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| Dan Weber Customer-centric approaches to workforce management

There are important things that CIOs and other business leaders need to consider as they evaluate technology, especially mobile solutions, for workforce management. Dan Weber of Radford offers his perspective on what elements are most important.


When evaluating systems, it is important to understand the limitations and trade-offs for all stakeholders before making a decision.

With big purchases such as SAP, some solutions work better for certain things than others. IT usually opts for the whole package, with the idea that everything will work together – even though parts of the solution might not be optimal for all business units and users.

In a customer-centric approach, IT would work to understand what HR needs and determine the optimal solution mix, rather than forcing an entire process in a box from a single provider. While it might be simpler and faster for IT initially to buy the whole package, in the long run the time and cost to engineer and integrate the software and applications that really make a process work may have been less costly to implement at the beginning.

It is also important to focus on the process experience itself. Many of today’s processes occur online or on-network. Consider the experience of an employee choosing annual health care benefits in the online corporate portal. Treat this experience as if these pages were for your customers.

You wouldn’t place first, bold and highlighted, the IT requirements or legal disclosures. You wouldn’t clutter the page with information in small print. Think like a marketer or sales person and include how-to videos, quotes, and pictures. Make the content and images inviting to help tell your story. Before company-wide deployment, test the content for clarity and ease-of-use among a user group and make improvements.

Also, simplify navigation. Include a chat or phone number on every page, where an employee can reach HR immediately, without wading through an endless phone chain that may never reach a live person. Ensure this same process works seamlessly in a mobile app, because mobile solutions are critical today.

When tracking makes sense

Modern mobile tracking and sensing devices provide valuable information that can lead to quantum leaps in service efficiency and customer response times in areas like repair and installation or in logistics. However, this type of active or passive data collection can be perceived as intrusive by employees and lead to counterproductive behaviors. Just because the technology is available doesn’t mean it’s the best thing a company can do.

Anytime your company uses tracking devices, consider how your employees will be affected. As much as possible, engage them and let them be a part of the process by clearly explaining what you would like to do and why and actively soliciting their feedback.

For example, a tracking device may alert management that the truck has not changed location for 30 minutes. Instead of arbitrarily presuming what the employee is doing, ask them how they can communicate their current situation and how that data could be used to assist them. It could be as simple as giving them schedule access so they can take their own breaks. Or it could be as involved as automatically sending backup if an installation or activity is taking longer than expected.

This turns the situation into a win-win. The company gets more accurate information and the employee is accountable and empowered to manage his or her own schedule.

Accessibility

The other concern of mobile solutions is accessibility, especially with today’s turbocharged business cycles. Your employees want to be able to view and do things on the go and when they need to be away from their main computer. Of course, there are some significant limitations to what a mobile device can do and display along with the issue of information security.

Especially around workforce management, IT should partner with both HR and business management to define priorities around what should be mobile-accessible and why. In general, from a workforce management perspective, the more likely employees are to use a given functionality, the more likely that there should be a mobile solution in place for it. Email and collaboration tools are prime examples. However, there are situations where mobile access may not be appropriate. In those cases, IT and its partners should determine what the least disruptive solution, such as curating information rather than completely blocking access.

It’s also important to be willing to take a step back and recognize that the amount of data that can be collected is infinite, while the resources that can be expended to find insight in it are not. There is often a temptation to look for the “silver bullet” – the statistic or device or software that will solve all your problems and tie everything together. But your time and resources may be better spent looking at key metrics from sources you already have and seeing patterns that you can leverage to drive business results.

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