What exactly does workforce management mean and look like today?
Everyone has a different definition. I see it divided into two spheres. One is operational and includes elements such as, tracking employee metrics and day-to-day productivity. The best example is a call center. Organizations need data and metrics about how to staff the call center to meet customer demand. By analyzing data such as call patterns, organizations can identify the number of employees required to meet call demand at specific points in time. Another good example is professional firms such as law and accounting. Initially, workforce management began as a financial need; tracking productivity in terms of billable hours and revenue generated provides information to management that affects the bottom line. However, management recognized the tremendous potential for insight into workforce attitudes, talent effectiveness, engagement and company culture that analytics can capture.
The other sphere is strategic, involving communication and access to information. Instant access to information and insight (provided by data analytics) enables informed decisions and drives business results. Critical, too, are the right tools to enable employees to communicate, collaborate, and instantly access information. The explosion in standalone and integrated collaboration tools and the development of internal wikis and other editable knowledge repositories all align with the global push towards democratization of information and towards the expectation that everything is just a keyword or hashtag away.
How is technology shaping workforce management?
Again, looking at call centers, operation metrics are all about people. How can you track people’s activity and movement? How many seconds does it take to resolve a call? Performance can be tracked and analyzed by technology to provide insights that influence decision making.
Another important benefit of technology is “data exhaust.” That is the additional data generated above and around the transaction itself that provides an expanded view of the activity. For example, in an online transaction at your company’s website, the primary activity, the sale, is tracked. But you also learn that your customer logged on from here, at this time, accessed these pages, downloaded these documents, participated in online chat, etc. This data is even more powerful and predictive, especially when it can be easily cross-referenced with other information you collect.
It’s not just IT making sure the primary transaction is working; rather, the value comes from the additional insight IT can pull out. The data that provides intelligent, actionable insight empowers workforce management.
Technology allows leaders and thinkers to be strategic. We can determine that if we reduce call time from 45 to 30 seconds, we can serve more customers. But to fully realize the benefits of workforce management, the organization needs to look beyond initial statistics to the larger ecosystem and look at an action from a business value standpoint. Leaders need to ask, “What other patterns am I seeing from this data that impact the business?” Are customers happier? Did they purchase more goods?
It’s not just the external customers you’re looking at – it’s the internal customers such as your employees and business partners that are another key part of the equation. For example, if we reduce call times that should be more productive from a purely operational standpoint. But what if a key part of your employee engagement or service culture was that additional time to establish rapport with the customer? The goal is to use the information to seek a positive balance that reflects business value and higher workforce satisfaction and engagement.
How can HR and IT can work together?
Two of the main objectives of HR are managing people and costs and creating a better employee experience. For IT, this often translates to automation – a better way to do a process. HR and IT need to ask how to get rid of everything that doesn’t really matter and simplify and expedite the processes that do? Take, for example, onboarding a new employee so she is ready to go the first day. This means her work devices are deployed and operational and she has access to all critical software and apps. HR and IT need to take a customer-centric approach, treating employees as customers.
Looking at onboarding, what elements can be online self-service, versus requiring HR or IT staff to complete? And how can data captured be used to expedite a process or simplify an employee experience?
Another example of streamlining information and processes is viewing staffing schedules. HR and business unit managers would like to view who will be on vacation. For many companies, employees manage a personal work calendar and then must enter vacation information into another platform. Maybe HR and IT could simplify the process so that the employee enters the information once and it automatically flows into the other system. The big question is where to remove redundancy, create more self-service opportunities, and use data exhaust to improve the employee experience? Ask employees what internal processes they hate, and fix those first.
Looking at business units and workforce management, what are the challenges?
Monitoring sales performance is one example. The sales organization of a global financial client published results in real time, tracking such metrics as time spent on the phone, deals closed, etc. It created a competitive culture and provided managers visibility to instant results and access to performance metrics for any point in the day. A challenge for IT is integrating the data from various systems and then reporting in real time; a challenge for management is to turn performance statistics into teaching or motivational moments. There is still very much a human role in workforce management. It’s the actions, the insightful decisions, and the new processes – all empowered by and executed by people that use tech to move the business forward.Back to all blog posts