Peter Harte, vice president, enterprise, EMEA, UKG
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a dramatic change to the world of work, forcing organisations across all sectors to rapidly adapt all aspects of business to cope with the new normal.
Click and collect and home delivery services have expanded dramatically, healthcare services are making much greater use of remote consultations, and businesses are relying more heavily than ever on virtual home working, videoconferencing and other remote connectivity technologies.
Earlier this year, The Workforce Institute at UKG released research analysing how nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders across the world felt about their employer’s initial COVID-19 response. This research – entitled “Hindsight 2020: COVID-19 Concerns into 2021,” – found that just 42% of UK organisations were ready to manage through the start of the pandemic. It was – and still is – an unprecedented time and businesses were forced to adapt, at scale and with exceptional speed, as demand and operating constraints changed.
The way we work, where we work, when we work, and how we manage our workers are all in a state of flux, demanding corresponding change in our use of technology to support and enable our workforces. This change has paved the way for a new future of work and it is one that is driven by data-led transformation. This can be broken down into four key pillars:
The COVID-19 pandemic has really hit home the need for organisations to protect their business, employees, their families, and their customers. In order to successfully manage such threats and risks, organisations must improve their agility and resilience, so as to take advantage of new opportunities and meet future challenges. It will also be essential for businesses to manage safety and hygiene issues more carefully than ever before. Agility, resilience, and safety must be built into organisations from the ground up, with workforces, operating models, systems and processes all playing critical roles.
Digital workforce transformation will be essential here – manual processes, disparate solutions, and lack of flexibility in the workforce will impair adaptation to changing circumstances. Workforce management technology facilitates this protection through:
- Enabling a truly holistic real-time view of available labour resources to make quick decisions
- Reconfiguring solutions easily to adapt to new operating models and take advantage of new opportunities
- Maintaining connectivity and communication with all staff
- Careful planning, scheduling, wellness monitoring and contact tracing to protect employees and customers
Plan and execute
The key to effective planning and execution to control costs, improve productivity, and optimise revenues is the use of technology to automate workforce related processes, with real time data delivering the visibility and control required to ensure effective and efficient resource utilisation. Organisations relying on manual or semi-automated processes will find them increasingly challenging, time consuming, and error prone. Data gathering via phone calls and management by spreadsheet and email will impair businesses’ ability to make good decisions fast, to optimise their labour usage and costs, and to react promptly to changes in customer demand or other circumstances.
The latest generation of cloud-based and mobile-enabled HCM and workforce management solutions deliver the data, control, and visibility needed to empower businesses to effectively plan, deploy, and manage their labour resources. This technology can enable businesses to:
- Consider flexibility and the needs of employees, customers, and the business to create a balanced schedule that controls costs and performance
- Capture time, activity, and productivity data in real time, from any and all locations
- Use real-time labour analytics and reporting to drive performance and maintain compliance
- Allow businesses to prioritise the management of all forms of absence and effectively address the causes of unplanned absence
The year 2020 saw the introduction of a broad spread of new workplace regulations directly related to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these are likely to persist for some time, continuing in force alongside other new regulations as they are introduced.
Organisations will therefore need to identify and explore the processes and technologies required to ensure the safety of all staff, customers, and other stakeholders. Such considerations will need to consider employees working from home and other locations, as well as on-site staff. What hours are they working? How are they feeling? Are they taking appropriate breaks?
A data driven approach to these elements of compliance will:
- Allow a workforce system configuration to adherence to relevant employment legislation and agreements, without the need for complex user intervention
- Help to build work schedules that maintain the safety of employees and customers, while meeting emerging guidelines and rules
- Enable proactive management of employee training and certifications
- Assist in monitoring employee wellbeing through always-on surveys
Building engagement through trust and transparency to improve the employee experience has never been more important. This will be key to attracting and retaining the best workers, and vital to any organisation wanting to build and maintain a brand representing a strong social and work ethos.
Workforce management technologies assist in this engagement in a variety of ways such as:
- Connected employees will have increased team engagement which will result in reduced isolation
- Mobile based self-service tools empower employees to take control of their working lives and manage their own work/life balance
- Real-time visibility of employee presence, activity and productivity mean managers no longer need to micro-manage their team and employees feel valued and empowered to do their work
- Intelligent scheduling tools enable managers to take a personalised approach to employee needs, preferences and training
A data driven approach to the new future of work
The ability to make the right decisions, quickly, is key to optimal performance, making the ready availability of accurate, real time information essential. Only with visibility, control and flexibility, across both the workforce and the systems used to manage it, will businesses be able to manage risks, control costs, and exploit new revenue opportunities effectively.
Organisations that embrace the ‘new future of work’, investing in technology, updating processes and adopting a holistic, human-centric approach to workforce management, will enjoy increased resilience in future crises, and the ability to pivot swiftly to capitalise on emerging opportunities before competitors do.