Workforce Management Glossary

Jun 23, 2023

Like many software specialisations, the workforce management space has lots of jargon, acronyms, abbreviations and technical terms. In our workforce management glossary, we attempt to list the more regular terms and explain what they mean.

Absence Management:  the process of tracking and managing employee absences from work and recording the reasons for employee absences. It includes the management of time off requests, including holiday and vacation, sickness, lateness, and no-shows

Accruals: In workforce management, these refer to the accumulation of the holiday entitlements that employees receive but have not yet used. They are often driven by total hours worked and are often regulated by state or national legislation.

Availability for Work: Also called Availability. Refers to the periods during which an employee is available and willing to work. 

Availability module: a part of a workforce management system where employees can inform the system and, therefore, their employer of when they are available for work and when they aren’t. It can also be used to indicate preferences which will be taken into account but not guaranteed when building a rota.

Auto Scheduling: A tool within a workforce management system used to allocate shifts to staff. Often, this will be AI-powered because of the complexity of the problem being solved. Auto scheduling tools need to take into account demand, budget, compliance rules, staff preferences and shift patterns.

Break Rules: The rules stored within a workforce management system which dictate how the system should pay staff for lunch breaks and other rest periods.

Budget Module: A tool within a workforce management system used to calculate the cost of every rota and compare it against the budget. It allows employers greater control over costs and ensures that rotas are checked against budget before they are approved. Often said to be responsible for delivering cost savings for users of workforce management solutions.

Buddy Punching: when one employee asks another person to clock in or out for him when the first employee isn’t present. A form of time fraud.

Compliance Module: A tool within a workforce management system used to check all shifts comply with labour laws such as working time directives and national minimum wage.

Continental shift pattern: A standard shift pattern where employees work. 8-hour shifts. As 3 shifts – day, swing, and night. In 4 teams. Over a 28-day cycle.

Contingent labour: Contingent workers are individuals who are not on the payroll but provide work for an organisation. They are also called agency workers, casual work, or contract workers.

Contingent WFM: A specialist workforce management system designed to manage contingent labour.

Contract: In a workforce management system, this refers to a collection of terms and conditions that apply to a single person. It could include pay rules, overtime rules, holiday entitlements and break rules. Together they are the contractual arrangements between the employer and employee that the WFM system has to take into account.

Contracted Hours: The minimum number of hours an employer has committed to employing a person in a given period, normally a week.

Default Schedule: A standard working pattern for an individual that is repeated every week in a workforce management system. For example, an employee works 0900-1700 Monday to Friday every week. 

Demand forecasting: predictions of future customer demand and the number of staff required to meet that demand. 

Demand: when referring to workforce management, demand relates to the number of employees of each role that are needed for a given period of time.

Demand module: A tool within workforce management software used to track when the demand has been met in a schedule and when it hasn’t.

Employee Scheduling:  A tool within a workforce management system used for allocating shifts to staff.

Forecasting: The prediction of variables such as sales or call volume which have a high correlation with staffing levels.

Field Workforce: staff employed at or en route to the property of clients rather than on company property.

GIG Worker: Another way to describe contingent labour.

Holiday entitlement: the number of days of paid holiday in a year that a worker is entitled to take

Labour Standard:  the measurement of how long it takes for a worker to complete a specific task or activity. 

Labour rules: imposed by state or national governments, labour rules define the constraints on employers when asking staff to work. They may include working hours, minimum rates of pay, rest periods and holiday entitlements. In labour management software, they are often managed using a compliance module.

Mobile WFM: a specialist workforce management system designed to support mobile or field workers that don’t work at the premises owned by their employer.

Mobile Workforce: Another word for field workforce

Operating model: A document which explains what staff are required to operate as a part of a given team and what variables might change that staffing level. 

Pay Rules: These include rates of pay and rules for applying those rules. For example, night time premium, time and half on Sunday, and overtime pay.

Schedule Optimization: A core planning task of a workforce management system is making the best or most effective use of available staff to fill the predicted number of shifts. Schedules can be optimised to meet demand, budget, compliance, staff preferences, fairness or several other factors. Often done using AI or machine learning because of the complexity of the task.

Self-service app: In workforce management, this tool allows employees to manage their time off and shifts via a mobile app. They often include other functions designed to improve employee/employer communication.

Shift Management: Shift management allows employees the ability to see their upcoming shifts, accept shift offers and swap shifts with other employees.

Shift Pattern:  a specific combination of workers, working hours, schedules, and infrastructure that meets a specific need. A shift pattern is designed to ensure there are enough employees working at any given time. They are easy to communicate to employees and allow long-term planning by staff. An example would be the standard continental shift pattern.

Task management: is the WFM module that assigns individual tasks to employees to complete during their shifts. Examples include cleaning, internet picking, shelf stocking, etc. An optimal rota may be optimised to ensure that there are enough skilled staff on-site to cover all predicted tasks. A recommendation engine may also be available to recommend which of the staff on site should do each task. 

Time and Attendance: Used to track when employees start and stop work. Used by an employer to monitor working hours, lateness, early departures, breaks and absenteeism

Time fraud: is what happens when an employee defrauds their employer and gets paid for the time they did not work. 

Time Sheet:  a method for recording the amount of a worker’s time spent at work. Traditionally a sheet of paper with the data arranged in a tabular format that employees sign to confirm their hours. Often a timesheet is a digital document or spreadsheet. Within Time and Attendance, these are known to be at risk of time fraud and also often require re-entering into a payroll system if they aren’t embedded into a time and attendance software or workforce management system.

Work log: A digital timesheet that is part of a workforce management system. It will include clock-in and clock-out data and some form of auto-match functionality. Managers will normally be required to approve a work log at the end of each day, which will include the approval of exceptions such as overtime and sickness.

Zero Hours contract: a type of employment contract whereby the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum number of working hours to the employee. It offers ultimate flexibility for the employer and minimum security for the employee. However, some employees do appreciate not having to commit to hours, especially if it is their second job.

WFM: Workforce Management


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