How good is your vision?

Better VisibilityWhether you agree or disagree with the age old adage of “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”, the fact remains that having better visibility sure makes life easier.

Take driving for instance. If we didn’t have side windows, and relied only on the windscreen, at some stage we would inevitably get side-swiped by something we didn’t see or anticipate. The same goes for business too. We stand a much greater chance of meeting our business objectives if we are able to anticipate, visualise and react to the changing needs of our internal and external customers.

One of the most rewarding things about my role is meeting our customers and learning how our solutions are making a positive impact to their organisations. On almost every occasion, at some stage during our discussions, the customers will cite “greater visibility” as being one of the key benefits of their Kronos workforce management solution.

A brief story…..

On a recent visit to one of our UK hospitality customers I asked their operations manager what benefits Kronos is delivering. It was fantastic to hear him say the solution was delivering a 6% to 8% saving on labour costs as a result of improved labour demand forecasting and scheduling. However, he went on to say that the true benefit to him personally is the ‘visibility’ the solution delivers. Having detailed labour data at his fingertips means he can now have meaningful conversations with each of his general managers. He is able to discuss and review the impact that programmes and activities, such as staff training or additional labour budget allocations, are truly having on their sales performance.

When building a business case for a workforce management solution you need to focus on the tangible benefits, which in the main will be around cost reduction. However, once the solution is live it’s the intangible benefits that start to materialise and make a positive impact on the business and the individuals.

In the case of this particular customer their business is growing significantly, and so is their labour budget. But having visibility into key labour metrics is allowing them to maximise their return on labour budget and build an even stronger business.

Neil Pickering, Twitter: @ZamberP



Why Employers Should Care About The Health & Wellbeing Of Their Employees

imagesCA091RLFHow should employers feel about their employees’ health and wellbeing and how responsible are we for our own health?

According to a recent article in HRGrapevine, a new survey by Investors in People shows that over 50% of their respondents felt employers have no regard for their health and of those employees almost 50% say it has led to them feeling less motivated with a third indicating they may look for a new job as a result. The report made me realise that there are a couple of serious questions that need to be considered before we can say that employers don’t care about their employees.

Firstly, there is a debate as to whether employers, outside the general health and safety of employees whilst carrying out their job, are actually responsible for their employee’s health and well-being. How much and what employees eat or drink, how often they exercise and how they deal with stress could be considered nothing to do with their employer unless it impacts their ability to do their job. At this point it is no longer a case of caring about an employee’s well-being and simply becomes a case of an employer managing decreased productivity, absence and even disciplinary procedures.

This then begs the question – can employers afford to ignore the general health and wellbeing of their employees if doing so leads to employee disengagement with the associated issues of decreased productivity, increased turnover and high absence and sickness costs?

Addressing the issues that arise around employee wellbeing and the broader issues of engagement and productivity could be down to a few simple measures that encourage employees to help take control of their own health and wellbeing. These could include offering free fruit, serving healthier food in a cafeteria, or providing yoga or massage sessions to help employees deal with stress or deal with muscular-skeletal issues. Other solutions employers may consider could be a full Employee Assistance Programme whilst others may need to take a closer look at their organisational culture and how well managers manage employees.

In fact there are multiple factors that influence how happy and engaged people are at work and if you are interested and want to know what does affect employee engagement take a look at our survey report on ‘The Forgotten Workforce’.

Zero Hours Contracts – Are We One Step Closer To A Truly Agile Workforce?

imagesCAHIW1UVI believe it can only be  good for UK business that zero hours contracts are being taken seriously and that the pressure on the Government to provide guidelines for employees and employers is growing. The CIPD report following a public consultation has concluded that change is required to ensure the flexibility that can be offered by zero hour contracts benefits both employers and employees.

Flexible working contracts have become increasingly important for many businesses; allowing them to become more agile and competitive and improving employee engagement by giving employees the total flexibility they may need to balance complex home and working lives. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I believe a major issue that needs to be addressed by many organisations is that of making zero hours and other flexible contract employees easier for managers to manage. The way to do this easily is by using workforce management technology that can automate some of the processes needed to track employee attendance and schedule employees according to both business requirements and employee preferences.

Below are the four main recommendations made by the CIPD:

  • The use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts preventing workers from working for another employer should be banned, with a narrow exemption for employers that can demonstrate a compelling business reason, for example, confidentiality or the protection of trade secrets.
  • CIPD recommends that staff on zero hours contracts should, after a minimum period of 12 months service with an employer, have the legal right to request a minimum number of hours per week.  Employers would have to respond positively to the request unless they had a business reason for turning it down.
  • The CIPD believes all workers should be legally entitled to a written copy of their terms and conditions not later than two months in employment (currently under the Employment Rights Act 1996 only employees are entitled to this). This would help provide greater clarity on behalf of both parties on the issue of employment status and the associated employment rights.
  • The CIPD would support the creation of a code of practice setting out for employers and zero hours workers some key principles and guidance on the responsible management of these types of working arrangements.

The full consultation can be downloaded here:

The full report, ‘Zero hours contracts: Myths and reality’ is available to download here:


Monitoring Absence At Work Does Not Increase It

AbsenceThere has been a lot of coverage recently about getting sick people back to work. It is a big issue for most businesses – and the Government takes the loss of productivity caused by absence, particularly long-term absence, very seriously. Around 960,000 workers in Britain were on sick leave for more than a month each year between October 2010 and September 2013. To address this issue The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are launching a scheme where workers will be referred for health assessments if they are sick for more than four weeks in an effort to address the issue. It is planned that the assessments will be carried out by occupational specialists who will draw up a plan and timetable to get the patient back to work quickly. The DWP believes the scheme will save employers £70 million a year and cut the time people spend off work by 20% to 40%.

While this is good news for employers – I know from many years of discussing HR and workforce management with a wide variety of businesses that many employers really don’t know the extent of sickness absence in their organisation. Of course if it is a long term absence someone is usually missed, but believe it or not, occasionally that’s not the case and employees  are paid long after they have left the company or even this earth!  Short term, unscheduled absence is, however, frequently missed or not captured and costs employers dear in lost productivity, overtime payments and employee engagement.

When I speak to employers about tracking their absence it always surprises me that they often think real-time capture of attendance raises unscheduled absence rates.  But if they think about it – what it actually reveals is that they were unaware how bad it was in the first place!

If you don’t know to what extent absence is affecting your business and managers aren’t able to spot absence trends amongst their employees, it makes it almost impossible for them to take steps to reduce it – after all you can’t manage what you don’t measure. So next time you notice one of your employees is not at their post – ask yourself this – if you knew the true cost of employee absence to your organisation – what would you do differently?

Here’s the popular list of the Top 10 Tips to Reduce Absence


Defining Stress in the Workplace

imagesCAUWCGLJBritain has the highest rate of people with mental health issues in the developed world claiming disability or out of work benefits a recent report has revealed. Georgia Graham, writing for the Daily Telegraph claims that British workers are among the most stressed in the world and employees unable to work because of mental health issues are costing the UK economy over £70 billion a year. The main cause of work-related mental health issues, according to the report, was unemployment and the inability to find work. This seems slightly at odds with the commonly held belief that overwork and the long hours culture in the UK is the main cause of stress and stress–related absence.

Burn-out of workers who are swamped by their workload is, of course, a problem as pointed out in the article by the BBC earlier this week about Welsh Ambulance Services. The article highlights the fact that almost three times as many staff are being signed off for stress as for a common cold or flu due to what employees feel is an excessive workload. However, I believe that employers should also be aware of the danger of under-employment of staff in the workplace which can also raise stress levels. Employees who feel undervalued and who are underemployed often fear the loss of their jobs and can feel stressed and anxious over a long period of time – increasing the risk of mental health problems.

Managers who are responsible for managing the workload of their team need to ensure they are able to spread workloads equitably and fairly and ensure employees are not compromising their mental health. Deploying the right people, with the right skills to cover the workload is vital. Whether it is an ambulance team trying to save lives and meet their targets, a retailer who needs to make sure there’s enough coverage to meet the demands of customers at any given time, or a manufacturer or distribution organisation that needs to ensure skilled workers are available to ensure production and delivery targets are met; having the right tools to plan and deploy staff to business demands and track and monitor, attendance, productivity and compliance will help managers support their staff and meet those organisational objectives.

Download the Forgotten Workforce Report

Download CIPD Absence Report 2013


Real increases in pay will only be delivered through increases in productivity

The recent CIPD Megatrends Report ‘Have we seen the end of the pay rise?’ concludes that businesses must be agile and aware of changing trends that may affect their business and be ready to respond to them and make them work in their favour in order to maintain an advantage over the competition.

The findings showed that since January 2009 average weekly earnings (without bonuses) have fallen by 8%. And the recession also saw a fall in labour productivity (the amount of value added/created per hour worked). Less productivity has meant less money available for wages. And it is not only the UK that is affected – many employees across Europe saw their pay frozen or cut during the recession.

Here’s how one manufacturing company has found a way to help improve productivity and control labour costs.

Based in Birmingham, Hozelock employs up to 600 people at its 28,000m² site. Hozelock manufactures and assembles equipment for garden watering, spraying and aquatics for the UK and international markets. The company identified the labour-intensive assembly area as the key area to focus. By introducing job costing software that works together with their manufacturing workforce management solution they gained visibility into how their operations perform against productivity goals and benchmarks.  Alan Murphy, Manufacturing Manager at Hozelock explains: “We introduced (Kronos) Activities part way through the season and immediately started to see that productivity had already improved about 2% over the previous year on our assembly lines. The closer scrutiny on performance at a local level, rather than globally, increased levels of focus on output and performance.


Read the CIPD Megatrends Report ‘Have we seen the end of the pay rise?’

Read  Workforce Management – The final piece in the Hozelock jigsaw to become a world class manufacturer


The Global ‘Sickie’ Culture – Is There A Solution?

Sickie CultureThe staff sickness rate in the UK is historically ‘half that of Germany’ according to analysis of more than 2,600 companies in three countries by Dr Wen Wang and Professor Roger Seifert of the Wolverhampton Business School (WBS). Workplace absence costs British business £32bn a year, and Germany and France suffer even bigger losses according to the research. The CIPD 2013 Annual Absence Management Survey reveals that absence in the UK private sector is 7.6 days on average for every employee in the workforce, equating to a cost of £595 per year per person. The results of the analysis carried out by the WBS, reported in an article in the suggests the difference in employment protection and sick pay is one reason given for the higher rates within mainland Europe. “The Local”, an English language newspaper in Germany refers to research carried out by the GfK Research Institute that indicates just under half of German workers have actually taken a sick day when they were not sick. It would seem that no nation is free of this costly problem.

That this is a world-wide issue was also highlighted  in the  Global Absence Survey, we carried out here at Kronos last year. It was really interesting to see the similarities and differences between different countries. According to the Survey, significant numbers of employees across the world admitted to calling in sick when they were not ill at all. China led the regions surveyed, with 71 percent of employees admitting to calling in sick when they were not actually sick.  One of the contributory factors for the differences appeared to be the amount of paid leave allowed. France, for example has the most generous paid leave allowance of the countries surveyed with 25 days, and had fewer instances of employees ‘pulling a sickie’ whereas China has only 7 days paid leave allowance in the first year of employment and capped at 14 days in subsequent years. These findings seem to support the analysis by Dr Wang and Professor Seifert that better employment policies and sick pay influence unscheduled absence rates.

Organisations shoulder an enormous cost as a result of employee absence and it should be a key concern for all industry sectors across Europe and the rest of the world. The direct cost of absence is often recorded and reported in annual surveys such as the CIPD survey referred to above, but the indirect cost, such as overtime and temporary staff is rarely considered, yet can exceed the direct cost by as much as 200%. On top of this is the negative affect unscheduled and badly managed absence has on employee engagement which can lead to lower productivity and talented employees leaving the business.

So why would an employee call in sick when not actually ill? In the Kronos survey, the most significant reason given in every region was that employees felt stressed and therefore needed a day off. When asked what would prevent this behaviour the main solution given in every region, except France, was that organisations should allow more flexible working. In France the most popular solution was being allowed to take ‘Summer Fridays’ off and make up the time during the week. Other popular solutions included unpaid leave and working from home.

Totally eradicating all forms of unscheduled absence is not possible, but creating an environment where absence can be managed more effectively is achievable. Given visibility and accurate, up-to-date information on employee attendance, organisations can tackle unscheduled and scheduled absence, its costs, and its effects on business performance more easily across the globe.

Throughout my career in Workforce Management I regularly see dramatic drops of unscheduled absence between 20 to 40% in most organisations as they deploy an automated solution, quite a surprise when the initial conversation often starts with “We are sure there is no issue here, we don’t have a culture of people pulling sickies”.

Find out more and download a copy of the Kronos Global Absence Survey here or Watch our Global Absence video