Value-added trends in workforce management

Posted by  Randall Crowley on July 27, 2017.

Today’s workforce management tools can do more than simply track time and attendance: they’re helping to guide management to make more informed workforce decisions and connect with employees in more meaningful ways.

Over the past several years, workforce management technology has capitalized on the rise of mobile devices to provide workers a more convenient way to punch a time clock while giving management more robust capabilities to track and deploy their workforce. More recently, we’re seeing organizations and technology providers extend these capabilities to reap more value from their investments.

Tools for engagement and metrics
For example, typical time and attendance packages include a feature for a pop-up window that users must respond to, such as a regular pop-up to verify the accuracy of time logged. Because this window appears on every worker’s device, it can act as a conduit to reach workers with other types of information and foster ongoing employee engagement.

For example, we’re starting to see companies using the pop-up to ask survey questions, such as “Did you observe any safety violations this week?” or “Were you injured at work today?” Based on the response, follow-up questions or actions can be included, such as alerting a manager or sending the employee to a page to gather more complete information.

Being able to capture metrics through this mechanism employees are already accustomed to using is a value-added feature for managing the workforce and the overall business effectively.

Tools for activities tracking
Along with tracking time and metrics and fostering stronger engagement, companies are also leveraging workforce management tools to capture data about activities. For example, they are tracking what machines workers are using and when, which can help in managing equipment maintenance records and also for certification purposes, say if workers need to log a certain number of hours on a machine to maintain or gain certification. In the past, this type of tracking was often a cumbersome process, but with advancements in technology, the proliferation of mobile devices (with many companies allowing BYOD – bring your own device), and simple click-and-drag functionality instead of having to enter data manually, it’s become much easier, and as a result, we’re seeing much more of it in use.

Tools for scheduling
Scheduling is always a key workforce management concern due to the payroll implications and the bottom-line value of being able to optimize schedules and labor costs to deploy the workforce efficiently and effectively. The technology algorithms and tools for scheduling workers have advanced considerably, and it’s becoming easier to manage and maintain the associated data. A burdensome effort that used to take a larger team to handle has now been streamlined, so there’s less maintenance required and the actual projections are more accurate for scheduling purposes.

Thanks to these advancements, we’re seeing the use of the technology extend beyond the retail environments it was initially primarily intended for. For example, it’s helping companies better manage schedules to ensure workers take meal breaks, which helps avoid having to pay sometimes significant penalties to compensate workers who can’t (or don’t) take a break, as well as addressing workers who try to purposely game the system by avoiding breaks in order to increase their pay.

Industries becoming motivated to get on board
We’re also seeing industries that have traditionally lagged in adopting modern workforce management technology start to make the change, but for motivations that can be different from strictly managing the workforce. In the Power & Utilities industry, for example, the Baby Boomer retirement bubble is creating a strong need to attract and retain younger workers to replace retirees. But the older, mainframe-style technology many Power & Utilities companies still use lacks the user-friendly interface and drag-and-drop functionality younger generations are accustomed to, and can give the appearance the companies are outdated and less desirable places to build a career.

So, we are seeing a major push by many companies in the industry to adopt new, mobile workforce management solutions, not only for the flexibility and features they provide but also to attract and retain younger workers. It’s an interesting development, because where in the past the business case may not have supported the technology investment, the workforce implications are making it not only feasible, but essential.

For all of these reasons—improved workforce analytics capability, ongoing employee engagement, labor cost optimization, and a more desirable employment brand—if you haven’t recently updated or explored potential new applications for workforce management technology, now may be the time to make the call.

Randall Crowley is a managing director in Deloitte Consulting LLP focusing on workforce management, including Time and Labor strategy and assessment, benchmarking, business case development, and software selection and implementation.

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