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Is your workforce technology stuck in the past?

Outdated workforce technology takes a toll on employers by increasing burnout and turnover, driving up operational costs, and reducing competitiveness. Yet often, it’s not that organisations don’t want to modernise their workforce technology but feel locked into their current system due to the anticipated time and cost involved in replacing it.

Quick question: when did you last buy a new workforce management system? Last week? Last year? In the last decade?

I ask because the pandemic upended almost everything we knew about work. Most workplaces are radically different from how they looked just a few years ago: remote, hybrid working and collaborating with colleagues we’ve never met in person is commonplace. Meanwhile, wider trends like staff shortages, evolving employee demographics, supply chain fragilities, regulatory changes, inflation, and the cost-of-living crisis are forcing businesses to continuously adapt.

Even the employer-employee dynamic has shifted, with staff holding greater power and control than ever before. Younger workers in particular expect flexibility, on-demand information, growth opportunities, and meaningful connections. Therefore, organisations without the relevant capabilities and tools risk falling short of employees’ new expectations – and potentially losing them to competitors, or even worse, staying and ‘quietly quitting’ to perform their work below their full potential.

Prioritising staff expectations as part of employee experience (EX) strategies might seem at odds with meeting operational goals. Yet, the link between the two is backed by independent research. For example, according to Gartner, organisations that use human-centric work models where “employees are treated as people, not just resources,” are “3.2 times more likely to experience high intent to stay and 3.1 times more likely to see low levels of fatigue.”

Despite EX’s critical role in driving successful business outcomes, many EX initiatives often overlook deskless workers who currently make up 80% of the global workforce. So, what are the key considerations that will help businesses – particularly those that manage dispersed, shift-based workers – to identify the most suitable way to manage their global workforce?

Improving EX for the deskless workforce
Deskless workers can be found working in the field, in a factory or warehouse, behind the wheel, in clothing shops, classrooms, and hospitals. While tech investments and organisational policies have largely left them out, these workers are the most vulnerable in the face of business changes, wage pressures, and other variables, and the easiest to overlook.

There are a few other reasons directly connected with using outdated technology for deskless workers that impact an organisation’s ability to meet the needs of these workers. For example, an organisation may not have the means to give deskless workers the communication tools they need to stay in touch with peers and managers, keep up to date with policy changes, or access materials and training that help them stay productive. Managers may also find it harder to give them feedback because they are often omitted from corporate systems.

While employers continue to face a multitude of pressures, they must also recognise their greatest competitive advantage: their people. With this in mind, let’s explore the positive impacts that cutting-edge workforce management technologies can offer for deskless workers specifically:

  1. Improved communications – Modern workforce technology significantly improves productivity and engagement by enabling smart, integrated communications that improve employee-employer interactions. No matter where an employee is working, they can be connected to managers who can gather immediate feedback and enable data-driven decision-making to ensure that issues are addressed in real-time.
  2. Baked-in compliance – While many employees would love to be able to swap shifts to improve work-life balance, this can be complicated if it involves union rules and compliance restrictions. Balancing employee flexibility, as well as business compliance and costs, is too complex to manage with manual processes and outdated technology. The risks of expensive errors and noncompliance are too high, and the costs associated with inefficiencies could negatively affect the bottom line. Fortunately, modern workforce technology can ensure that both compliance is built into scheduling software and that employees have access to and the ability to easily pick up or swap shifts that adheres to company policy, union or regulatory requirements.
  3. Meeting multi-generation expectations: By 2025, Millennials and Gen Z will comprise 64% of the workforce. These generations tend to differ from prior ones as they not only want decent pay, but also a voice in decisions, a sense of purpose, and more flexibility and control over when they work. As digital natives who grew up with technology as an integral part of their lives, they want a workplace that’s supported like their life outside work and that prioritises their well-being. For organisations, that means implementing modern technology that includes consumer-grade user interfaces, digitised communications and easy access to information they need and resources available to be successful in their work.

It isn’t usually the case that organisations don’t want to upgrade their workforce technology. Instead, they may simply feel locked into customary ways of working, wary of the time and resources required to replace them. However, with ongoing staff shortages and economic uncertainty set to continue, workforce management solutions offer organisations an enormous advantage by improving EX and ultimately boosting operational efficiency, competitiveness, and financial performance.

Researching different options, considering how they might integrate into your operations, and comparing a product’s initial costs vs. the value it can bring will help you to choose the ideal solution. Business leaders should prioritise a solution that will not only improve operational performance now, but also one that can scale to support growth in the future. As the war for talent rages on, the winners will be those that use cutting-edge digital solutions to attract, engage and retain their workers.

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