Workforce management (WFM) software is a suite of tools that helps ensure employees are in the right place, at the right time for maximum productivity. Its capabilities typically include labor forecasting, employee scheduling, time and attendance tracking, leave management, and rule or policy enforcement platforms to assist with regulatory compliance. Although any business can benefit from these features, WFM software is essential for employers who have hourly or shift-based workers and added complexities, like varying schedules, fluctuating availabilities and wage and hour calculations.

What does workforce management software do?

WFM capabilities vary across solutions and industries. Introductory-level software typically features employee time and attendance tracking and may or may not include basic employee scheduling. More robust solutions, on the other hand, tend to offer labor forecasting, advanced scheduling and real-time employee management, among other services designed to help optimize efficiency and minimize costs.

Why should you use workforce management software?

Because human beings lack the processing power to make decisions based on massive amounts of data and sometimes exhibit confirmation bias, software may be better suited for some managerial tasks than people. WFM forecasting engines, for example, use elaborate algorithms to learn from history and predict the future. This is done with a degree of precision that would be difficult for most managers to accomplish without the help of a team of analysts.

WFM software is also capable of streamlining laborious and error-prone tasks, such as calculating hours from punches and properly applying all of the pay rules. By bringing these processes online and letting the system handle them it for them, employers can reduce mistakes, save time and have data available for payroll sooner.

Features of WFM software

Cutting-edge WFM software offers a variety of features, which in many cases, are hosted in the cloud and have a high level of security and data backup. These functions typically include:

  • Labor forecasting
    With labor forecasts, employers can better plan for spikes and lulls in customer demand and make the most of their budgets. Modeling may be possible for a number of scenarios, including holidays, special events and the weather.

  • Scheduling
    Employers can create schedules that best fit their forecasted labor needs and find the best employee for an open shift based on skills, certifications, preference and more. Some types of WFM software also allow employees to swap shifts with coworkers and provide their availability in advance of assignments.

  • Time tracking
    WFM software is often compatible with web-based timesheets, time clocks, mobile apps and point of sale (POS) devices so employers can capture hours worked at the source. The system then automatically processes the data according to individual business rules and policies and sends it to payroll.

  • Absence management
    Managers may be able to quickly access time off balances and compare their absence data with industry benchmarks. In addition, WFM software generally makes it easier to track extended leave requests, including those granted under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

  • Overtime management
    Offering overtime to employees, allocating it fairly and approving payments are simplified with WFM software. The system will usually send an alert to employers when a worker is approaching overtime and can automatically warn employees if they try to work extra hours without authorization.

  • Analytics
    Built-in dashboards provide real-time visibility into scheduling and attendance data so that managers can address potential issues before they become problems. They can also run reports on key indicators to see how their workforce is performing over a period of time.

  • Regulatory compliance
    Managers may be able to configure work and pay rules within WFM software to help comply with internal policies, union contracts and wage and hour laws. The system also provides an audit trail of timecard edits and changes, which can be a valuable defense if a dispute arises.

  • Mobile accessibility
    WFM software that’s compatible with mobile devices allows managers to fill open shifts or make replacements almost instantaneously. When someone calls out, for instance, employers may use a smart phone or tablet to quickly search for available employees and ensure that coverage is optimal.

What are the benefits of enterprise workforce management software?

Workforce management software can recognize the needs of an entire organization, making life easier for managers and creating more engaging experiences for employees. Specific benefits include:

Help with cost control

By using the forecasting capabilities of WFM software to anticipate labor needs, employers can prevent overstaffing, understaffing and excessive overtime, all of which increase costs. Some advanced systems will even show how a schedule impacts budgets as it’s created.

Improved payroll accuracy

Accurate payroll depends greatly on the information it receives from time and attendance. With WFM software, repetitive data entry and manual calculations are no longer necessary, which reduces the risk of human error. The system automatically analyzes hourly labor and identifies patterns of overtime for optimum payroll reliability.

Increased productivity

Mobile-enabled WFM software makes it possible for employees and managers alike to perform essential tasks, like submitting timecards, approving requests or swapping shifts without having to report to a physical location. They can remain on the shop floor or in the storefront and maintain productivity, while never being too far from the information and tools they need.

Smarter schedules

Managers can use WFM software to easily create schedules by individual departments, jobs or locations. They may also be able to access time-off balances in real-time, which makes it possible to spot potential gaps in coverage and correct them immediately.

Minimized compliance risk

In addition to the FMLA, businesses may have to contend with various state policies, like bereavement leave and school-related parental leave. The automated workflows available with most WFM software can make it easier to handle the complexity of overlapping leave laws and verify employee eligibility. Online recordkeeping also provides a document trail in the event of an audit.

Valuable workforce insights

The analytics available with some time tracking software can provide employers with insights not only on their schedules, but also on how productive their employees are and what keeps them engaged. They may even be able to compare these results with industry benchmarks to see how they measure up against competitors.

Choosing the best WFM software for your business

Finding the right WFM software for a business largely depends on its industry, workforce characteristics, work locations and strategic goals. When evaluating potential solutions, employers tend to follow these steps:

  1. Define the current WFM state
    Document existing processes and the stakeholders responsible for each WFM task.
  2. Conduct a self-assessment
    Identify the WFM activities that work well and the inefficiencies that need to be corrected.
  3. Identify WFM maturity level
    Decide if the organization simply needs a basic time and attendance tool or is ready for an advanced WFM solution that uses artificial intelligence and provides in-depth analytics.
  4. Prioritize requirements
    Rank the list of pain points and desired WFM features and make these the focus of the provider evaluation.

Why choose ADP workforce management software?

Few other providers can match the data, technology, support and integrations available with ADP’s workforce management software. Our industry-leading solutions may make it possible for employers to:

  • Use labor forecasts to create schedules that stay within budget
  • Eliminate mistake-prone data entry and manual calculations with automation
  • Perform time-sensitive tasks, like timecard approvals, from anywhere, at any time
  • Minimize buddy punching and unapproved overtime
  • Comply with wage and hour laws and family medical leave policies

But these benefits aren’t all. ADP’s WFM software also comes with access to documented best practices and expert support to help with HR issues that arise in everyday situations.

Frequently asked questions about WFM software

What is a workforce management solution?

In its most basic form, a workforce management solution is a means of creating schedules and tracking employee time and attendance. More advanced versions may also feature labor forecasting and robust analytics with industry benchmarks to improve decision-making. The goal of these solutions in either case is to increase productivity while minimizing costs.

Why is WFM important?

An organization’s workforce is often its biggest expense and lacking a reliable means to manage it can result in untracked time, overlapping employee leave and increased labor and compliance costs. To avoid these negative effects on their business, many employers turn to innovative WFM technology that’s scalable, responsive and can meet the needs of both permanent and contingent workers.

What is workforce optimization software?

Workforce optimization software is technology that simplifies employee scheduling and improves the performance and satisfaction of both managers and employees. It may be augmented by mobile devices and modern app designs that deliver an intuitive, effective and collaborative experience.

This guide is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing an employer’s workforce management obligations and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

ADP Editorial Team

ADP Editorial Team The ADP editorial team is comprised of human resource professionals with extensive experience solving complex HR challenges for businesses of all sizes.