Ten Ways To Manage A European Workforce

Here is the content of a Management Today Article I contributed recently that I hope will be of interest.

Managing a European Workforce
Managing a European Workforce
The term “not so united states of Europe” has never been more applicable when it comes to doing business across the continent. There are many challenges when managing employees across Europe. With sixteen languages and sixteen different cultures in the European Union alone, collective bargaining and inconsistent application of working time rules, careful preparation will pay dividends. Here’s what to look out for.

Do your homework
Invest time in really understanding the country-specific laws relating to employees, their working time rights and employment practices. Don’t rely on your local people to tell you all the necessary facts – they often don’t know and inconsistent practices may therefore have evolved over the years in every organisation. The Federation of European Employers website is a great source of country-specific information.

Build a cross-country team
Don’t try to manage a European-wide management solution in isolation. You’ll need a cross-functional team from each of the countries involved – local buy-in at an early stage is critical to the success of a project.

Engage with the Works Councils
Don’t underestimate the power of the works councils in some countries – collective agreements cover more than 80% of the workforce in some countries. Bring them on board early in the process.

There isn’t one set of rules
The European Working Time Directive is one set of working time rules for Europe – right? Wrong

Even something that sounds like a standard set of rules isn’t even close. In the UK, weekly hours may exceed 48 as long as this average is maintained over a 17 week reference period; in Portugal, weekly hours can be increased to 60 in some circumstances; and in Finland, the 8 hour daily limit doesn’t include overtime. Don’t assume there’s a one-size-fits-all set of rules – there isn’t.

Language is crucial
If you’re heading down the route of a single workforce management solution, bear in mind that the majority of your employees will need to interact with it. Unlike some business systems where the head office staff are expected to get by with English language instructions, a workforce management system touches every individual and will need to be fully translated and fully operational in the native language – make sure this is possible before you select a supplier.

Take small steps
Don’t be tempted to try and roll out a solution to multiple countries in one big bang approach. Take one country and then narrow it to a small number of sites first. Understand the challenges, refine the solution and then move on.

Know where to start
Some European countries have very rigid, non-negotiable employment practices and as such they are very difficult to get your head round. Sometimes, it’s better to concentrate first on the countries with fewer challenges – the 80/20 rule will mean that 80% of the challenges will come from 20% of the countries.

Sunday working – be mindful of local laws
In the UK we relaxed Sunday working rules some years ago. However it’s not the same across Europe, for instance in Germany where working on Sundays and public holidays is generally prohibited. However, the German law on working hours provides for several exceptions in which working on a Sunday is permitted – with prior approval by governmental authorities in some circumstances.

Uncover complex contractual arrangements such as annual hours
Increasingly popular across Europe are pseudo salary schemes for hourly paid employees such as annualised hours agreements designed to avoid the complexity of calculating overtime whilst accommodating a varying demand for labour driven by the demands of the business. Ensure you uncover the detail of these and that any system deployed can handle the complexity.

Communicate, communicate, communicate
If you do consider a workforce management solution, you will still need to remember to adapt your management style to every country you wish to deploy to. Communication throughout the project is key to its success and this should be done by local champions. Why as a business are we undertaking this? What benefits are there to the employees and the business? Done correctly, you can get higher productivity from your team and spend less money by complying with local legislation and collective bargaining agreements.

I would be happy to hear more about your experiences so feel free to comment


Viva Las Vegas! KronosWorks 2012, the Greatest Workforce Management Show in Town Has Arrived!

Almost 2,100 Kronites have descended on the Aria Resort, Las Vegas this week. #KronosWorks12 opened its doors on Sunday with a fabulous, funny keynote speech from Billy Beane and an inspirational opening presentation by CEO Aaron Ain.

My contribution earlier this week was to Chair the panel session: ‘The What, How and Why of Deploying WFM across the Globe’. On the panel I was joined by some esteemed Kronos customers who between them had a vast amount of experience and insight into large-scale and global implementations. The panel comprised: Adrian Peace of the Co-op, Paul Turner of Caterpillar Europe, Tanya Brown of Nestle Globe and Helen Delight of Pick N Pay South Africa.

There was lots of lively discussion and some common themes emerged around the need for good communication, change management and the need to understand and respect different cultures both outside and even, sometimes, within the organisation.

The panel all agreed the benefits of implementing a workforce management system across the organisation are huge. And the main areas of improvement gained from implementing a Kronos solution highlighted during the discussion were process improvements, lower costs, higher revenue and customer satisfaction, high compliance and central visibility.

Kronos and our customers were very excited at the launch at #KronosWorks12 of Workforce Tablet™, a tablet app that delivers real-time, location-specific workforce information to frontline managers so they can #manageinthemoment and even more with the release of Workforce Task Management™, which cements our ability to deliver the market’s most complete retail and hospitality workforce management solution available.

Other key highlights at this year’s event are Workforce Analytics and how it captures the essence of BIG Data, Kronos’ comprehensive and ever more popular offerings in the Cloud, and the many InTouch® apps being developed by Kronos and our partners. So proud to be working for a company that delivers ‘workforce innovation that works’!