Future of Workforce Management Trends in 2020 and Beyond

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Improving your workforce is a never-ending goal for nearly all businesses. As we evaluate the present and peer into the future by the close examination of the latest workforce management trends, a common theme throughout involves creating a better experience for employees, leading to more efficiency. As the workplace has changed dramatically over the years, workforce management software has needed to adapt to meet the needs of these trends.

The quality of your workforce has a direct impact on your bottom line; the better an employee feels about a company, the more likely they are to increase productivity and earn your business more money. As more businesses are turning to freelancers and private contractors for specific tasks, employees are requesting more control and flexibility when it comes to their schedules.

Key Takeaways:

As the workforce evolves, so too must your workforce management strategies and software solutions. When making a change or update to your software, consider these top workforce management trends beforehand:

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Better Employee Experience

Over the last few years, the shift toward a better employee experience has been one of the biggest in workforce management. Companies are putting increased focus on their employees by engaging them more and making them feel like their an important piece of your business’s puzzle rather than a replaceable employee.

Employee Engagement

A disengaged employee can cost their business thousands of revenue dollars each day. Employees simply showing up and going through the motions isn’t good enough. One way offices are noticing improvements in productivity is through employee engagement.

Employee engagement refers to the extent of an employee’s passion for the work they do or their commitment to the company as well as the effort they put in. If employees know their role within a business and are driven and determined to do well, their performance will go up.

Companies with higher levels of employee engagement have reported a 65 percent reduction in turnover. It can also lead to less absenteeism and increased productivity. Keep in mind, employee engagement is different than employee satisfaction, which essentially refers to an employee’s happiness or contentment, while ignoring morale and involvement.

More Communication & Interactions

Another way businesses are working to improve the employee experience is by creating a more communicative relationship between management and employees, as well as encouraging more socialization between coworkers.

As far as communication between coworkers goes, a collaborative approach is becoming much more common in the workplace, as employers are encouraging their employees to communicate and bounce ideas off one another rather than sit quietly at their desks all day. This shared approach can lead to better employee engagement, in turn leading to greater productivity. In addition, employees don’t have to feel like robots, sitting at their desks and counting down the hours until their social lives can start up again.

Transferring that idea to workforce management software solutions, employees can communicate and share information with one another in real-time, no matter if they’re working from home or a separate location from the main office. Business professor and author Dave Ulrich mentions how technology is about connections, not just contacts.

“HR technology helps employees attach to each other in order to feel a sense of belonging through personal relationships.”

Ulrich goes on to mention how an emotional connection or attachment doesn’t stem simply from a feeling of belonging, but also from meaning and identity.

Additionally, analytics can help you determine which employees are performing beyond expectations and which are falling behind. Regular, informal meetings between managers and employees can be more person-centered and seem less strict or pressured. Issues can be discussed and solutions can be thought of in a casual manner while getting one-on-one attention. Big chunks of time spent sitting in on meetings that don’t pertain to a certain employee can be avoided by having regular meetings or check-ins.

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Self-Service Portals

From checking the schedule to requesting time off, employees can handle nearly every aspect of their employment online. Rather than having to physically go into work or phone the office to check when they work next, employees can log in on a mobile device and easily access their schedule. Users can pick up open shifts, change their payroll information, apply for benefits, and manage their PTO and sick days all in one place.

Mentioned above, employee experience is one of the newer trends when referring to workforce management solutions. New systems are implementing self-service portals to allow employees access to their employment information. The use of self-service portals should improve employee satisfaction because it gives users easy access to everything they need regarding their employment and prevents any inconveniences by automating and simplifying tasks such as scheduling.

Gig Economy Growing

In recent years, the gig economy has skyrocketed in terms of popularity. When you hear the term “gig,” you probably think of a band or DJ landing a venue to perform at, but freelancers and contractors, as well as the businesses looking to temporarily hire them, all fall under the gig economy as well.

Around one-third of all workers in the US are currently freelancers. While nearly half of millennials are part of the gig economy already, it’s projected that the majority of the US workforce will be gig workers by 2027.

It’s becoming increasingly popular for businesses to hire freelancers or vendors under contract for short-term projects. With this comes additional payroll and software capabilities to be considered. Because freelancers and contract workers aren’t technically considered employees, their scheduling and pay will have to be handled separately from part- or full-time employees. With the gig economy growing at such a rapid pace, businesses will have to turn to freelance hiring apps and explore remote management systems to oversee these workers.


Aside from freelancers and private contractors, fewer full-time employees are working your traditional 9-5 jobs. Instead, they’re working flexible hours, working from home, taking phone calls during their commute or taking meetings outside of office hours.

Employers aim to improve the work-life balance for their employees by giving them more freedom to choose when they work and where, within reason. With the younger generations entering the workforce and demanding a better work-life balance and less shift work, businesses are taking note to accommodate their employees to keep them happy and, as a result, more productive. In fact, over half of employers report that their remote employees were more effective than their in-office workers.

If your employees work flexible hours or are not always at the office, you’ll have to find a way to keep track of time worked, rather than just tracking when an employee punches in and out. Depending on your business, the way you do this will vary; this could include tracking progress online or even location tracking for mobile workers.

Managing Infractions

Even with more flexibility and employee control over when they work, your business still may have rules on break times or set core hours where you require your employees to be there. It’s easy for employees to come in late day after day if they are never reprimanded, but as a manager you have to make sure you are keeping track of who is showing up late or taking unauthorized breaks. Systems that track this can assure every employee is treated fairly by holding everyone to the same standard.

Some workforce management solutions may use a point system or occurrence tracking to keep track of their workforce attendance. For example, employees can lose points when they miss days or show up late, or gain points through performance or attendance consistencies. The number of points lost in a given time period could lead to warnings or even termination from HR managers. In addition to attendance, occurrence tracking could include false clock-in times or locations and even dress code violations.

Scheduling With AI

Using artificial intelligence has become increasingly popular in regards to workforce management software. Businesses are using AI to cut down on time-consuming tasks, including the recruiting and hiring process, scheduling, time-tracking and more.

By scheduling through the use of AI, your software can predict workloads and make it so you’re less likely to be overstaffed during slower hours, saving you on labor costs. On the flip side, your software can determine which employees have been performing the best and schedule them during peak periods of operation.

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More Integration & Interaction


For today’s HR managers, there’s an app designed for nearly every challenge you encounter. The problem, however, is that most of these apps run independently rather than through a software suite. One of the biggest workforce management software trends involves easier integration and synchronization of data between different software and tools.

Sure, you could use a collection of different applications and accomplish what you need, but integrating apps with your workforce management system can provide greater benefits. Aside from easily being able to manage all your applications in a centralized location, it also saves time and can incorporate data from different apps while providing feedback.

Generational Shifts

With millennials and generation z entering the workforce as some baby boomers are delaying their retirement, there is as much diversity in the workplace as ever. This can have its challenges when it comes to training new employees and implementing new strategies and technology with older employees, but certain workforce management solutions can help your employees through the process.

Software can be used to train employees whether they are new or simply need a refresher course. When updates are made to your software solution, employees should be notified and properly trained if there are any significant changes.

Be careful when adding new workforce management software solutions with such a diverse age group of employees. Taking on too much right away may be overkill and could backfire and cause disruptions, while moving too slowly or not embracing technology could lead to your business falling behind others. Remember to consider your workforce age and level of comfortability with technology and move at a realistic pace accordingly.

More Collaborative Workspaces

As previously mentioned, communication and diversity are newer focal points of workforce management software. Not all employees will be in the office at the same time, but employees can communicate and share information regardless of their proximity from one another. Online communication and scheduling features are replacing traditional communication methods such as email and phone conversations.

With employees ranging over 40 years in age difference, collaboration between different generations can allow your business to see things from different perspectives.

More Focus on Middle Management

While businesses tend to focus their money and efforts on their top leaders and new employees, those in the middle are often left on the back burner. If you didn’t already know, middle-management employees generally have the greatest impact on an organization’s overall performance. They are responsible for relaying strategy from those above them and making sure employees beneath them understand what needs to be done and are executing.

Middle managers see things from a different perspective than their higher-ups and can provide insight and suggestions for a business. By paying more attention to middle-level employees, businesses can put more focus on developing leadership within their company. As a result, your company can retain and promote employees who are performing well and already have a good understanding of the company and its goals and strategies.

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In Conclusion

As the US workforce is shifting from the baby boomers toward the younger generations, a heavier focus is being placed on improving the employee experience. Employees are demanding more self-service modules and want more flexibility and control over their daily schedule. Workforce management software is changing to allow for more employee access and easier communication between coworkers.

With increases in communication, employee engagement, diversity in the workforce and the need for integration between multiple applications, workforce management software is evolving to do more automated work, leading to an increase in the efficiency of many companies.

As employer and employee needs continue to change, workforce management trends will do so as well. Staying up to date on current and future trends as well as knowing your specific requirements when comparing different workforce management software can help you make the best-informed decision.

Do you use a workforce management software solution? What for? Are there any trends we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!

Contributing Thought Leaders

Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the Ross School, University of
Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group, a consulting firm
focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He has published over 200
articles and book chapters and over 30 books. He edited Human Resource Management
1990-1999, served on editorial board of 4 Journals, on the Board of Directors for
Herman Miller (16 years) and Board of Trustees at Southern Virginia University, has
spoken to large audiences in 90 countries; performed workshops for over half of the
Fortune 200; coached successful business leaders, and is a Fellow in the National Academy of Human Resources. He is known for continually learning, turning complex ideas into simple solutions, and creating real value to those he works with in three fields.

Evan HeierFuture of Workforce Management Trends in 2020 and Beyond

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