Workforce optimization explained: strategies, definition & examples

Overbooking, benches, delays and unexpected absences… Have you ever wondered how to handle them, or even use them to your advantage? If you did, you actually thought about workforce optimization. Here’s how the process can help you! 

Arkadiusz Terpiłowski

Co-Founder

Resource Planning

19/11/2022

Workforce optimization in examples: definitions & strategies

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What is workforce optimization (WFO)? 

Workforce optimization is a process that combines the principles of business performance with resource allocation. In other words, it uses business strategies and methods to improve employee and organizational efficiency, productivity and engagement, all within the boundaries set by people’s needs, contracts and legal requirements. The process usually requires a workforce optimization software, a good schedule - and an approach focused on employee engagement.

What processes are included in the workforce optimization? 

In general, workforce optimization includes processes such as: 

Why is WFO important? 

Sometimes it looks like the company’s and employee’s interests seem to go in opposite directions. This state of things is neither desirable nor beneficial for either of the parties, and it can also be harmful for customer experience. Workforce optimization was created to remedy that problem. 

Workforce management prevents overbooking, benches, vacancies and other problems common in the companies that profit from the hours worked by their employees. Additionally, it also improves the scalability of the processes, enabling the business to grow seamlessly. In other words, workforce optimization allows managers to achieve better results, engagement, productivity and benefits faster without exploitation. Last but not least, it can also improve the customer satisfaction by improving the employee performance and the quality of products as a whole.

Workforce optimization strategies - examples 

Let’s get straight to the point - there are a few things you can do to start workforce optimization right away and improve the operational efficiency of your business. Here are some of the most popular - and the most beneficial - choices.

Strategy 1: Scheduling based on actual capacity

Project scheduling may sound like an obvious choice at this point. However, it’s not the process itself that can help you, but the data that lie at its base. 

Many companies allocate their resources based on their needs, keeping in mind only the customer satisfaction, and not actual availability of their resources. That approach is particularly common in companies using Jira resource planning which does not offer any details of scheduled, worked and available hours for particular resources. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that these companies struggle with overworked employees and high turnover rates. 

How to solve this problem with workforce management?

However, this problem can easily be remedied. With workforce optimization software that calculates the capacity (or, in other words, a maximum number of their working hours in a given period) of particular employees, project managers can see exactly how much time their employees can spend on a given project. As a result, they can act on the information and plan the hours without testing both the schedule and the employee’s patience. 

Strategy 2: Time & budget tracking

We know, everyone hates to track time in various systems. Still, that’s not the matter of preference - time tracking can provide project managers with valuable insights in labour, as well as its quality and engagement, they can use to improve everyone’s work. As a result, it is a vital part of workforce management and, in the end, customer experience.

What can I use the time tracking for?

With time tracking, you can see: 

  • how much time your employees spend on the project, 
  • which projects are taking too much time, and which have been completed earlier than expected, 
  • which employees are the most productive. 

Does it sound like something a manager would like to know? 

Of course - these are the very factors the success of the business depends on. That is why attendance software os of the essence for all the parties involved. It is also a base for gatheing performance data.

But what about financials? 

However, time tracking data can get even more valuable if you realize that worked hours generate costs that affect the financial performance of your business. With each hour worked and tracked, the cost of your project rises, while each hour missing from the system basically falsifies its budget. As a result, some of your project may be less profitable than you think - or perhaps not profitable at all. 

What can you achieve by combining time tracking with budget management?

Time tracking combined with budgeting can help you prevent that kind of information from escaping your attention by providing you with information on:

  • all the billable and non-billable hours worked in your business, 
  • employee engagement,
  • profits from both projects and work of particular employees, 
  • costs of all tracked hours in a form of comprehensive timesheet for teams and individuals, 
  • margin rates, budgets, overheads, and more. 

Using all the information we mentioned, you can alter projects and allocation whenever an operation is put at risk. Additionally, you can also control the finances at the same time instead of staying in the dark until the end of the project. 

Strategy 3: Monitoring performance 

Workforce optimization is not only about seeing how your workers use their time - it’s also about making sure that they use their time on things that the company can profit from. 

How to monitor performance for management purposes?

You can monitor the performance of your employees by: 

  • checking how much time they spend on non-billable activities, such as meetings or internal projects. Generally, they are the reason why profits from a single person’s work drop - try to minimize their impact whenever possible. 
  • checking who’s taking too much time on the tasks, 
  • seeing how their work correspinds with your business strategy,
  • finding the people with the best and the worst productivity and determining the cause for it (maybe there’s something you can improve to make their work better?), 
  • keeping an eye on the progress of the entire project and reacting to any problems, 
  • spotting delays and other risks and managing them accordingly. 

Strategy 4: Improving transparency

Every employee plans their work on their own. However, to do that effectively, they need to know what responsibilities they may expect in the future. That’s why improving transparency is vital for workforce optimization. 

How to improve transparency in analytics?

Of course, improving transparency should not rely on endless meetings. The information workflow in the business should be supported, first and foremost, with the tools capable of showing the responsibilities and dependencies to the specialist in the real time, both for the project scope and for the resources.

Such a breakdown of planned activities along with the time that should be spent on them provides employees with valuable information they can use to optimize their work on a small but significant scale. 

Can I do all these things in Excel? 

Using Excel for the workforce optimization defies the very purpose of this process - it reduces transparency and complicates the operations. There are, however, some tools and attendance software that are simply perfect for the job - in short, they can help you work smarter, not harder. Primetric is one of them; let’s see how it deals with the workforce optimization strategies we’ve discussed above. 

Scheduling with capacity in Primetric

In Primetric the capacity is calculated not only based on the number of working days in a month for each employee, (although that’s the main factor in the equation, of course!), but also using the information about public holidays. As a result, the tool can provide the manager with a realistic capacity for each of the employees. 

Public holidays in Primetric
Public holidays are not only displayed in Primetric, but they also affect the capacity of employees - as you can see in the purple bar, they do not have any capacity for the day. 

Importantly, the information is not hidden out of sight. Every time a new allocation is made for an employee their capacity is shown in the New allocation window. Any overbooking is instantly met with a sufficient notification, preventing any mistakes and problems. 

Notifications can prevent overbooking and act as a part of workforce optimization
Overbooking notification appears when scheduling assigns too many hours to the specialist compared to their capacity

Time and budget tracking in Primetric

In contrast to other tools, Primetric specializes in combining information from different spheres of business to ensure that service levels are at their highest. Time tracking and budgeting are not the exceptions here! 

Time tracking in Primetric

First, let’s take a look at time tracking. Primetric has its own time tracking module, but it can also be used to import and transfer the data from Jira time tracking. Regardless of the option you choose, the data on tracked hours will appear in the real time in both the employee's profile and the project timeline in the project calendar - just like shown below. As a result, it shows the manager right away when employees are overworked, or opposite - have time for some more work.

A view of tracked hours in Primetric
Tracked hours in Primetric are marked with a purple bar.

How can Primetric process the time tracking data?

Still, this is where the magic just starts. Thanks to the variety of information included in the employee’s profile, the system also has information on wages, salaries and hourly rates of all the specialists. Whenever a work is tracked, Primetric uses the data to calculate the costs of work done. Further on, the information can be used in project budgets (in fact, it appears there automatically) or for advanced reports, such as the timesheet report shown below. 

Timesheet reports are also used for workforce optimization
Timesheet report in Primetric combines finances with tracked hours

Monitoring performance in Primetric

Primetric was created as a tool capable of providing executives and managers with a bird’s eye view of all the operations and their standards. As such, the tool offers dozens of reports, charts and tables that can highlight, compare and assess different parts of your business. 

What data can you see in Primetic?

For workforce optimization purposes, Primetric can provide you with an overview of: 

  • project progress, 
  • utilization, 
  • availability, 
  • costs of worked hours, 
  • profitability, 
  • vacancies in the entire organization,
  • real time reporting,

Other reports in Primetric

Of course, that’s just a fraction of the reports you can find in the tool. Other reporting modules also cover: finances, project performance, settlements, profitability, and more. 

Utilization report is an essential part of workforce optimization
Utilization report in Primetric

Improving transparency with Primetric

Last but not least, Primetric is a perfect choice for a business which want to delegate responsibilities to particular specialists in the long run and not worry about lack of performance from benched employees.

Thanks to the calendar, each employee can see exactly what the future will bring for him - and that applies to both full-time and part-time allocations, in billable and non-billable projects. The calendar also includes other variables, such as time offs or public holidays. 

Does everyone has access to this information?

Of course, an average employee is prevented from seeing reports and other advanced modules for business management by the access level system included in the tool. People with Employee status can only see the details of their own work in the system, while Managers and Administrators can also browse company’s details and reports restricted for others to see the statistics and improve customer experience even more.

Benefits of workforce optimization 

While workforce optimization may sometimes seem a bit burdensome, the process is worth every minute you spend doing it. That’s because the benefits of workforce optimization outweigh the effort every time. 

What can WFO help you with?

Workforce optimization can help you: 

  • improve team and employee productivity by adjusting the workload of specific employees and teams, 
  • improve resource forecasting and help project managers predict vacancies and new hirings before they take a toll on the entire project, 
  • use the capacity of your employees to the fullest extend, improving the profits in the same time, 
  • manage long and short term allocation without mistakes and hesitation, 
  • find the right employees for the job without making them overworked,
  • improve your business managemet, service levels and give you the data you need to improve customer satisfaction.

Improve the work in your business even more! 

Workforce optimization is not the only thing you can do to power up your business. Feel free to read about other processes that can help you do that, including: 

Or, if you want our solution to help you manage workforce optimization, simply book a demo or start a trial with Primetric! 

Arkadiusz Terpiłowski

Co-Founder

Arkadiusz is Head of Growth and Co-founder at Primetric. Prior to that, Arkadiusz was at the helm of his own software development company where he oversaw operations. A great enthusiast of process improvements, his personal mission is to make software companies more profitable and efficient on their path to growth.

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