Back Office Workforce Management (WFM) Practices

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Most back-office operating environments with 50 or more employees and three or more activities should invest in a workforce management solution. Workforce management solutions forecast the number of employees needed to perform each task, and create optimized schedules to ensure that work is completed at the lowest possible cost. This is particularly important if the department processes work that involves interdependent tasks, each with its own service level, and frequently faces backlogs.

The more advanced WFM solutions come with self-service modules that encourage employees to input their own schedule preferences and to request time off and change shifts, as appropriate. These self-service features are increasingly important as Millenials, who cannot abide inflexible schedules, enter the workforce.

To get started with WFM in the back office, it’s essential to figure out how to accurately measure each activity and task performed in your shop. This may require changes to how work products and outputs are tracked, as back-office WFM solutions provide a means of managing work and assigning service levels to each task. While you’re at it, take the opportunity to examine the workflow and determine if it would benefit from an optimization initiative. (If this has not been done in the past 5 years, it’s a good idea to reevaluate your process flows.)

Here are some best practices for implementing a WFM solution in your back office.

  1. Assign a resource who is dedicated to managing the WFM process and running the application on an ongoing basis.
  2. Involve Human Resources in the process, as it is possible, if not likely, that they will be on the receiving end of some complaints from staff who may be asked to change long-established schedules.
  3. Let your staff know that a new solution is being implemented. Explain the pros and cons of WFM. Sure, its primary goal is to optimize the department’s output. However, at the same time, this solution will help reduce work backlogs and unexpected overtime requirements while also empowering each employee to manage their own time off.
  4. Use this opportunity to change schedules and possibly hire some part-time employees to fill peak intervals, instead of requiring expensive overtime.
  5. Give people 3 to 6 months to change their schedules.
  6. Do not ask your employees to change their personal commitments frequently.
  7. Once the solution is implemented, train employees to use the self-service features. Many vendors will tell you that their self-service capabilities are intuitive and do not require training; this may be true for some employees, but not for all.

Workforce management solutions are powerful and effective, but only if their inputs and outputs are accurate, applied on a timely basis and accepted by the staff.