It’s easy to look for some sort of technology solution to solve an intractable business problem. In fact each and every day software vendors the world over, spruik the latest and greatest technology ‘solution’ desperately seeking a customer problem to solve.
The problem is if we constantly look to technology to solve every business problem, we miss a critically important component of any successful business….the human assets, better known as the people. The key to solving most business problems (and I acknowledge this is a huge generalisation) is the need for not just processes but people, not just logic but emotion, not just technology but humanity.
So what are the big Workforce Management problems so many businesses encounter and what benefits can a company expect to accrue if they can solve them? To break it down for you, I’ll start by looking at the issues through a “Business First” lens and explore how WFM related issues rarely occur in isolation, but rather cut across a number of internal and external business functions.
What problems do we encounter most often?
- Customers lacking visibility or confidence on the profitability of their business operations until it’s too late.
- Businesses unsure whether they are losing sales, churning customers or forcing prospects to wait too long.
- Staff craving (or in some cases demanding) more flexibility in their work and employers struggling to know how to provide this, while running a viable business.
- Basic concerns around the accuracy of staff pay and award conditions.
How do we help to solve them?
- Providing complete reporting and analysis of costs to forecast and make real time operational informed decisions.
- Increasing the accuracy of forecasting and planning to ensure your team members are available to meet customer demand.
- Providing staff flexible working arrangements and personalisation to develop and grow in your business, and
- Deliver accurate compliance for the correct implementation of awards & conditions.
Business First Solutions
Let’s look at some real life business stories across different industries to see how these problems manifest and how they can be effectively solved.
Service based business
Problem: You run a service based industry and complete projects for clients. You run on tight margins and often find that at the completion of jobs hidden labour costs appear and impact your profitability.
Solution: To help solve this you require a complete picture of your workforce, time is captured when the job is being completed and the job is costed down to an activity level. This was:
- Operations management can compare job forecasts to actuals and make daily informed decisions to ensure only required team members complete work minimising the cost of labour.
- Operations management can also assess the profitability of jobs and are able to make quick forecast adjustments if certain activities are over or under budget.
- Most important senior management can bid for jobs with the confidence knowing profitability will be maximised.
Problem: You’re in the retail industry and you don’t have enough retail assistants in your team to deliver the level of customer service your customers deserve. As a result prospective, customers are walking out frustrated and existing loyal customers are starting to shop elsewhere. To add to your headaches, your retail assistants are overworked and frustrated they can’t make the customers happy.
Solution: To help solve these problems you first need to accurately forecast the sales volumes in each store. These forecasts can then be aligned to staffing requirements, to maximise sales and minimise labour cost as well as providing customer and team member satisfaction while building brand strength. It sounds simple when you put it like that, but these issues present huge logistical problems for retailers the world over and demonstrate the immediate impact which WFM can have in a retail environment.
Problem: You’re in the health industry and your nurses are overworked and angry that they don’t have enough flexibility in their working arrangements. This staff frustration leads to an increase in sick leave, workplace culture issues and has the potential to impact patient care if left unchecked.
Solution: To get to the heart of this issue, a well optimised WFM process would allow nurses to request their specific work preferences when rosters are being planned, these preferences could now be taken into consideration.
Additionally, when rosters are communicated to nurses the right system would allow nursing staff to quickly accept or reject shifts and quickly find substitutes if required. This approach would lead to an improved work/life balance for nursing staff, resulting in a happier nurses who positively contribute and grow within your health organisation.
Solving intractable workforce related problems requires both people and process skills. The below list (though not exhaustive) provides some sense of the multiple disciplinary skillsets required at every level of an organisation, to drive the best possible WFM outcomes:
- Senior Management identifies a business problem. This is often voiced to the business through a business strategy meeting or a exec sponsored project.
- Operations Management are now tasked with addressing the problem and implementing a solution. They need the skills and support to manage up and down and also the ability to recruit and develop the right talent to deliver the outcome.
- Talent in the organisation needs (a) skills to support delivery of the solution to the problem, (b) to be in a work environment that gives them scope to learn and grow.
- Human Resources support the organisations talent to ensure the right staff are recruited, compensation is aligned, organisational and departmental goals are cascaded, and appropriate compliance measures are in place.
- Payroll provide the services to ensure legislative compliance and financial integrity, plus make sure Talent is paid in a timely and reliable fashion.
- Finance provide the required financial metrics by which to report and measure the success of failure of the project.
- IT provide the systems and technologies to support the business solutions in a cost effective and flexible way.
- Business specialists, either internally or externally are often required to bring all these components together harmoniously to create the a working collective, focused on delivering a shared outcome.
If this article struck a chord with you, I’d really appreciate if you took the time to like and share it with your network or better yet, provide your feedback in the comments section below. Workforce Management may just be the next battle ground for businesses looking to improve their performance, whilst retaining, developing and promoting their most important assets of all, their people. If you or someone in your team is experiencing issues relating to Workforce Management, we’re just a click away —> www.smartwfm.com