How a Workforce Management Strategy Can Improve Retention and Employee Engagement

The lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the need for organizations to shift their approach to workforce operations. We’ve seen (and continue to see) fundamental changes in the typical workplace, the makeup of the workforce, and the ways in which people work. 

The rising prevalence of telework and remote work options, difficulties finding labor, and rising wages threaten a company’s ability to find, retain, and engage talent. Those that neglect to optimize their workforce management strategies to accommodate these significant changes will likely begin losing their greatest asset: their workers.

A strong talent pool is crucial to an organization’s bottom line, so companies must adapt to maintain their viability and competitive edge. To meet and exceed employee expectations, keep workers engaged, retain crucial talent, and attract new talent, businesses need strong strategies that take into account the changing tides of modern workforce management.

Workforce Management Challenges 

Businesses can’t understand and leverage successful workforce management strategies without first acknowledging the challenges that they’re currently facing. These obstacles commonly include:


Lack of communication

Employees need to collaborate to get jobs done efficiently and effectively, but this is difficult without the right tools. Slack, email, text messages and phone calls only lead to miscommunications, delays, and frustrations; but how can employees do their best work if they don’t have seamless communication with coworkers, supervisors, or even customers? 

This is particularly important for deskless workers, who don’t have the luxury of physically meeting and interacting with colleagues on a daily basis. In fact, 80% of remote workers report that they are more likely to feel excluded than their in-office coworkers—and that feeling of isolation can quickly lead to disengagement from their work. Plus, without open lines of communication, employees aren’t properly equipped to maintain their productivity. 

Let’s say, for instance, a scheduler needs to alert a mobile worker of an appointment cancellation, but can’t get a hold of the worker. The deskless worker may travel to the job before realizing the change in schedule, which wastes time, energy, and the total number of customers served in a day, since they can’t fill that wasted time with another appointment.

This lack of seamless communication plagues the entire operation, and is irritating to the deskless worker, who has now wasted a significant portion of their day on the road for no reason. And while a one-off miscommunication like this might not seem like a big deal, over time, the realities of inadequate communication—and how they impact daily work, quality of life, and the customer experience—become wearing on individuals. The business loses out not only on revenue (due to an inability to serve the maximum number of customers throughout the day) but also breaks the trust of their employees.


Lack of integration 

Many organizations arm their workers with various tools (e.g. a routing app, calendar, communication tool, timesheets, etc.) in an effort to make their lives easier. In reality, this slows them down and makes their daily work more difficult to complete. Employees waste time toggling between apps to get their work done, which is inefficient and, quite frankly, annoying.

But it’s even more irritating that workers need to re-enter data into several systems of record to ensure everything is correct. It’s also error-prone and doesn’t allow for access to real-time data when they most need it: in the field. When systems don’t talk to one another and reflect the data without the added step of re-entering it, then it’s likely not fully up-to-date at a moment’s notice.

For example, a worker takes field notes at a customer site, then must travel back to HQ to re-enter that information into the system of record. It’s time-consuming, burdensome, and risky for already-busy mobile workers. It can feel like an added job on top of their primary duties; and top-talent wants to be able to focus on what they’ve actually been hired to do rather than tedious, administrative tasks that slow them down.


Lack of flexibility

Flexibility and adaptability are often overlooked when it comes to workforce scheduling—but this is a huge mistake on the part of the business. Deskless workers want to have a healthy work-life balance, and that’s just not possible with traditional scheduling tools.

Typically, the schedule goes out, and if something doesn’t work for the employee, they must contact the scheduler to change it as soon as possible (if at all possible). The scheduler must then either spend time searching for a qualified, available replacement or cancel the appointment altogether; which leads to poor customer perceptions and satisfaction.

Flexibility can encompass a variety of factors for the workforce, including flexible work schedules and hours, pay schedules, zoom camera policies, and more. In a time where 51% of all workers say their job satisfaction has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, flexibility across various workforce aspects can make or break employee retention.


7 Strategies for Workforce Management

As we evaluate the many various factors impacting workforce management across every industry, one thing becomes glaringly obvious: organizations must adapt their strategies to better support and empower their workers

Here are 7 best practices for optimizing workforce management to enhance employee engagement, boost retention, and—ultimately—improve your bottom line:


1. Utilize automated software

The first step is to take the tedious, time-consuming, manual work out of your employees’ days. From scheduling, to routing and dispatching, and more, automation can alleviate much of that burden. It also reduces human error and ensures a higher level of accuracy across different workflows, business decisions, and utilization.

Plus, when something changes (which is always bound to happen), automated software instantly resolves the problem. For example, if a worker falls ill the morning of an appointment, automated scheduling software can instantly find a qualified, available replacement who’s close in proximity to the job, so the customer doesn’t get canceled on at the last minute.

This allows for fully optimized schedules, too, since appointments can be scheduled in clusters. Employees don’t spend unnecessary time on the road, but instead serve as many customers as possible throughout the course of the day. When they’re focusing on their work and their customers (instead of manual administrative tasks), employees are happier and more fulfilled, and know that their time and efforts are valued by their employer.


2. Take advantage of data analysis

Let’s face it: your business is ineffective without the proper data to help you optimize operations. Data can help you better understand your workforce, including what’s working, what’s not, and where you can make improvements.

Don’t let your precious data go to waste by failing to put it to good use. Instead, use tools that allow you to easily gather, connect, and analyze your most valuable data so that you have a holistic, bird’s eye view of what’s happening across every business function; and how each impacts the others.

For example, your data might show that you have periods of higher or lower customer demand in specific parts of the year. You can avoid over or under-hiring by looking at historical data and staffing based on that information. Or, if workers are habitually arriving late to customer appointments, you can take a close look at the factors that may be contributing to their punctuality. Then, make necessary improvements that drive both employee and customer satisfaction. 

This shows your employees that you actually care about the quality of their work and the quality of their daily lives. You’re actively removing the barriers that negatively impact their ability to perform at their highest level.


3. Integrate your administrative software

Many organizations still struggle to match the ever-changing, complex needs of their customers with their diverse, uniquely qualified workforce. Disconnected systems only exacerbate the headache of getting the right person to the right job, tracking working hours, gathering customer data, proper billing, and the myriad other details involved in running a successful operation.

This is particularly true in healthcare, where using several different software systems can put a hefty burden on the shoulders of administrative staff—and lead to inefficiencies, errors, and significant obstacles across the entire business, especially as it scales.

Take scheduling a home health care worker, for example. If the company uses multiple disconnected systems to schedule their appointments, the process can be quite convoluted:

  • The staff scheduler must dig through their customer database to gather information about the account, patient, specific care requirements, and insurance limitations.
  • Then, they must consult the schedule, which may or may not accurately reflect the most up-to-date version of workers’ availability.
  • Based on that pool of healthcare providers, the scheduler then chooses the person who is best fit to take that appointment. They must select someone with the right skills, certifications and experience, and more. This typically requires the use of multiple spreadsheets, calendars, and emails.
  • Next, the scheduler will navigate the provider to the job site.
  • The provider will then complete the job, gather the necessary patient and appointment details, and transport this information back to the office.
  • Administrators must then process the patient paperwork, worker timesheet, and other necessary forms.
  • Finally, the administrator will share that information with the correct internal team(s) to file a claim, bill the patient, or both.

This highly inefficient, time-consuming, and mistake-ridden process is a harsh reality for administrators and deskless workers, but integrated systems can transform the process. By integrating your administrative software with your other existing tools, schedulers can instantly see who’s available for a requested appointment, where they are, and whether or not they’re qualified to complete the job.

Rather than wasting time digging through information and waiting for replies to emails and calls, they can send deskless workers to a job site with a push of a button. Then, they can receive real-time updates on job status, notify the customer when the mobile worker is on their way or if they’re running late, and see exactly when they arrive and leave. 

Plus, deskless workers can collect all the necessary job information in a centralized mobile app and sync that data back to HQ in real-time, saving them the precious time it would take to transport and re-enter those details back at the office. That level of interoperability and visibility helps to streamline operations and gives both back-office employees and deskless workers more time to focus on the higher-value tasks they really care about.


4. Encourage employee self-service

Highly-talented, experienced employees don’t want to be micromanaged. For deskless workers, especially, autonomy in daily work is a huge driving factor of employee satisfaction. If their schedules are completely structured by someone else, their work can quickly become draining, which leads to dissatisfaction and premature burnout.

Businesses should instead empower them with tools that give them some degree of autonomy over their daily schedules and structure their days in a way that meets both their personal needs and customer demand.

At the same time, the organization still needs to maintain visibility and control over the larger workforce operation. They can’t simply allow workers to run the show without ensuring proper service delivery, location tracking, seamless communication, data collection, or accurate capacity management. Autonomy and self-service can cause serious issues if each deskless worker uses their own tools for communication, data collection, time tracking, routing, and more.

But organizations can successfully allot some administrative and decision making power to the discretion of employees if they leverage the right workforce management tool. Intelligent, centralized, mobile-first technology can support a healthy balance between employee self-service and employer authority.

Deskless workers can pre-set their availability for appointments, access digital forms for leave requests, and receive job requests that they can accept on a “first come, first served” basis. Employees thus have a higher level of control over their daily work, which boosts both productivity and job satisfaction.


5. Keep things flexible

Rigid scheduling can be costly in terms of losing top talent. In the home-health industry, for instance, hours and scheduling are among the top grievances workers have with their jobs. And since some estimates show that caregiver turnover may surpass 50% annually, organizations likely can’t afford to ignore the issue.

Employers should take the time to consider their workers’ preferences when it comes to day-to-day operations and scheduling. This seems like a daunting, nearly impossible task for those that still use manual tools to manage workforce operations. But sophisticated technology can easily track employees’ likes, dislikes, and habits and create flexibility around those factors; a consideration that can help them satisfy and retain more workers.

If, for instance, a deskless worker has an uncomfortable negative experience with a certain customer and doesn’t want to be paired with them again, they can request not to work with them in the future. An intelligent workforce management system automatically takes this request into account and accommodates the worker’s preference; which demonstrates that their employer respects their needs.

The next time that customer requests an appointment, another qualified worker will be matched with them instead, because the system enables the flexibility required to quickly find a suitable replacement. So while the customer is still met with excellent service, the employee feels well-supported and empowered by the business to speak up when they’re unhappy—and they’ll likely pay the company back with their loyalty.


6. Forecast workloads

The ability to understand customer demand vs. worker availability is a crucial part of maintaining productivity, employee satisfaction, profitability, and a competitive edge. This is true across every industry, but many utilities companies, in particular, still can’t seem to get it right. 

In the manufacturing industry alone, 47% of companies still use in-house spreadsheets to support their maintenance planning and scheduling programs. But, as is the case for any business, these outdated, stagnant tools don’t offer the visibility and long-term forecasting required to maximize their time and resources, reduce downtime, or ensure positive customer experiences. Plus, they make daily work more challenging for maintenance planners, schedulers, and field workers, who must manually track myriad details to create schedules and perform work.

To accurately forecast workloads, organizations need tools that enable them to capture and analyze workforce data in real time – which means they need technology that offers easy data collection in the field.  This data can help the business gain total visibility into key metrics, revenue-generating activities and workflows, and information that can improve the customer experience and employee productivity and satisfaction.

Some workforce management tools pull everything together in one place and provide actionable insights to help the organization resolve issues before they become larger problems, so they can optimize both the employee and customer experience with minimal disruption. 


7. Implement cross-functional management

Communication and data silos are enormous threats to collaboration and—in turn—operational efficiency. They lead to disconnects between departments, team members, and even customers. And without the proper tools or knowledge base, deskless workers aren’t well-equipped to deal with less-familiar tasks or accurately communicate company information to customers. The result is an ill-prepared workforce that lacks a key component of job satisfaction: confidence.

For example, if a mobile worker doesn’t have real-time access to company resources or their more experienced colleagues, they may over-promise something they can’t actually fulfill for a customer. Or, they may use language that doesn’t align with company or specialized standards, and wind up miscommunicating with, confusing, or upsetting a customer. On the company’s end, silos can mean missed business opportunities, poorly-informed decisions, and an inability to streamline broader operations – each of which negatively impact their employees.

By leveraging tools that enable rich data sharing, though, organizations can break down these barriers to enhance collaboration and communication across departments. Teams can work cross-functionally when they have data-backed awareness around how different parts of the business fit together. They’re empowered to communicate, problem solve, and drive greater operational efficiency across the board, which improves both daily work for employees and the overall customer experience.


Powerful Workforce Management Tools for Happier Employees

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, organizations need a strong workforce management approach to help them attract, engage, and retain top talent. While traditional tools and strategies simply don’t provide the type of support and flexibility needed to keep workers satisfied, modern technology can help businesses get it right.

Skedulo’s intelligent mobile workforce management system is centralized, mobile-first, and built to solve your operational challenges. With integrated tools to automatically schedule the right worker to the right job, streamline communication, seamlessly collect data in the field, and forecast long-term workloads, Skedulo can empower and engage your employees to do their best work.

Learn more about the capabilities you need to properly manage a mobile workforce, or book a demo today.