Are You Ready For The 4G workplace?

multi-generational-workplace-300x199The recent UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) report ‘The Future of Work’ takes a look at the workplace of the future and whether the emerging multi-generational workplace will be a good or a bad thing for employers and employees and the CIPD’s study of nearly 3000 employees and over 900 employers points strongly to the latter. It also highlights the fact that few employers are actually planning for this phenomenon.

  •          31% of employers say that they react to issues relating to the ageing population as they arise rather than having a strategy in place.
  •          34% of employers say their organisation does nothing to ensure it has access to enough skilled and diverse people of all ages.
  •          22% of employers say their organisation has no provisions in place to ensure employees of all ages develop and keep their skills up to date.
  •          46% of employers said that line managers are not trained in managing teams of different generations and that their organisation has no plans to change this.

Almost a third of employees saw no challenges whatsoever in working with colleagues from different generations, with employers and employees in agreement that knowledge sharing and greater innovation are by far the leading benefit which is very reassuring to know but, as can be seen from the statistics above, if employers aren’t ready to meet the differing needs of all their employees the benefits of the 4G workplace may not be gained.

With this huge increase in 4 Generation (4G) workers, the workplace of the future has to be more flexible about where, when and the number of hours people will be working. So how are employers going to manage this greater need for flexibility and ensure that workloads are spread appropriately according to skills and capabilities? One thing seems clear to me – without the workforce management technology in place to support this flexibility – employers will struggle.

CIPD Report

UKCES Report


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:

Five Alternative Ways To Reduce Staff Turnover – And Save Money

VacancyMany of you will be aware of the headlines this week about the recent rise in staff turnover. It would seem that businesses are now paying the price for the long period of time that employees, fearful of losing their jobs, have put up with wage restraints, lack of bonuses and some pretty tough management decisions that have been made during the economic downturn.

According to research it costs on average around £30,000 to replace a member of your staff that leaves. This figure includes the cost of employing a new member of staff and lost productivity whilst bringing your new employee up to speed in their role. That’s a big expenditure and if turnover suddenly accelerates, your organisation can find itself  in a very tight corner operationally and financially. So your organisation needs to make sure it retain’s key talent and keeps employees motivated and productive. And remember that retaining great employees isn’t always about hiking pay.

Here are 5 alternative ways that can help keep staff engaged, motivated and productive:

  • Create connections through self-service

As more people perform day-to-day activities such as shopping, reading the news, paying bills, and socialising with friends online, they want the same flexibility and instant access to up-to-date information on the job. For example, why would an employee prefer to wait days for the busy HR department to process a handwritten leave request, when he or she can submit it online in seconds using self-service? As more employees leverage self-service technology in their personal lives, they are increasingly willing to adopt it in the workplace too.

  • Let employees participate in the scheduling process

Scheduling automation also helps organisations find last-minute replacements so they can meet demand. When an employee calls in sick, some scheduling systems can automatically recommend replacement workers, prioritising them by wage, seniority, skills, or other company-defined criteria. Some scheduling systems can even notify qualified replacements via email, text, or a manager call list to speed the process and further minimise impact on production and fellow employees.

  • Empower employees to take ownership of performance

Workforce management systems can help your organisation gain control over processes such as compensation cycles and performance reviews by automatically letting managers know when preliminary budgets and employee evaluations are due. Automated alerts help organisations keep their compensation planning and performance review processes on schedule, so employees receive feedback and rewards in a timely manner

  • Foster career development and professional growth

Workforce management systems can also help organisations track employee certifications and licenses — automatically notifying managers when those critical qualifications are about to expire — to minimise compliance risk and maximise workforce safety.

  • Increase employee engagement — and the bottom line

Workforce management technology can help organisations increase employee engagement. By providing employee self-service applications and automating processes such as time and attendance tracking, scheduling, human resources, and labour analytics, organisations can empower employees to take a more active role in HR and scheduling activities, take advantage of training and professional development opportunities, and get the continuous feedback on performance required to motivate and encourage innovation. For organisations looking to control costs and increase productivity, increasing employee engagement through the effective use of workforce management technology may be the answer.

Find out more and download the full white paper ‘Employee Engagement as a Competitive Differentiator’


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


The Perfect Millennial Storm

perfect storm

According to Wikipedia ‘perfect storm’ is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically. The term is also used to describe an actual phenomenon that happens to occur in such a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude. Being an passionate sailor – I am watching the weather like a hawk this weekend and taking a trip to coast to keep a protective eye on my pride and joy as what is threatening to turn into the true definition of a ‘perfect storm’ is brewing in the Atlantic and looks like it will be landing on the south coast tomorrow bringing storm force winds, rain and flooding that may even rival the catastrophic storm of 1987.


Now, maybe not so physically catastrophic but with just as far reaching and dramatic consequences to businesses everywhere, is the ‘perfect millennial storm’ which is currently brewing and will land in 2020. This will be when over 50% of the workforce will be made up of ‘Millennials’ demanding all the technologies at work that will enable them to communicate in real-time, at any time and with anyone they need to, wherever they may be working. It seems Millennials want a more sociable, friendly working environment that will allow them flexibility to balance life and work and not necessarily tie them to an office.


Technology is advancing and some providers of workforce management solutions are already getting ahead of this ‘perfect storm’. Integrating popular enterprise social networking and collaboration capabilities with a workforce management solution already offers innovative and intuitive options I am sure Millennials will approve of. While mobile and cloud options allows managers and staff to access their Kronos solution ‘on the move’ and gives them the freedom they expect –  to allow them a more flexible working environment whenever possible.


Millennials won’t just be expecting to work in a flexible and communicative environment – they will also be consumers expecting retailers and service companies to allow them the freedom to choose, buy and share their feedback through a variety of channels and have the technology to enable this. Yet another reason that workforce management  in even smaller organisations will need to be flexible enough to keep pace with the impatient demands put on the business of socially driven consumer market full of of ‘I want it and I want it now!’ Millennials.



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


Is Technology The Only Differentiator In The Workplace Of The Future?

millennialsOne of the topics that currently fascinates me is the generational changes that are forecast in the workplace.  Jon Andrews a partner at PwC and head of its HR Consulting practice in the UK, recently contributed an article in HR Review in which he states that by 2020, millennials (people born between 1980 and 1995) will represent more than half of the working population in the UK and one of the major differentiators between millennials and previous generations is their use and knowledge of technology. He believes that, for the first time, older people will be turning to younger people to learn from them in the business world.

However, he goes on to say that it is not only technology that differentiates this younger generation – millennials also expect rapid career progression, a varied, interesting career and plenty of feedback, and research has backed this up, showing that the millennial generation place higher priority on workplace flexibility, work/life balance and the opportunity for overseas assignments over financial rewards, when compared with other generations.

And apparently it isn’t just younger workers reshaping the workplace. In the UK, where there is no default retirement age and a phasing out of final salary pension schemes is in progress, the older generation will be extending their working life and it won’t be unusual to see a 17 year old and a 70 year old on the same team; presenting real challenges for managers and HR. Understanding inter-generational and individual differences and, in particular, what motivates people will become increasingly important and organisations will have to respond to an individual’s needs in order to get the best from them.

It seems, in the face of these changes in the workplace, if  employers want to get the best from their employees, they will have no alternative but to offer more flexibility and choice in working practices and opportunities. The more organisations can personalise value propositions for each employee in terms of what matters to that individual, the easier it will be to keep them engaged so they can retain and motivate their employees.

With more flexible working practices for individuals – it will become crucial for employers to have an accurate record of hours worked and the ability to schedule employees in the most cost effective and productive way possible. Technology will play an important part in this revolution and I am happy to say that the technology already exists. I believe it will be crucial for both small and big businesses to take advantage of the latest Human Capital Management technology if they wish to keep up with the changing face of the workforce.

As both a manager and an employee, this topic will be something I will continue to follow with interest and if you have any stories to share or want to comment on any of the issues – I would be interested to hear from you. What kind of flexibility would you like to see personally? Do you believe that inter-generational tension will become an issue? What steps has your organisation taken or is planning to become a more flexible employee?