Seismic Shift – Waking Up to the Strategic Value of Workforce Management

Originally Posted by my colleague Joyce Maroney at the Workforce Institute:

mall-shopper-173x300Today’s guest post is by our board member,  Mark Wales.  Mark is an expert in workforce management for the retail industry.  Here he shares his perspective on how retailers and services providers are looking to their workforce as a strategic asset and not just an expense to be minimised.

Recently at an International Workforce Management Summit I witnessed the seismic shift in how workforce management is perceived and how it has grown in strategic importance to retailers and service providers. Ten years ago it was IT and HR who attended these events, now it was exclusively Operations. Why the dramatic change and what does it mean for the workforce?

The reason for the change is the rising strategic value of employees. While many retailers and service providers may see labour as the largest controllable cost, many have turned the corner and realized that their brand, their business model, and their profitability depend on how wisely they invest in their employees.

It is essential to pay your employees in a timely and accurate manner with appropriate controls and visibility. That, however, is not enough. It does not maximise the full potential of your employees, your customers, or your profitability. You will fail to recognise the value of many facets of employee experience, customer experience and productivity. To raise the strategic importance of workforce management you must draw a direct link between investing in the employee, impacting the customer experience and driving profitability.

Forward thinking retailers and service providers are building a new generation Operations discipline.  They envision a holistic multidisciplinary approach to workforce management that is centred on productivity and optimisation of both the employee and customer experience. You will see this impacting hiring, training, team management, service design, organisational responsibilities, and decision making. The changes may seem subtle and evolutionary at first, but they have the potential to radically impact company performance over time.

The Workforce Institute

Further reading:

Aberdeen Group: The State of the Workforce in Retail – Taking A Global View

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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’

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.

 

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?

What Have Retailers Got In Store For Customers In 2014? Report from Retail’s BIG Show

My friend and colleague, Andrew Busby has just returned from New York, buzzing with all the latest gossip from Retail’s BIG Show. As I know we all shop…I thought I would share his experience with you. This year customer experience, in-store experience and customer-centric retailing were all key themes from the show, which is great news for shoppers.

NRF, The BIG Show, New York
NRF, The BIG Show, New York

2014 was the biggest and best NRF Show so far (well it would be!) with more than could be absorbed in the time available. However some key themes emerged which are both exciting and significant for retailers worldwide. Here is a personal summary of my 3 days at NRF 2014.

You can follow Andrew @andrewbusby on Twitter and follow his blog Retail Storm here

Welcome To The Dramatic Start Of 2014

StormsWelcome to 2014.  And whilst I think I am quite glad that 2013 is finally over, the start to the New Year has already been pretty dramatic.

The great British obsession with the weather has been in full force and with good reason. Storms with gale force winds and torrential rain, despite the mild temperatures and sunny spells has definitely been one of the main talking points so far. We’ve had no chance of going out in the boat over the holiday period so I am looking forward to sunshine and a view of the marina whilst I am on holiday in  Gran Canaria.

Watching the news over the Christmas and the start of the New Year, I couldn’t help sympathising with those unfortunate people who were flooded out of their homes or who were without power for a week. But the news coverage about the complaints from people about how long it took for  the utility companies to get the electricity back on again in some areas made me wonder if the delays were in part due to lack of emergency resource planning as much as the size of the problem.

With so many people on holiday at Christmas – contacting staff and mobilising them to get them to the problem areas to reinstate the power supplies will have been a huge logistical challenge for the electricity companies. If they didn’t have enough staff on standby or  weren’t able to easily identify people who were available and had the necessary skills, or didn’t have systems in place to enable them to contact employees quickly, the process would have been  slow and manual and would inevitably have led to delays in response.  I also wonder how many payroll errors there were when it came to working out the overtime bill at the end of the month!  A sophisticated mobile workforce management system would definitely have been an advantage particularly if they didn’t already have a similar system in place.

Whatever the weather where you are, I would like to wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year and hope that you have avoided the worst of the storms.

A lighter look at mobile workforce management

Here is a little something to get over the Wednesday hump –  did you know you can manage your workforce from anywhere? Learn more about three breakthrough technologies: Instant Engagement, Guided Decisions, and Mobile Management — and how they will change the way businesses manage their workforce. Here’s an informative white paper you may find useful download white paper.

Time Well Spent
Time Well Spent