Workforce management glossary – know the key terms

by Rotageek on 17 August 2022

Welcome to our handy glossary of the key terminology around workforce management and scheduling.

Maybe you’re new to the world of shifts, schedules, and rotas. Perhaps you need to brush up your knowledge in preparation for an interview, a meeting, or a project. Or maybe you just came here to get the definition of one particular term… in which case, we really hope we’ve covered it!

Let’s start with a very quick overview of the key concepts. If you just want to get straight to the definitions, feel free to scroll on down the page.

What is workforce management?

Workforce management (or workforce planning) is the practice of using tools and processes to optimise staff schedules. In other words, it’s about:

  1. making sure the staff your business needs are scheduled and present
  2. doing that in a way that maximises performance and efficiency

In our very digitised world, workforce management systems are often integrated with related functions like human resource management (HRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). However, workforce management remains largely focused on scheduling rather than HR functions like hiring or discipline.


Glossary of workforce management terms

Absence management

The process of measuring and monitoring worker absences, both planned and unplanned, with the goal of maximising attendance so that resource demand is met.


Leave (annual and sick leave) and other benefits that workers amass over time.

Buddy punching

When a worker fraudulently clocks in and/or out for another who is actually absent. Solutions such as Rotageek address this common problem by providing self-service apps that only allow staff to clock in for themselves.

Cost rate

The total cost of a worker to the business – including wages/salary, plus other overheads such as training costs or desk space. Cost rate is usually calculated per month or per year.

Employee fairness sentiment

A measurement of how fair workers perceive their employer to be. A higher fairness sentiment score can correlate with better employee retention and attendance levels.

Forecasting capacity and demand

The process of forecasting the number of resources needed for a future period or project, and the available resource capacity. Accurate workforce forecasting helps the business to prepare for change and take corrective action, e.g. hiring new staff or adjusting schedules.

Full-time equivalent (FTE)

The number of hours a worker is contracted to work per week, expressed as a fraction of the company’s full-time working hours. In a company where full-time employees work 38 hours per week, a sales rep contracted for 19 hours per week would have an FTE of 0.5.

Labour capacity

The number of hours a worker is contracted per week (or some other period), representing their general availability or capacity.

Labour demand

The amount of resource capacity needed to carry out a piece of work, e.g. running the grocery section on a typical Monday or completing a project. Labour demand can be measured in hours or FTE. Understanding labour demand is vital in optimising utilisation and making schedules more efficient.

Labour-to-demand match

A comparison of the amount of labour scheduled for a period of time and the amount actually required. Improving labour-to-demand match can help to optimise labour costs (by reducing overstaffing) and improve productivity and customer experiences (by making sure enough staff are present to meet demand).

Leave management system

The process by which management approves and denies workers’ requests for time off. Inefficient leave management systems can frustrate workers, especially where communications are too slow to allow for short-notice leave requests. Software solutions such as Rotageek aim to enhance leave management by providing self-service, mobile tools.

Return on investment (ROI)

The financial gain or loss you make on any investment. In workforce management, this typically compares your labour spend with income generated during the period of work. To calculate ROI as a percentage, divide the gain or loss by the labour cost, then multiply by 100 (i.e. revenue ÷ labour spend × 100).

Schedule (also Rota, Roster)

A list of workers designated to work during a specific time period (e.g. a shift), in a particular department or location. Schedules are usually created by a manager, sometimes with the aid of spreadsheet or rota software. Effective schedules balance the needs of workers and the company, and should observe employment rights such as the right to time off and flexible working.

Workforce management software

While staff schedules or rotas have traditionally been created on paper or with general-purpose spreadsheet software, many businesses today are using specialised software tools to take a data-driven approach to scheduling. Rotageek is one example of a workforce management solution that automates schedules with AI, provides self-service mobile tools for workers, and helps to optimise admin, labour-to-demand match, customer experience and more! 

Work-life balance

The split between time and energy spent on work versus making time for personal priorities, such as sleeping well, eating well, and leisure time. Signs that workers might have an unhealthy work-life balance include stress, having trouble sleeping, and thinking about work during personal time.


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