Optimizing Workforce Management Technology: 3 Simple Strategies

By: Milind Subandh, Director, Professional Services and Support, Kronos India

Some of the largest and best run Indian companies in the manufacturing and services sectors have understood the value that a workforce management (WFM) system can bring to their productivity. There are other companies that have been able to drive significant monetary savings from WFM implementation, but not all have amassed the real value from increase in productivity. Companies that automate by simply replicating their traditional office practices, but do not leverage the capabilities that workforce management systems offer, often end up with systems that are unyielding, out of date and cause more hardship than value.

When organizations undergo a process change-based initiative, the outcome is not guaranteed to hit the bulls-eye. Change is difficult, and process change, even more challenging. Adding in the implementation and deployment of new technology, such as a workforce management platform used by hundreds or thousands of employees every day – the complexity of the change increases exponentially. Lastly, a common mistake made by organizations is that they think that the work is done when the solution goes live, with focus then shifting to employee training and ongoing maintenance/updates. After all, steps to ensure the solution is optimized are generally built in to the implementation cycle.

This brings us to the question of Optimization. It shouldn’t be approached as a one-time event but when real optimization begins, how often it should take place, and its connection to employee engagement.

The Optimization Window Closes Quickly

Post-implementation, organizations tend to wait for a triggering event, say, an annual review, before they set an optimization strategy into motion. However, best practices dictate that optimization initiatives must begin at 90 days following implementation. At this stage, managers and employees finally feel comfortable navigating the platform with 3 -months of usage metrics to examine best results. This data can tell the organization volumes about user engagement and whether automations are being circumvented in order to continue completing tasks “the old way.”

Another reason of these 90 days being so important is the fact that this is the time when habits begin to set in. Users under-utilize key functions they don’t fully grasp or build in workarounds, defeating the intended process changes and undermining organizational goals.

Areas of Optimization

There is a subtle difference between measuring success and measuring performance. One can judge whether an ongoing project is a long-lasting success – that tends to be fairly black and white. The real gain can be achieved by measuring performance. Even if the project is a success, there are always areas of performance which can be adjusted to achieve even better results. Here are three areas that organizations should consider evaluating during an optimization initiative for a workforce management platform:

· Automation: As part of an optimization strategy, a roadmap can be created to determine which processes are automated, and how quickly that takes place. As technology becomes more intelligent, conversations should shift to automating workflow processes.

· Accessibility: For many employees, the mobile phone is now an extension of their hand. As it is instantly available to search or share data, it can also be used to give them access to important work-related information and a voice in work-related decisions. Accessibility via mobile devices also frees up managers, allowing them to spend more time with stakeholders.

· Education: Education, similar to optimization, is not a singular event. A training session or even a series of such sessions by an organization is not enough to make sure the users are equipped with the knowledge to be successful in executing the organization’s goals. Speed of adoption, utilization, and proficiency are few such areas that should be measured on an ongoing basis in order to design an annual education strategy that ensures employees continue to utilize WFM technology to its fullest capabilities.

The Ultimate Goal: Optimizing Engagement

Optimization isn’t just about technology but also about supporting the people who use the technology. A roadblock any optimization project can run into is that internal stakeholders may fear change, feeling the need for improvement is an admission of shortcomings. This could not be further from the truth.

Combining systems, processes, and people to achieve meaningful change – especially when the intended outcome is to improve productivity and support employee engagement, is a complex task that must be nurtured. The outcome is critical to organizational success.

Optimization does not have to be a difficult process If it is not nurtured, both; technology and employee engagement will suffer. When done step-by-step at a time, optimization is able to drive continued successes in the form of more rapid ROI, ongoing gains in operational improvements, and better employee engagement.

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