What is Workforce Optimisation? A Complete Guide 

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Shannon Ashley , Design lead

Understanding workforce optimisation

Workforce Optimisation (WFO) is a strategic approach which aims to boost your business efficiency, using targeted strategies and technology. It aims to elevate employee productivity, enhance customer service, and streamline operational costs. WFO is especially crucial in contact centres, where it leverages workforce management, quality management, analytics, and technology integration to sharpen performance. By automating tasks and harnessing smart technology, WFO offers you valuable insights to refine operations and elevate customer satisfaction.

WFO as a process has evolved along with technological innovations and evolving shifting business demands. From its early days of manual scheduling and call evaluations, it’s moved on to embracing machine learning and analytics, revolutionising contact centres into hubs of customer engagement. This progression has steered WFO from traditional on-premise setups to more versatile, cloud-based and hybrid models- enhancing scalability, security, and accessibility across businesses of all sizes.

Benefits of workforce optimisation`

By focusing on the combination of processes and technologies, WFO delivers tangible benefits to your organisation- transcending industry boundaries, from call centres to healthcare. Because its processes and technologies are highly adaptable, its benefits across organisations are often similar.  

Productivity enhancement: WFO boosts your productivity by automating processes and improving resource allocation. Advanced scheduling and analytics ensure the right employees are available at the right time, increasing your output quality and customer service efficiency.

Operational efficiency: WFO directly impacts operational efficiency by simplifying complex processes and enhancing the precision of resource allocation. Key strategies include automating routine tasks to save time and using analytics for smarter decision-making. This leads to reduced operational costs and improved agility, enabling organisations to quickly adapt to new challenges and opportunities. 

Employee satisfaction: WFO improves your workplace engagement through gamification, flexible scheduling, and skill development opportunities. This leads to higher engagement, lower turnover, and a more committed workforce, enhancing overall job satisfaction.

Workforce optimisation in practice

Retail Industry

In the retail sector, WFO is applied through optimised scheduling, ensuring the right number of staff is available during peak and off-peak hours. This approach improves customer service by reducing wait times and controls labour costs by avoiding overstaffing during slow periods. 

For example, retail businesses often scale back staffing during slower periods but ramp up with temporary workers during high-demand seasons like holidays. This strategic scheduling leads to maintained high productivity levels and reduced unnecessary expenses.

Call centres

Call centres leverage WFO to improve agent efficiency and customer experience. Technologies are used to route calls to suitable agents and resolve customer queries without always needing live interaction. Adoption of these technologies allows for accurate forecasting and scheduling, real-time adherence monitoring, and detailed analytics. As a result, call centres report increased customer retention rates, reduced operational costs, and enhanced agent productivity.

Healthcare sector

In healthcare, WFO is crucial for managing staff schedules to ensure that there are enough healthcare professionals to meet patient needs without overstaffing. This precise scheduling is vital for both emergency departments and regular outpatient care, directly impacting patient wait times and satisfaction. Additionally, quality management components of WFO help maintain high standards of patient care and safety by ensuring compliance with healthcare regulations and best practices.


Manufacturers implement WFO strategies to optimise production schedules, improve machinery maintenance, and ensure safety compliance. Through analysing operational data, manufacturers can predict maintenance needs, reducing downtime and increasing production efficiency. WFO also aids in aligning workforce skills with production needs, ensuring that skilled workers are available for complex tasks, which enhances product quality and operational safety.

Across industries, the implementation of WFO strategies leads to several measurable outcomes and improved operational metrics, including:

  • Increased productivity: By aligning workforce skills with operational needs, organisations report higher productivity levels and more efficient use of resources.
  • Cost reduction: Through optimised scheduling and process improvements, unplanned overtime reduces, turnover rates lower, and additional staffing requirements decrease- reducing overall costs.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: Enhanced service delivery and reduced wait times through WFO implementation create a better overall customer experience.
  • Employee engagement: Using gamification and targeted training initiatives, as part of WFO, help boost employee morale and engagement, leading to lower turnover rates.
  • Data-driven decisions: Using advanced analytics provides insights into operational efficiency, employee performance, and customer satisfaction, enabling informed decision-making and continuous improvement.

Introduction to workforce optimisation software

What is WFO software?

WFO software is a comprehensive technology solution designed to enhance operational efficiency across your organisation, particularly in contact centres. It encompasses a range of strategies, processes, and tools aimed at optimising your employees’ productivity, customer satisfaction, and cost management. By automating various processes and providing detailed insights through analytics, WFO software supports you in achieving optimum performance from their workforce and the services you deliver. 

Before landing on a software solution, you should ensure it’s suited to your organisation’s needs, based on criteria which significantly impact the long-term value of WFO software solution . When evaluating suitability, criteria to consider include:

Customisation and flexibility: Given the unique needs of each organisation, the software must be customisable. It should allow you to tailor features such as reporting forms, performance metrics, and user interfaces to match your specific requirements.

Scalability: The selected software must be able to scale with your business, accommodating growth and changes without significant overhauls. This involves supporting an increasing number of users, handling larger datasets, and adapting to evolving business processes.

User-friendliness: A good user interface is crucial for ensuring that your users, regardless of their technical expertise, can efficiently utilise the software. Ease of use encourages wider adoption and minimises training requirements.

Support and training: Robust customer support and comprehensive training resources are vital to help your team maximise the software’s benefits. Look for providers offering responsive support and extensive learning materials.

Compliance and security: Ensure the software complies with relevant regulations and standards, offering you features like secure data storage, privacy controls, and audit trails to protect sensitive information.

Key WFO software features to look for 

More specifically, it’s also crucial to consider software features which benefit your organisation’s operation. Some of these features to look out for include :

  • Scheduling capabilities which easily create schedules based around your team’s preferences, availability, and workload demands.
  • Real-time analytics for evaluating your performance metrics, customer satisfaction levels, and operational efficiency.
  • Forecasting using historical data to inform your future needs, allowing you to plan around potentially turbulent scenarios. 
  • Integration tools to fit in with your existing systems, like HR or Communication software, for a seamless approach to WFO.
  • User-friendly interface which facilitates ease of onboarding and use for all users, from agents to management.
  • Cloud-based deployment option which flexibility, scalability, and reduced IT overhead, increasing accessibility for organisations.

By selecting the right WFO software based on features, you ensure a WFO solution not only addresses current challenges but also supports future growth and adaptation. Check out Surfboard to see an example of WFO software which offers all these features- and more!

Implementing workforce optimisation strategies

A step-by-step guide to rolling out WFO strategies

  1. Assess and analyse current operations: Begin with a thorough analysis of your current operation, identifying areas for improvement, such as scheduling, employee productivity, and customer service.
  1. Set clear objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with WFO, including improved customer satisfaction, cost reduction, and enhanced employee engagement.
  1. Select the right WFO software: Choose a WFO platform that aligns with your business needs, such as integration capabilities with existing tools or scalability. Consider software that offers comprehensive features such as scheduling, performance tracking, and analytics.
  1. Engage stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders from various departments to ensure the WFO strategy aligns with overall business objectives and to foster buy-in across the organisation.
  1. Implement WFO solutions: Roll out the selected WFO software, ensuring that all users are adequately trained. Start with pilot projects or specific departments to gauge effectiveness and make necessary adjustments.
  1. Monitor, evaluate, and improve: Continuously monitor the performance of your WFO strategy against set objectives. Using the analytics and reporting features of your WFO software, track progress and identify areas for further improvement. This may involve refining scheduling, enhancing training, or adopting technologies to address emerging challenges.

Common challenges and solutions

Implementing WFO presents challenges such as resistance to change and integration issues, cost concerns, maintaining data accuracy, and adapting to evolving business needs. Effective solutions include clear communication, comprehensive training, selecting software suited to your needs, emphasising long-term savings of WFO, and regularly reviewing and adjusting WFO strategies to align with your business objectives. 

By proactively addressing these challenges, organisations can enhance operational efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and foster employee engagement, ensuring the successful rollout and sustainability of WFO initiatives.

Future of workforce optimisation 

The future of WFO is shaped by a series of emerging trends, primarily driven by technological advancements and changing workplace dynamics. Automation is becoming more sophisticated, enabling more complex tasks to be automated and freeing up employees for higher-value work. This includes the automation of scheduling, performance tracking, and even decision-making processes through predictive analytics.

Similarly, following the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend towards remote work is influencing WFO strategies, necessitating tools that support remote workforce management, communication, and productivity tracking. This shift requires optimisation strategies that accommodate flexible schedules and work locations.

Technological evolution shaping WFO

Big data analytics: The ability to analyse vast amounts of data in real-time is transforming WFO. Big data analytics enable organisations to gain actionable insights into workforce efficiency, customer behaviour, and market trends, leading to more informed strategic planning.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning: AI and machine learning are revolutionising WFO by automating complex processes, predicting workforce needs, and personalising customer interactions. These technologies are also used in identifying patterns and anomalies in data, facilitating advanced, informed management strategies.

Mobile technologies: With the increasing use of mobile devices in the workplace, mobile-friendly WFO tools are becoming essential. These technologies support on-the-go access to workforce data, real-time communication, and remote task management, catering to the needs of a mobile workforce.

The future of workforce optimisation is characterised by a greater reliance on advanced technologies, a shift towards more flexible and remote work arrangements, and an emphasis on enhancing the employee experience. As these trends continue to evolve, your organisation will need to adopt innovative WFO solutions and strategies to stay competitive, improve operational efficiency, and meet the changing needs of both your workforce and your customers.


What is workforce optimisation?

Workforce Optimisation (WFO) is a strategy to improve business efficiency by enhancing employee productivity, customer service, and reducing operational costs through technology and analytics.

Difference between workforce management and workforce optimisation?

Workforce Management (WFM) focuses on scheduling and managing staff, while Workforce Optimisation (WFO) includes WFM and extends to quality management, analytics, and technology integration for broader business improvements.

What is workforce optimisation software?

WFO software is a suite that enhances organisational efficiency by optimising employee performance, customer satisfaction, and managing costs, featuring scheduling, performance tracking, and analytics.

What is a WFO tool?

A WFO tool is software or technology used for automating processes, analysing data, and providing insights to optimise workforce efficiency and customer satisfaction.

What is the best WFO software?

The best WFO software depends on an organisation’s needs, offering customisation, flexibility, integration capabilities, scalability, and user-friendly interfaces, with strong analytics and security. See what features Surfboard has to offer.