Why is Workforce Management (WFM) so misunderstood?

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This article is part 3 of a series focusing on the often misunderstood topic of Workforce Management (WFM). The first article in the series defined What is Workforce Management The second focused on How to Extract Value from WFM

To recap quickly, a good definition of Work Force Management is that it “relates to optimising human talent to improve overall business value, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction”.

To get to the heart of why I believe Workforce Management is so misunderstood, we need to go back in time, all the way to the mid-90’s, when the ERP industry was in its heyday and I was given my first opportunity to learn about SAP product portfolio. For those of you who can remember back that far, you’ll recall that Y2K compliance was starting to really heat up and a lot of consultants (myself included) were learning on the job, due to the lack of skills in the market. This type of resource planning is often referred to as “just in time delivery” also known as “who have we got on the bench today?”

My on the-job training focused on SAP’s Sales and Distribution (SD) module and luckily for me, I had an SD guru showing me the ropes. What I particularly admired about this individual was she not only understood the product itself, but also the business context in which the product was being deployed. She made it her priority to find ways to add business value throughout the entire implementation, rather than simply concentrating on religiously adhering to a project plan. This lesson really resonated with me and it has informed my own approach to consulting for the past 20 years.

To supplement my on the job training at the time, I sought out any SAP text books I could get my hands on and to my surprise, discovered that very few were available back then. Most of the books that did exist were outdated, because the pace of business and technology change, had outstripped the relevant literature of the day. Search online today and 100’s of titles pop up related to SAP, most of are focused and relevant books, with many reprints and updates under their belt. To supplement these books, online forums, training academies, university courses, certifications, business mentors and a myriad of other knowledge tools have been developed, to support and maintain excellence in the area of SAP implementations.

Almost 20 years later, many of the trends I observed with SAP in the mid-90’s are repeating themselves with WFM today:

  • Lots of interest in the market and not enough skilled resources available to implement the solution?
  • A lack of common understanding of the topic and insufficient detailed literature, text books and authoritative studies?
  • Consultants learning on the job and desperately in need of strong mentors and professional bodies to help guide and support their activities?

Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of organisations, associations and professional bodies out there, which have begun to define and document WFM in various ways. Examples include:

  1. The Association for Asset Workforce Management (AWAM),
  2. The Workforce Institute (sponsored by Kronos)
  3. Plus a variety of product and solution certifications offered by different WFM vendors.

Even today, 15 years after I was first introduced to WFM, an immense opportunity exists to introduce greater rigor, structure and accountability to the industry. Discipline areas such as industry, business value, implementation know-how, product and practical experience could all benefit from greater clarity, consistency and documented practices.

In an industry still in its infancy in many ways, those of us that are up for the challenge have a wonderful opportunity to further shape and define what WFM really means. From a personal perspective, I’d love to see WFM offered as a course of study at university. Just like Accounting, Medicine, Engineering or any other tertiary level qualification.

As with the increasing levels of specialty which occur in Medicine, from General Medicine to Radiology to Interventional Radiology for example, so too can specialisation occur in the field of WFM. Experts might graduate from General WFM to Scheduling Optimisation, before specialising in Labour Standards.

If you’ve read all 3 of these articles, you’ve probably realised by now that I’m passionate about the WFM industry and committed to building its profile, as it becomes an increasingly mature and mainstream discipline. If you share my views on the increasing importance of WFM or have your own perspectives which you’d like to share, please post your thoughts and comments below and feel free to share with your network.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Jarrod

First Published on Linkedin, June 27, 2016

Photo credit: Oberazzi. https://www.flickr.com/oberazzi

Jarrod McGrath

Author: Jarrod McGrath

Jarrod McGrath is an internationally recognized public speaker, thought leader and author on HCM topics including productivity, efficiency, technology, digital transformation and future trends. Jarrod leads inspiring conversations about the future of work, millennials in the workforce, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking with audiences across the globe. Jarrod is quoted in key media, including CEO magazine and various HR magazines. Jarrod is author of “The Digital Workforce”, a book that documents his experiences and industry war stories from delivering people related programs of work. Jarrod defines a process to deliver these people initiatives through a customer lens with supporting customer, vendor and AI futurist interviews. Find out more at smartwfm.com/digitalworkforce. Jarrod is also Founder and CEO of Smart WFM, a leading service provider in the provision of HCM people related strategy and implementation consulting. Jarrod can be contacted on +61 2 8379 1292 or speaking@smartwfm.com. View all posts by Jarrod McGrath