Can you manage your people more effectively?

Written by
Kim Lewin

17 Aug 2016

17 Aug 2016 • by Kim Lewin

With a changing regulatory environment, fewer resources and increased pressure to do more with less, many organisations are advancing their approach to workforce management. 

Unfortunately, many implementations fail because of a lack of attention paid to employee engagement with the process. This article will examine this essential aspect of technological change and discuss how it can often take a carefully planned and executed communications programme to help employees appreciate, adopt and ultimately embrace a new solution.

Understand the influence of consumer trends

Understanding technology trends and how they shape your user’s expectations will help you effectively communicate and launch a new technology solution. 

The bring-your own-device (BYOD) dynamic has rapidly emerged, generating a new set of challenges and opportunities for today’s employers. Offering business applications on a device that employees are already familiar with reduces the learning curve, making them more efficient and productive. However, it also requires organisations to provide IT support and applications for use on multiple mobile platforms.

Corporate purchases are also changing. According to Forrester, before the end of this year, 250 million tablets are expected to be in employees’ hands and mobile internet users will exceed that of PC-based users.

As the adoption of smartphones and tablets continues to soar, younger connected workers expect access to certain types of technology. Many making career decisions based on an employer’s attitude toward technology, with a strong preference for anytime, anywhere access from their device of choice to systems. When given the chance, they will rush to learn and master new enterprise systems that match their usability and navigation expectations.

Major developments:

Reporting engines are becoming much more flexible. Improved reporting engines help connect the dots between labour activities and financial outcomes.These analyses are underpinned by access to complete and detailed activity data. New systems let employees record a job transfer from their desktop, tablet, smartphone and any other location where they have broadband or wireless connectivity.

Connectedness is on the rise. Consumer devices are empowering individuals to complete tasks on their schedule and seamlessly pause and resume tasks using a variety of devices and operating systems. Many employees may struggle to appreciate a workforce management solution that is exclusively accessed through their work computer, using proprietary plug-ins. To help employers tap into this new expectation, vendors are developing applications using industry standards in order to create platform-agnostic solutions that can be accessed and used in the fluid manner that employees prefer.

Self-service is becoming a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. Connectedness is also yielding new self-service expectations. Employees expect to interact with a workforce management platform, rather than simply enter data into it. A workforce management solution that allows employees to view their schedule, edit their timesheet and request time off directly from a smartphone, empowers your workforce while also providing your organisation more accurate and timely information.

To help employees work effectively, self-service functionality should be pervasive throughout the application, but intelligently applied. For instance, it has long been possible for employees to report a task change on the fly. This needs to be quick and simple to get the most accurate and complete picture, but it should also be tailored to the employee’s particular role and location. A global organisation may have hundreds of job codes, but only those relevant to that employee, at that time, should appear in the menu when an individual clocks in.

Rules-based proactivity is replacing passive design. Workforce management systems can send rules-based alerts to specific user types, based upon any number of time sensitive occurrences, to help managers anticipate and address upcoming issues. Notifications can be set up to support a broad spectrum of goals - from compliance to safety - while helping to make effective use of labour costs (e.g. a flag on an employee’s timesheet which indicates that the employee will enter into overtime if the current work schedule holds). These types of alerts transform the workforce management solution from a time and labour data repository into a decision-support tool that helps managers operate with more agility and less effort.

User-preferred communication options take hold.  Modern solutions also make it possible to interact with the workforce in multiple ways based on their preference from email and text to automated voice messages. Updating employees via a medium that is most comfortable and efficient for them can have a dramatic effect on how they receive and respond to a new technology.

New devices enrich time data. The introduction of consumer devices brings new capabilities to further workforce management goals. A smartphone or tablet can serve as a primary data capture device and offers new means of user authentication with integrated components. GPS data can be used to pinpoint on a map where the interaction took place providing greater assurances for employers and eliminating the need to install fixed clocks at every site or client location.

Communicate the benefits

Speeding adoption and getting employees to actually embrace change requires demonstrating how the new system and capabilities will benefit them. However, you may not have to look far in finding benefits for employees:

Automation allows HR to dedicate more attention to employee needs. Automation can sharply reduce administrative expenses and costly payroll errors, yet it also has a profound impact on how employees are able to spend their time. With several administrative components of their jobs offloaded to the workforce management system, HR representatives can slip out of reactive mode and dedicate more attention to programmes that improve the employee experience.

Self-service brings greater transparency to the payroll process. Employees may be given the option to log in to the solution and view their current timesheet, work schedule and holiday allowances at any point. Direct access instils confidence that sensitive matters like work hours and pay are being handled in a fair way and automation also eliminates the risk of missing or lost documentation with the ‘paper trail’ resident in a single web-based platform.

Rules and alerts promote work-life balance. Select platforms can help you monitor and mitigate the risk of employee fatigue based upon an employee’s specific role and recent and scheduled shifts. The ‘do more with less’ mantra takes its toll on employees and can affect everything from work quality and client satisfaction to employee attrition and safety. A workforce management solution can help through alerting managers about to schedule an employee for excessive work hours. Critically, employees can also become better advocates because of greater visibility into their upcoming schedules.

Consistent processes preserve fairness. Getting the payslip right is a commonly cited example of fairness through automation but far from the only example. Some workforce management suites help organisations manage employee leave in a consistent and equitable fashion. This starts the moment someone requests to take leave when the solution provides an objective and fair determination about whether an employee is eligible for leave under each applicable regulation and employer policy. It can also simplify the paperwork by providing electronic copies routed to the appropriate individuals with the salient company information auto-populated for convenience. Arming HR with web-based access to information about leave laws also enables them to be more informed advocates for, and advisors to, the employee during a sensitive time. Employees can use the solution as a secure communication portal for asking questions to HR and receiving direct responses which also improves confidence that their case is being managed well.

Furthermore, by keeping track of leave in a web-based graphical view, the solution ensures that employees and HR are always on the same page regarding how much time is available in each leave bank.

Labour data improves business decisions. Above all, the efficiencies and intelligence that you gain by standardising workforce management processes help improve productivity and reduce costs. With a global platform, HR can review detailed labour data and make informed assessments about how the current labour utilisation rate impacts goals like employee retention, morale and productivity so that adjustments can be made to correct any areas of concern. 

The business drivers for implementing a new solution will be better received by employees when your communications illustrate how the solution provides mutual benefit. Effective communications are merely one pillar of an effective change management strategy.

Embracing change, ensuring adoption

When implementing new technology, securing employee buy-in is critical. Employees who have a vested interest in the success of the solution can more rapidly transition, serve as champions and help organisations maximise the financial return on their technology investment.