THE ROLE OF THE WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONALS
In today's fast-paced and competitive business world, the role of Workforce Management (WFM) professionals clearly cannot be overlooked.
These professionals can play a crucial role in achieving operational success, being part of the backbone of efficient planning across so many industries.
In the eyes of our traditional stakeholders, WFM professionals are responsible for enhancing workforce utilization, and ensuring the right people are in the right place at the right time. But the truth is that in the current landscape, WFM professionals' impact extends beyond traditional employee scheduling; they actively contribute to resource allocation, talent acquisition, performance analysis, and strategic decision-making on workforce planning scenarios, WFM professionals enable businesses to meet customer demands, control costs, and enhance productivity. The skills required for WFM professionals have evolved significantly in recent years. While they still need a strong foundation in data analysis, forecasting, and scheduling techniques, they must also master new technologies and adapt to changing work environments. For example, in addition to spreadsheet proficiency, they need to be proficient in using multiple workforce management software and advanced analytics and data visualization tools.
And this is not only in Service Centers, similar to the role of WFM professionals, other industries have professionals that focus on resource management and operational optimization. Retail operations managers oversee inventory control, store layouts, and staffing in the retail sector. In healthcare, some professionals ensure the availability of healthcare professionals, manage patient flow and optimize resource allocation, being the role of the healthcare resource manager. All these roles share common goals with WFM professionals in terms of balancing workforce supply and demand to achieve organizational objectives.
Nowadays, the skillset of WFM professionals allows them to thrive in various industries, from the ability to analyze data, to make informed decisions, and adapt to changing circumstances is highly transferable. Whether it's managing call center operations, optimizing manufacturing staff levels, or overseeing hospitality workforce scheduling, WFM professionals bring invaluable expertise to enhance operational efficiency.
THE SKILLS THAT DEFINE WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS
To thrive in the ever-evolving field of WFM, professionals need to acquire and master a diverse range of skills. These skills can be categorized into three main areas: technical skills, soft skills, and what I define as business essential skills.
Data Analysis and Advanced Analytics: WFM professionals must possess strong data analysis skills to extract insights from complex workforce data. Proficiency in statistical analysis, forecasting techniques, and data visualization tools enables them to make data-driven decisions and optimize workforce planning.
Technology Adoption: With the increasing use of digital tools and automated systems, WFM professionals need to be adept at utilizing workforce management software, scheduling tools, and real-time analytics platforms. Knowledge of robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming necessary to streamline traditional WFM processes. Keeping up with technological advancements empowers them to streamline processes, automate tasks, and improve overall efficiency.
Technical Aptitude: WFM professionals should have a solid understanding of the technical aspects of workforce management systems, and multiple CX enterprise solutions. They need to be comfortable working with databases, spreadsheets, and reporting tools to analyze and manage workforce-related data effectively.
Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication is essential for WFM professionals to collaborate with various stakeholders, including HR, operations, finance, and marketing teams. Strong interpersonal skills enable them to convey workforce requirements, address concerns, and foster collaboration to align strategies with business objectives.
Adaptability and Change Management: WFM professionals must be adaptable and quick to respond to changing workforce dynamics. They must embrace change, adjust strategies, and effectively manage transitions during organizational shifts, technological upgrades, or industry disruptions.
Leadership and Influence: WFM professionals should possess leadership qualities to inspire and motivate their teams and the team they directly support. They should be able to influence decision-making processes, build consensus, and drive positive change across the organization.
Business Essential Skills:
Strategic Thinking: WFM professionals must think strategically and align workforce management practices with overall business goals. They should be able to analyze long-term workforce needs, identify potential challenges, and develop proactive strategies to collaborate with operations to ensure a skilled and motivated workforce.
Problem-Solving: Being adept problem solvers, WFM professionals should systematically identify and address workforce-related challenges. They need to develop innovative solutions, optimize resource allocation, and overcome obstacles that may hinder operational efficiency.
Continuous Learning and Development: Any professional should have a growth mindset and a commitment to continuous learning in a constantly evolving field. They should actively seek out professional development opportunities, attend industry conferences, and stay updated with emerging trends and best practices.
By combining these technical skills, soft skills, and business essential skills, WFM professionals can effectively navigate the industry's complexities and contribute to their organizations' success.
WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT CAREER PATHWAYS
The field of WFM has witnessed a significant evolution in recent years, leading to the emergence of multiple specialized roles within the discipline. The evolution of these roles reflects businesses' changing needs and demands in managing their workforce efficiently. In the past, workforce management primarily consisted of roles such as schedulers, administrators, and basic analysts. These roles focused on operational tasks, such as creating schedules, managing time-off requests, and generating basic reports. While these roles were essential, they often involved manual processes and had limited strategic impact on overall workforce planning and optimization. However, as organizations recognized the need for more sophisticated workforce management practices, the types of roles in the field began to evolve. Today, various roles exist to address workforce planning, analytics, and strategic challenges.
For more details, please check weWFM Career Paths.
Level 0: Intern - Internships in workforce management are becoming more common as a starting point for individuals interested in this field. Interns support core WFM activities by collecting data and running simple analyses while developing their skills to progress into higher-level roles.
Level 1: RTA / Scheduler / Reporting - This is the most common entry point in many companies for WFM professionals. The specific starting point at this level may vary depending on an individual's academic background. Roles at this level involve real-time analysis, scheduling, and generating reports to support workforce planning and operational efficiency.
Level 2: Planner / Forecast / Analyst - Professionals at this level lead significant workstreams within WFM projects. They are responsible for workforce planning, forecasting future needs, and conducting in-depth analyses to optimize staffing levels. Planners, forecasters, and analysts form the backbone of the WFM workforce, ensuring efficient resource allocation and meeting organizational goals.
Level 3: Senior / Consultant - At this level, WFM professionals have the opportunity to follow technical or strategic career paths. While both seniors and consultants can be found in various settings, consultants are more commonly seen in vendors and consulting firms. They bring extensive expertise to provide strategic guidance, develop workforce management solutions, and advise organizations on best practices.
Level 4: Principal / Senior Consultant / Lead / Manager - These roles represent similar hierarchy levels with differences in career paths related to technical, strategic, or leadership expertise. Individuals at this level manage day-to-day project operations, working closely with operations managers as their primary stakeholders. They oversee the successful implementation of workforce management initiatives and drive operational excellence.
Level 5: Director / VP - At the highest level of the WFM hierarchy, directors and VPs are responsible for entire departments. They define working methodologies with clients, own the team strategy, and establish the implementation program for new projects. These leaders provide visionary direction, foster collaboration, and ensure the effective alignment of workforce management with overall organizational objectives.
The WFM landscape encompasses various roles and levels, catering to different skill sets and career aspirations. From interns to senior leaders, each role is crucial in optimizing workforce operations and driving organizational success.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IMPACTING NOW WFM PROFESSIONALS
While workforce management plays a crucial role in optimizing workforce operations, professionals in this field face various challenges that impact their effectiveness.
In operations, and mainly in teams so close to planning and forecasting, there is a feeling to the pursuit of perfection that can lead to stress, anxiety, frustration, and lost hope in the professional's ability to succeed and achieve goals. Those challenges vary from technological, world social environment, wellbeing, and cultural.
Let's explore some of the challenges WFM professionals face and how they navigate them across all the above categories.
Changing Workforce Dynamics: WFM professionals must adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of the workforce. This includes managing remote and flexible work arrangements, contingent workforce models, and the integration of freelancers and gig workers. Balancing the needs and preferences of diverse workforce segments while maintaining operational efficiency poses a significant challenge.
Evolving Technologies: Rapid advancements in technology have transformed the WFM landscape. WFM professionals must stay updated with emerging tools, software, and automation technologies. However, integrating new technologies and ensuring a smooth transition can be challenging, requiring continuous learning and effective change management strategies.
Data Management and Analytics: The abundance of data available to WFM professionals brings both opportunities and challenges. Analyzing and interpreting large datasets to derive meaningful insights can be complex. Ensuring data accuracy, integrity, and security while leveraging analytics for effective decision-making remains an ongoing challenge.
Workforce Planning in Volatile Environments: Global events, economic fluctuations, and industry disruptions can significantly impact workforce planning. WFM professionals must navigate unpredictable scenarios, such as sudden shifts in demand, supply chain disruptions, or workforce disruptions due to unforeseen circumstances. Developing agile workforce planning strategies and scenario-based forecasting becomes crucial in such environments.
Skill Shortages and Talent Acquisition: Finding and retaining skilled WFM professionals can be challenging. The demand for individuals with expertise in data analytics, advanced forecasting techniques, and workforce optimization often exceeds the available talent pool. Identifying and attracting the right talent and providing ongoing training and development opportunities are essential for building a competent WFM team. Also, one of the best recommendations I can provide is to hire for the core skillset. If you need someone for a planning team, seek management graduates, and avoid feeding only from inside the operations.
Collaboration Across Departments: Effective collaboration and alignment with HR, operations, finance, marketing, and other departments is critical for successful workforce management. However, siloed organizational structures and communication gaps can impact positive collaboration. WFM professionals need to establish strong relationships, promote cross-functional teamwork, and communicate the value of workforce management to key stakeholders.
Balancing Cost and Employee Well-being: WFM professionals face the challenge of optimizing staffing levels to control costs while ensuring employee well-being and work-life balance. Striking the right balance between operational efficiency and employee satisfaction is a delicate task that requires a deep understanding of workforce needs, regulatory requirements, and labor laws.
The WFM Professional Mental Health: A common trend that is popping up not only in WFM but across roles that are heavily related to planning, is burnout, which underscores the need for prioritizing self-care and mental well-being. Promote physical activity, learn about mindfulness, and connect with others.
In conclusion, the role of WFM professionals is vital in achieving operational efficiency, meeting customer demands, and maintaining a motivated workforce. By continuously developing their skills, adapting to evolving technologies, and overcoming challenges, WFM professionals can successfully optimize workforce operations and contribute to the overall success of their organizations.
An additional note on leveraging technology and the latest AI evolution, find creative ways to increase your impact in the organization, and remember the role of a WFM professional is to play a support function, by definition, we must celebrate our operations achievements more than any of our personal wins, becoming a true team player can make you very successful in this industry.