for your business. Armed with the knowledge of what your sales projections are week-over-week with the same timeframe, you can now staff accordingly.
Workforce optimization can even help your employees sell more. Arm your team with data to help them make real-time decisions to upsell customers and create more revenue opportunities.
2. Remain compliant with state and federal rules
Payroll, paid or unpaid breaks, taxes. All of that and more can be a headache. State rules vary, and federal rules may change, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on anything that can impact how you pay employees at your business or the records you need to keep. Workforce optimization helps you streamline this part of your business, from employee hours worked to the amount they need to be paid for it.
3. Customer loyalty and increased visibility
In today’s world, there’s an abundance of customer data available to businesses. And that’s really exciting, because businesses can optimize and target their customers where they are, and meet their needs if they require support. Workforce optimization lets you solve customer issues and support them through the buying journey with efficiency and speed. Respond to customer complaints or needs faster, work to find the product they need, or find alternative solutions based on easy access to the data you already have.
Workforce optimizations give you power in ways that may not be tangible just yet. Customer loyalty is crucial to so many small businesses. If customers know their needs will be taken care of, there’s a higher chance of repeat business. Added to that, word-of-mouth still reigns king. If customers know you treat them and your employees well, that can really pay off for your business.
4. Employee performance management
Workforce optimization can track how well your employees are doing at work. Day-to-day, you can see how often staff come in early for shifts or leave late, or if there’s a new habit of absenteeism. With a smart time clock app feature, you’ll be able to track all that info and more. Plus, you can even understand what they’re working on. Got a big project? Track hours billed, plus team engagement and unity, which all can be very useful data to pull when it comes time for evaluations and possible promotions.
5. Improved efficiencies and increased employee productivity
It bears repeating that one of the key benefits of workforce optimization is the ability to streamline and staff your business properly. Create a better picture of the hours you need employees most or the kinds of tasks you need more staff to complete, especially during peak business periods.
With task automation, your employees will be better prepared to do the work they need to. Keep efficiencies high, costs lowered, and productivity tracking upwards.
Pros and cons of workforce optimization
Workforce optimization is great for untangling complicated systems or processes around staffing, regulation, and more.
Pros of workforce optimization
There are a lot of ways a business will benefit from workforce optimization. Just think of the relief of having tasks and processes managed for you.
Here are some pros of integrating workforce optimization:
- Streamline project management
- Boost employee productivity
- Improve customer service and retention
- Get better reporting and budget management
- Improve planning strategies
Cons of workforce optimization
Workforce optimization does rely heavily on technology. It’s integral to automating and creating efficiencies from everything like paying employees to planning and reporting for projects. A tradeoff for using workforce optimization might be lessened 1:1 time with your employees to talk out issues, preferring to use an app or device instead.
Here are some cons of using workforce optimization:
- Lack of interpersonal connection
- Potential communication troubles
- Learning curve for new technologies
- Lack of customizable reports
- Relying too much on quantitative data and not qualitative data for employee reviews
Workforce optimization examples
Whatever the pros and cons may be of using workforce optimization, take into consideration what your business needs to thrive. Every small task can add up.
Use these examples of workforce optimization to guide you.
- Employee scheduling. There are a number of industries that require multiple employees available for shift or hourly work. These can include retail workers, nurses, construction workers, and customer support representatives. Managing people’s schedules is an exceptionally hard task. Employees spend on average 34 hours a week at a job, if not more. Imagine having to do that schedule times 15 employees?
- Time tracking. Having insight into where and how you’re spending time is valuable. Working on big projects, like in the construction industry, it’s important for a client to know exactly what they are playing for.
- Budget tracking. Similar to time tracking, you’re going to need to know your budget and where money is going and when. Whether that’s monthly operational costs like office rent, or labor costs like paying your employees or managing their benefits, having a budget tracker in any industry is exceptionally useful.
- Transparency. For big projects and project managers in general, transparency is key. You’ll need it to see the progress of tasks assigned, what still needs to be completed, and how the timeline for completion is looking. Employees can help with this with workforce optimization tools and strategies to keep track of their work
4 must-know workforce optimization strategies
Because workforce optimization is a strategy that contains tools and processes, it’s important to figure out what you need to do first.
Workforce optimization best practices can vary depending on the industry or business need. Here are a few tried and true strategies to get you started and make WFO effective for you.
Simplify employee scheduling
Trying to wrangle employees’ schedules can be a grueling task on its own. Add to that, you have to untangle those availability and piece together a schedule for each day that’s staffed enough to make sure your business is properly covered.
Start with employees who have open, flexible, or full-time schedules. In retail, give hours to those you know who can make their shifts, and have dedicated their time to the job. From there, consult data from prior schedules, as well as sales from the week before or around the same period. That helps you see how much more coverage you’d need so you can avoid overstaffing—and over paying.
Automate repetitive tasks
You really don’t know how much time and money you’re going to save until you start automating manual tasks. Take a few moments to quickly jot down what you do at the moment. Does it include writing out emails to let employees know a new schedule is up? What about when a new process is being implemented to help customers? Do you sit and manually track employee hours worked? Now, ask yourself if you can automate it.
What can you automate?
All of these manual tasks are necessary—but repetitive. With workflow optimization they can be automated so you can focus your time where it really matters: growing your business.
Center your customer’s needs
Workforce optimization strategies work best when you focus on something or there’s a problem you’re trying to solve. Something to consider is your customer. Whether that’s through selling, support, or retention, what do they need and how’s it going to be improved?
Great strategies with solid execution begin with a centralized focus. In retail, across healthcare jobs, customer support, or even client work, you have customers and those customers have needs. Workforce optimization can help you sort through those needs whether it’s scheduling more staff to be available on-site to answer questions, or even virtually as customer service assistants. It can also include optimized budget projections, timelines, and when and how a customer will be billed. Look back at data from prior quarters or year-over-year timelines for sales and see what customers bought most or engaged with to help you hypothesize what they may need now.
Simplify business operations and budget
It’s easy to go over budget, and not too often remain well under it. A primary strategy used in workforce optimization is finding out where a budget and business operations can be simplified best. Strip down to the nuts and bolts of what you need, how much it costs, and if you have any room to play with budget from the month before. This data can all be gleaned by tracking employee hours, wages, project budget, time worked, and more.
Homebase is your all-in-one workforce optimization software
Homebase is the workforce optimization that’s all-in-one software to make the strategies of streamlining your business a reality. Homebase’s cadre of tools helps create efficiencies and effective, time managed practices and tasks that free you up
- Automate tasks. Need to let your employees about a shift change? Set up automatic notifications.
- Better scheduling. Create schedules to keep your team, budget, and labor on track.
- Team communications. Send messages to coworkers in the Homebase app’s messenger.
- Payroll. Make paying your employees super easy with Homebase’s instant timesheet conversion to wages and pay.
- Time clock. Know exactly what your employees are working with a time clock accessible on most devices.
- Compliance. Make staying compliant easier, and stay and ahead of any new regulations in your industry. Automatically manage time off requests from your employees and set up paid off policies in Homebase.
Workforce optimization FAQs
What is the meaning of “workforce optimization”?
Workforce optimization is tied to every part of your business. Workforce optimization (WFO) contains strategies designed to streamline or automate essential parts of your business processes. This can include proper staff scheduling, customer data visibility, or use faster tools to help customers in need.
How do you optimize a workforce?
Optimizing a workforce means creating task, budget, and goal efficiencies for the workforce. You can optimize a workforce in a number of ways depending on your needs. If you need scheduling support, you can automate and streamline how your employees’ shifts are scheduled. Payroll, billing, and taxes are another way to optimize for your workforce.
What is workforce optimization software?
Workforce optimization software is the technological tool that helps business owners, project managers, and employees to simplify tasks like payroll, scheduling, time tracking, and project management. This can be an app or a program.
What’s the difference between workforce management and workforce optimization?
Think of workforce management (WFM) as existing under the umbrella of workforce optimization (WFO.) Both help streamline business processes but optimization is the strategy while management is the execution.