Inefficient internal processes cost companies up to 30 percent of their annual revenue.
Unnecessary paperwork and meetings are the other two top time and money wasters.
These three challenges top the list in every industry. Together, they rob companies of their competitiveness and growth potential.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Keep reading to learn how workforce optimization can help your company today.
What is Workforce Optimization?
Workforce optimization (WFO) is a powerful business strategy. It centers on the ideas of:
- Leveraging information
- Maximizing employee and systems efficiency
- Balancing key factors and outputs
- Working “smarter”
It may help to think of WFO as the business equivalent of achieving homeostasis. When your body is homeostatically balanced, life is great. You feel amazing. You never get sick. You can tackle every physical and mental challenge life throws at you.
Workforce optimization works the same way. WFO brings your costs, scheduling, and customer satisfaction levels into perfect alignment. Your company runs smoothly. Everything flows seamlessly. You have all the resources you need for growth.
The core of workforce optimization is:
- Knowing your business down to its smallest details
- Fine-tuning your operations to meet specific goals
- Streamlining and refining the flow of information and work within your company
- Reducing the potential for waste and error
- Empowering employees to do their best work
Who is it for?
WFO was originally developed by and intended for use in large call centers. It is being adopted across industries, however, thanks to the universality of its principles and strategies.
As its popularity and reputation expand, WFO is becoming increasingly common in industries as diverse as:
- Financial services
- Industrial food production
- Commodities production
Almost every company and industry can benefit from implementing WFO.
The Benefits of Workforce Optimization
Workforce optimization offers a seemingly endless list of benefits. Most of these benefits fall within a handful of overarching categories.
Increased Efficiency and Cost Savings
Workforce optimization practices eliminate waste. They cut wasted time, material, and labor.
Companies can see boosts of up to 30 percent more productivity by:
- Initiating new processes
- Using new software
- Streamlining the flow of information
These strategies allow companies to grow their revenue without new infrastructure. Most companies also see savings through:
- Reduced recruitment costs
- Lower turnover costs
- Drops in other tangential costs
Reduction in Compliance Issues
In workforce optimized companies, opportunities for miscommunication and mistakes are minimized.
This reduces the potential for compliance violations. It also enables companies to quickly recognize and correct problems should they happen.
Increased compliance has numerous benefits. It spares companies from paying expensive fines. It bolsters their reputation in their industry and among customers. It also improves their standing with compliance monitors.
Implementing WFO strategies empowers employees. Workers are equipped with the tools, resources, knowledge, and processes they need.
As employee satisfaction rates skyrocket, so does the company’s reputation as a great place to work. Companies can leverage both to attract, hire, and keep top talent in their industry.
Improved Customer Service and Retention
Workforce optimization directly leads to higher customer satisfaction rates. Streamlined processes make companies more efficient and agile.
This allows for prompt responses to customers and their needs. Improved information flow allows companies to:
- Identify customer complaints faster
- Act to resolve them more quickly
- Respond to customer needs more effectively
Happy, empowered employees offer better customer service, often going above and beyond. Satisfied customers become loyal and repeat customers and recommend the company to others.
To fully understand workforce optimization, it can be helpful to understand a few key terms as they are used in this context.
One of the most common questions managers ask when first learning about WFO is “What does optimizing mean, exactly?”
If you look up the optimizing definition in a dictionary, it will tell you that the word means “to make the best or most effective use of” something.
For the purposes of WFO, experts define optimized workplaces as those which have maximized their customer satisfaction scores while simultaneously minimizing their costs.
It is important to note, however, that in this context experts also see “optimized” as meaning that companies have fully invested in the right tools and technologies to properly support their processes and employees.
Costs are minimized only to a point at which of these crucial supports remain in place, not to such an extent that they are lost.
Under WFO, experts see workforce meaning any and all of the employees a company may employ. This includes not only a company’s standard full-time and part-time on-site workers but also:
- Supplemental labor solutions
- Remote workers
- Contract services
- Other non-traditional workers
Workforce Optimization Strategies
There are numerous WFO strategies and sub-strategies. Core practices include:
- Starting with the customer
- Leveraging information
- Investing in and empowering your employees
- Restructuring internal processes for efficiency
Strategy 1: Start With the Customer
If the definition of optimization is reaching maximum customer satisfaction at the lowest possible cost, it makes sense to start by understanding what makes customers happy.
The first step in WFO, then, is to dig into your customer satisfaction scores.
Specifically, you need to identify what is keeping you from reaching 100 percent customer satisfaction.
In this step, it is important not to filter information through your existing expectations, habits, and opinions. View your product or service through your customers’ eyes and create an objective list of problems or pain points as they experience them. This may include, among other things:
- Timeliness of delivery
- Lack of options
- Insufficiently responsive customer service personnel
- Difficult to use customer service interfaces
You can collect this information from existing customer feedback or elicit fresh feedback using surveys or other methods. Once you have the information, you are ready for Strategy 2.
Strategy 2: Leverage Information
What does leveraging information mean? What does it look like?
The first step is truly understanding your operations. This involves identifying:
- What isn’t working well
- The inefficiencies that are costing you time and money
- Where roadblocks or delays occur in your processes or systems
- Existing communication gaps
- Areas where you are failing to satisfy your customers
- Instances in which you are failing to engage your employees
Often, companies benefit from bringing in an experienced third party to assist them with this part of the process.
These companies often have complex analytical tools and software at their disposal which can speed up the process of drilling down through piles of information to get to the core issues. They are also skilled at creating the kinds of visual references company leaders need to clearly visualize and conceptualize the results.
Whether you get help or do it alone, however, you want to reach a point where you can fully see your opportunities for improvement and their respective impacts. This will equip you to make smart, informed decisions.
Strategy 3: Invest in and Empower Your Employees
Your employees are what make your company run. If they aren’t functioning at peak efficiency, neither is your business.
Building a strong workforce is a multi-step process, however, and every step counts. Optimizing your workforce involves finding the right people, engaging them, and investing in their success.
Find The Right Talent and Engage Them
America is experiencing a skilled labor crunch. Finding and retaining top-tier talent has never been more difficult or more essential.
As many companies are discovering, however, this is not a problem they can solve by throwing money at it. Studies show that today employee loyalty is purchased with empowerment.
Finding and keeping the best employees requires that companies equip them with the skills, freedom, and tools they need to do their jobs.
Doing so pays big dividends. Engaged employees bring in up to 20 percent more sales and consistently inspire 10 percent more customer satisfaction than their unengaged counterparts. This can lead to huge gains for employers.
Invest in their Success
Even the best and most engaged workers can’t give their best if they are hindered and hampered on all sides by a lack of vital resources.
Use the lessons you learned from digging into the detailed information available to you after implementing Strategy 1 to determine what your employees really need.
This may include things like new hardware, software or new or expanded training.
Keep Them in the Loop and Give Them a Voice
Not communicating with your workforce or communicating with them poorly is a common but incredibly costly mistake. It wastes time and energy, promotes mistrust and disengagement, and can even cause good workers to leave your company.
As part of WFO implementation, expect to:
- Bring employees into WFO discussions from the very beginning
- Proactively address their concerns about the impact upcoming changes will have on their jobs and job security
- Keep them apprised at every step
- Genuinely listen to their feedback and build it into your leveraged information systems
- Train both managers and employees in more effective communication styles, techniques, and processes
- Invest in technology and tools that simplify and improve communication between workers at every level, both within and across departments
Strategy 4: Restructuring for Efficiency
The final step in workforce optimization is restructuring your processes to eliminate existing inefficiencies and achieve new efficiencies. This typically includes a combination of sub-strategies.
Almost every company that pursues WFO will find opportunity and need to automate common repetitive tasks within their workplaces. Common examples include:
- Employee attendance and time tracking
- Task assignment
Workforce optimization requires companies to think outside the boxes of their “legacy systems.” It is no longer viable to keep using a less efficient system simply because it is what you have always done. Investing in new, more effective systems will provide enormous cost savings long-term.
Automated systems can also provide ongoing feedback. This sets companies up with additional and up-to-date information to leverage. This is crucial for later iterations and refinements.
Companies engaged in WFO should expect to change up their workflows and scheduling.
Workforce optimization allows companies to see exactly what they need when they need it, and where. This enables them to add the right people in the right places just when it’s necessary.
This level of insight and pinpoint accuracy and agility changes everything.
Companies typically see:
- New scheduling patterns
- A new process of task assignments within and across departments and shifts
- Different start-to-finish timelines and timeframes
- Shifts in former roles, responsibilities, and interactions
Combining new technology with new workflows is essential to achieving full success in WFO.
As part of their restructuring, some companies may even find themselves making the jump to AI. Integrating artificial intelligence (AI) systems with your human workforce can be powerful.
AI can often be assigned routine, non-priority tasks. This enables you to reassign skilled human workers to higher-value tasks.
AI “chatbots” are an excellent example. Bots can often deal with regular, low-level customer inquiries, like where to find information on your website, for instance.
Since chatbots can help multiple customers at once, this provides additional benefits. It frees up workers’ time and reduces customer-wait times.
AI also makes ideal first-line customer receptionists for phone and email inquiries. They can be programmed to ask a few preliminary questions. Then they can accurately and reliably transfer customers to the right place.
This saves employees time and prevents customer frustration.
Start Exploring WFO Today
Start exploring how workforce optimization can improve your efficiency, reputation, and revenue today. Call the experts and let them start helping you now because there has never been a better time to reshape your workflow and workforce for maximum effectiveness.