Taking a wide view of workforce planning and attendance can make a difference in your organization's productivity.

A lack of schedule management can lead to untracked time, financial implications and overlapping employee leave. By looking at workforce planning holistically, however, you can help to increase employee productivity and mitigate time off compliance risks.

Here are steps you can take to achieve those objectives.

Define Workforce Management

By approaching workforce management holistically, you'll be in a position not only to meet compliance with federal and state regulatory agencies, but also to forecast labor requirements and manage staff schedules effectively. In turn, you'll be able to increase employee productivity by having your workers at the right place at the right time.

A holistic approach to workforce management will recognize the needs of the entire organization. It takes into account all information on best practices, policies and procedures relating to time off. A workforce management plan should coordinate all the statues — federal, state and local — and consider paid and unpaid time off components.

Therefore, when defining workforce management for your business, think carefully about paid family leave, paid sick leave, short term disability, long term disability, discretionary leave and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). All relevant information regarding time worked and time away from work should be available in a regularly updated employee handbook.

Know Your Top Priorities

Adopting a holistic approach to workforce planning means knowing your top priorities and producing a workforce management plan that meets your business requirements and home in on your employee productivity goals. Some initiatives to consider prioritizing are talent management, regulatory compliance, recruiting and retaining top talent, and employee engagement, as each of these facets can affect workplace productivity.

For example, in a tight labor market, you may want to focus on attracting and keeping top talent by offering professional development, schedule flexibility or time-off incentives that allow your employees the opportunity to de-stress and recharge.

Anticipate Your Biggest Challenges

Every business will have its own workforce planning challenges. These might center on talent management for some and regulatory compliance for others. As you implement holistic workforce planning, you'll need to anticipate your biggest challenges in order to take proper action and mitigate risks. Doing so can help to keep employee productivity high.

For example, regulatory compliance could be a challenge if you have inconsistent policies and practices that are not tracked or enforced. Your employee may slip and fall at work and may need an extended absence. That absence may qualify under the FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and workers' compensation at the same time. The interaction of these provisions can create a minefield for employers who may be confused about which of the laws apply to a given case, as they may operate alone or together. Knowing which law applies and when can be a challenge.

You would also need to coordinate with your internal time off policies such as vacation, sick time, short-term disability in order to pay your employees correctly, while staying compliant with regulatory agencies and maintain proper staff levels.

In addition to these statutes, many states will have other leave provisions that require additional employer obligations, such as these and more:

  • Bereavement leave in Illinois and Oregon
  • Alcohol and drug rehabilitation leave in California
  • School-related parental leave in California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada, Rhode Island and Vermont
  • Small Necessities Leave Act in Massachusetts

If you are noncompliant, the Department of Labor (DOL) audits and state and local audits are also possible. You could lose time and money and resources in fines, lawsuits or administrative costs for noncompliance.

By implementing holistic workforce planning, you can better prepare to deal with legal nuances and plan in advance for temporary staffing shortages. This kind of forethought can enable you to run your business more efficiently and increase workplace productivity when your employees go on leave.

Keep the Focus

It's crucial to stay focused on workforce planning priorities and business goals. To free up critical HR resources and increase employee productivity, consider investing in time tracking software. Document all time worked and away from work. Train your managers appropriately and create and maintain documentation to avoid wrongful termination suits. Make sure your handbook is up to date and reflects your policies and is made available to all employees. If needed, use progressive discipline policy and maintain traceability.

Specialized software can contribute to holistic workforce planning by helping you to manage compliance, consistency and risk — factors that can affect your organization's bottom line, in addition to integrating with payroll, disability, and attendance programs. Untracked time can create compliance risk and financial difficulties, such as a need to pay overtime, for instance.

Specialized software can also help you track overlapping leaves, as your employees may be stacking time. For example, paid family leave runs concurrent with FMLA leave for newborn care, but if you don't track and run both concurrently, an employee could be out for 12 weeks on FMLA to have a baby and then take an additional eight weeks of paid family leave after for a total of 20 weeks off. Many employers would find it difficult to afford this length of time away, and it could have an adverse effect on your organization's productivity.

Time tracking software, on the other hand, can enable your business to manage these types of issues by tracking leave eligibility, reasons for employee time off, and hours accrued and used. In turn, you can plan for potential labor gaps and keep employee productivity up.

As always, refer back to legal counsel, internal or external, when workforce planning challenges arise, and you're uncertain about whether to approve or deny leave.

By taking a holistic approach to workforce planning, you can better position your organization to track employee time off appropriately and maintain optimal productivity throughout your organization.

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The future of workforce management has arrived, and with it comes myriad complexities that will affect which companies survive. Get the guide: The New Generation of Workforce Management

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