How Hard Are Your Elves Working Santa?

If you (or Santa) want to know more about tracking and managing workforce productivity you can find some useful free resources here Ho, Ho, Ho!

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They Are Key To The UK Economy: How Can SMBs Move From Survive To Thrive?

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According to the Department of Business Skills and Innovation, small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) account for 99% of all businesses in the UK, 59% of all private sector employment and 49% of all private sector turnover. These businesses will be playing a huge part in the economic recovery of the UK, and according to the Small Business Index, there are already signs of improvement – with an increase in staffing levels of around 15%. In fact according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG Report on Jobs – published today (8 November), overall demand for staff rose at the fastest pace since June 2007 and there are higher vacancy levels for permanent and temporary workers, in  the public and private sectors and across all monitored job categories and regions. A great sign that UK recovery has begun.

The impact of the economic crisis with the accompanying pressures on cash flow and capital investment hit the SMB market particularly hard forcing many companies into survival mode. If SMBs or indeed any organisation are to thrive and play a key role in the UK recovery, they can’t afford to focus on the short-term. One area of development that can have a real impact on the success of a business organisation is employee engagement and optimising the management of this key asset can have a huge impact on the bottom line, this means that HR has a vital, strategic role to play.

Staffing and people management issues are the central and chief concern of the HR function, whether it is managing talent and giving staff the right opportunities, attracting and retaining the right staff into the organisation or simply the day-to-day issues of keeping staff productive and engaged.  With salaries currently rising due to the shortage of skilled workers it has become even more vital for HR to help organisations offer the best environment to attract and retain the best talent.

For an organisations to move from survival mode to a thriving business this will be an exciting and challenging time, HR Managers will need to innovate to get the best from each and every employee.  Freeing up HR time by automating HR and time and attendance processes for HR,  introducing fair and equitable absence management policies and supporting innovative ways of working such as job shares, flexible working, home and mobile working practices, means SMBs can steal a march on competitors by keeping employees fully engaged. Organisations that do engage their employees will attract and retain the best talent and ultimately benefit from greater workforce productivity and creativity, enabling expansion and recovery opportunities.

Read Aberdeen Research Report: Workforce Management for the SMB: Big Results for Small and Medium Businesses

Find out more information on automating your HR and Time and Attendance Processes

It’s Not Witchcraft – It’s The Power of Big Data

TWS21.600.witchcraftIs your organisation sweating and trembling at the thought of all that workforce data that you are collecting but doing nothing with? Or is it hiding under the covers believing that if you ignore it, it isn’t scary at all?

Organisations today are overwhelmed with data.  Perhaps Halloween is the perfect day to cast a spell that will give you a vision into a future when you will be able to take control of your workforce data. Imagine if you could use your workforce data to make meaningful business decisions to support your business strategy. What if you could make timely decisions around labour budget and productivity issues that would help boost performance, improve customer service and gain a competitive advantage whilst balancing the budget?

Never underestimate the power of your data. Best of breed organisations use a workforce management analytics tool to give their business leaders, managers and front-line supervisors the ability to analyse data in real-time. This enables them to make decisions that will have an immediate, positive impact on the business. If you don’t have the ability to make sense of things like meeting customer demand, waste, productivity and labour costs such as absence, lateness and the cost of overtime, then you cannot make those informed decisions. LondonWaste and PUMA use workforce analytics to help them gain real-time insight to drive growth and uncover opportunities to improve business performance. They have taken the scare-factor out of their BIG DATA and will sleep a little better tonight.

Like Sea Levels, Absence Levels Are Rising. Is Flexible Working The Answer?

Rising Sea LevelsMore than 35 million days are lost each year to sickness absence in the UK, a Fit for Work Europe Coalition report has found – that’s a lot of lost productivity and a huge cost to organisations, and the fact that the UK has the highest incidence of sickness absence, along with Germany, is shocking although it seems par for the course.

The CIPD /Simplyhealth Absence Survey 2013 has just been published and confirms what I already suspected would happen; that the economic downturn and the fears of job losses and financial pressures that led to the small decrease reported in last year’s survey has now reversed and absence is now back up to the levels observed in 2011 and 2010. According to the survey it currently stands at an average of 7.6 days per employee. Absence levels, as usual, are highest in the public services sector (8.7 days per employee per year) and lowest in the manufacturing and production sector (6 days per employee per year).  The survey also found that absence levels tend to increase with organisation size (in all sectors). There could be many reasons for this, it could be that employees feel less visible in a large organisation, or that, relating to the 20:60:20 rule; 20% of employees that need that extra management is just a greater number in large organisations, or these organisations find it more challenging to track and manage absence in a pro-active and positive way. What many organisations may not have caught on to is that providing flexibility is as important as capturing attendance.

One important trend highlighted in the survey is that the number of employers making changes to working patterns to try and reduce long-term absence levels has increased by 20% in the last year. Health initiatives and flexible working are becoming increasingly important if organisations are going to meet the evolving needs of their workforce and reduce the incidence of sickness absence. The survey found that 70% of survey respondents that shared their experiences in the report  said that introducing flexible working opportunities in the past year has had a positive impact on absence levels. However, I believe that if organisations don’t have ways of accommodating employee preferences, capturing employee attendance and productivity and if they do not use a workforce management solution that can support mobile or home working, flexible working can offer a challenge that many organisations will be unable to meet.

If you want to know more about managing absence take a look at the Top 10 Tips to Reduce Absence and if you are considering offering more flexible working practices or are struggling to manage them take a look at this flexible working white paper.

Judgment Day: To be Present or Absent?

Working SickI just loved the article earlier this week by Tom Utley, the well-known Daily Mail columnist. In his article Tom muses about sick leave and how he would fare on the ‘day of reckoning’ at the ‘Heavenly Audit Office’. He’s had a mere 3 days sick leave in 38 years of employment and is particularly scathing about the high sickness rates in the Public Sector. He believes there’s no harm in bringing bugs into the office and that it should definitely get him some plus points at the pearly gates. His views are completely the opposite to those of the Chancellors’ wife, Frances Osborne, she believes people should stay at home and keep the bugs to themselves when they are ill. It made me stop and consider what the costs of each of these opposing views would be to an organisation and whether one has a higher cost than the other.

Arguably, it can be said that coming in sick to work will keep absence statistics low, but whether a sick individual is going to be particularly productive, or how their colleagues will cope if a virus is passed around the office is debatable.  Also, for the majority of co-workers a cold is a minor discomfort but, for some, for example asthma sufferers or those with a compromised immune system, the consequences could be much more serious. And for some manual workers it may actually be dangerous to work when ill. Do most employees believe, as Mrs Osborne clearly does, that co-workers bringing bugs into the workplace unacceptable?

By encouraging ‘presenteeism’ do organisations run the risk of incurring higher costs of absence? The cost of one employee who is off sick for a couple of days is one thing, but viruses can affect the attendance and productivity of dozens of workers. It is clear to me that there needs to be a balance.

I believe it is really important that organisations have the tools to monitor absence accurately and that managers are trained to deal with it fairly, sympathetically uncover the reason for the “sickie” and address it. By having a clear absence policy, introducing back to work interviews if this isn’t already done, and offering flexible working where possible so that sick workers can have the choice of working from home to prevent the spread of germs can help achieve this balance.

Tom’s article did raise another contentious issue – does working in the public sector really present more exposure to bugs and viruses that cause sickness than in the private sector, or is ‘pulling a sickie’ more common practice? I think I will leave that debate for another time.

The Connected Generation – Is Your Organisation Keeping Up?

The connected generationThe Next Generation of workers has arrived. And they are expecting to be connected anywhere, anytime to all the information they need, at work and at home. They are more than happy to access business information via their own personal devices and rather than being tied to desktops and laptops – their mobile devices are the primary technology used for the majority of their communications and information to support productivity at work.

Managers and employees increasingly expect to have the freedom to manage and work ‘on the go’; utilising their time efficiently and maximising productivity. And with more employees demanding a flexible and balanced work life, one way for employers to enable this is by embracing the mobile technology that is now available. Flexible working practices can mean less overheads and improved employee engagement for many organisations. Mobile technology will also support a more agile workforce – one where managers and employees on the frontline are able to respond in real time to the changing needs of their business and customers – allowing them to approve requests for more hours, respond to absence and share information quickly and easily wherever they may be.

With mobile technology becoming more widely available, affordable, reliable and secure, workplace culture is experiencing a tsunami of change.  And as long as organisations have the right technology and IT infrastructure in place there is little to hold back the tide. Those organisations that don’t move with the times will be left behind and have to deal with disengaged employees, gaping skills gaps and will lag behind competitors who embrace the new age.