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Three Workforce Management Strategies to Thrive in a Post-Pandemic World

Steve Tonks, Senior Vice President EMEA – WorkForce Software

It goes without saying that navigating the waters of the COVID-19 pandemic was a journey riddled with trial and error as businesses were forced to think outside of the box just to keep the lights on. This past year I’ve seen customers across all industries respond with creative solutions that truly demonstrate both resilience and strength: from expanding operations and shifting in-person events to digital platforms, to offering new product delivery initiatives and so much more.  

Because the pandemic significantly altered the way we work, workforce management has been at the forefront of these changes. The initiatives that these organisations are implementing all have a material impact on their workforces—not just how, when and where their employees work but, in some cases, what they do. Throughout it all we have stood side by side with each of our customers to help them navigate this new environment. Above anything else, we’ve seen that predictive technology is an absolute necessity—be it labour forecasting built on machine learning, remote-friendly cloud-based solutions, AI-enabled employee self-service or other options.  

Leveraging agile and configurable workforce management technology has allowed our customers to implement strategic business pivots with ease and stay ahead of the competition. We’ve learned a few things along the way, including a number of best practices detailed in our latest eBook, 5 Workforce Management Secrets to Thrive in 2021 and Beyond. Here are three of the biggest takeaways from our research that describes how organisations can emerge from survival mode and thrive in this new environment together. 

1. Streamline the “New Workplace” for your Employees
The lockdowns of 2020 have shown us the importance of modernising the ways in which we conduct business. Because these sweeping changes are almost impossible to perfect the first time around, monitoring your workforce’s progress in order to make refinements will help ensure employee and customer safety, maintain productivity and preserve an unbroken supply chain. A workforce management solution that leverages labour forecasting and demand-driven scheduling can easily accommodate the rapid adoption of new operating models by allowing for a swift response to shifting responsibilities as adoption rate trends emerge. Skilled workers can be automatically paired with less experienced employees to promote cross-training and hybrid schedules can be created to support both onsite and offsite work. Additionally, mobile capabilities can provide accurate time and labour data for greater visibility into the effort needed to perform these new tasks.  

When overhauling your product and service offerings, it is only natural for these efforts to evolve as unforeseen disruptions increase in frequency, such as everchanging mandates and guidelines, fluctuations in demand for your products and services or the need to rapidly open a new location. Your organisation can cut through the chaos and embrace new opportunities by providing employees with tools that not only maximise productivity, but ensure regulatory compliance, minimise unnecessary labour spend and unite the global organisation. The right workforce management system will maintain compliance with all applicable laws and contractual obligations and help inform whether an overtime or contingent labour strategy would be a viable option to supplement temporary spikes in demand rather than recruiting new workers. Sophisticated functionality for labour forecasting also predicts required headcount with consistent accuracy as the future unfolds to help protect your labour budget and provide a world-class experience for your customers.  

2. Prioritise Your Employee Experience
According to the Qualtrics 2020 Employee Experience Report, employee engagement is trending low in the UK with 50% of UK employees claiming to feel disengaged at work. The UK also tops as the second highest region for attrition risk with about 1 in every 4 employees intending to leave their current company in less than a year. The top industries with the highest attrition risk are unsurprisingly retail and healthcare workers who have faced an unprecedented amount of burnout in response to the pandemic. Because your employees need to experience the company’s commitment to employee well-being, fostering a culture of empathy can achieved by gathering information directly from employees in the moment using micro-surveys to gain feedback on how employees really feel about their working conditions and making adaptations that incorporate employee sentiment. 

A workforce management solution can also provide insights into the consequences of staffing decisions. For example, organisations can leverage their data to identify correlations between frequent last-minute changes to employees’ schedules and retention rates or the effect of too little or too much overtime on overall job satisfaction 

The right workforce management solution doesn’t just stop there. Our Vice President of Global Product Management touches on the need for your system to do more for your people, quoted in HRO Today saying, “Employees log in to their workforce management systems multiple times a day, more than any other HR system. There is a unique opportunity to leverage that interaction point with employees to improve their overall work experience.” 

Because no two employees are the same, their user experiences shouldn’t be either. A robust workforce management solution will allow your employees to personalise their experience in a way that is meaningful to them and the way in which they work. Mobile self-service capabilities allow your employees to review gross pay before payroll is processed and easily take control of their personal and professional lives with anywhere, anytime access to view schedules, approve timesheets, request time off, swap shifts, communicate availability, justify overtime and more. Engaged employees aren’t just happy employees, they care about the quality of the products and services they deliver, meeting deadlines and keeping customers coming back for more.  

3. Let Technology Carry the Load
According to IDG’s 2020 Cloud Computing Study, 92% of organisations’ IT environments are at least somewhat in the cloud today with only 8% responding that their total IT environment is entirely on-premiseThe pandemic has altered the way we work, but it has also opened doors for HR leaders to accelerate digital initiatives that enable employees to stay productive amid the chaos. With workforce management cloud systems, for example, organisations can manage and support diverse, simultaneous, or asynchronous employee groups—from those working onsite or from home to those who are in the field or stationed at any number of locations across a wide geographic footprint.  

As we see an increasing number of companies gravitate toward permanent remote working arrangements for their staff, immediacy of availability becomes extremely important. A lack of immediacy not only dampens employee engagement, the situation also significantly increases the burden on HR and administrative staff, ballooning labour spend as they field phone calls and emails from employees who can no longer manage the basics of their employment themselves. With this influx comes an increased risk for noncompliance and the potentially hefty fees that follow. 

For most, cloud technology is just the first step in embracing technological workforce management innovation. Embracing digital transformation is the key to staying agile in the new workplace. When considering how to support a thriving workforce, you must think beyond automation and other conventional technologies to focus not only on AI and machine learning, but other forward-thinking technologies as well. These innovations can help filter a monumental volume of information to assist in daily administration, surface urgent alerts to potential issues, further refine scheduling accuracy, predict customer behaviours and more.  

Ready to Thrive? Let’s Do This Together  
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned this past year is that emerging from the pandemic is a road that can’t be walked alone. Together we can successfully adapt to this new reality, and part of that success calls for us to embrace the change that the pandemic has brought into our lives by using modern solutions like workforce management technology. To help you get started, 5 Workforce Management Secrets to Thrive in 2021 and Beyond will show you where to begin so that you can plan a strategy for thriving today, tomorrow and further into the future. 

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