Workforce management software. You have most likely heard of it, but if you are wondering what all the fuss is about, or you are intrigued but don’t know where to start, this is the guide for you.
We will go back to the basics of workforce management technology: where it all started, and what exactly it is, demystifying all the different types and features of software available. We will look at why the technology is so useful for businesses, including case studies of a variety of companies making use of different software packages. We will also cover what to look for when choosing your software and your provider. Last but not least, we have included a step-by-step guide to implementation of workforce management systems, and a look into what the future holds for workforce management technology.
Whether you are looking for more information about workforce management technology in general, you know what you are looking for but don’t know how to go about setting up a new system, or you just want to make sure you are getting the most out of your current technology, this is the ultimate guide to workforce management technology, covering everything you need to know.
1: What is Workforce Management?
Workforce management is a set of integrated processes designed to optimize workforce productivity, on an individual, team-wide and company-wide basis. Areas covered by workforce management include recruitment, timekeeping, and attendance, payment and benefits, scheduling, training and performance management. The aim of effective workforce management is, in a nutshell, to optimise customer service while keeping staffing costs to a minimum. More specifically, this means balancing the company’s resources and the demands placed on it, so that for any given task to be carried out within or on behalf of a company, an employee with the skill set best suited to the task at hand is assigned to that task at the right time to meet demand.
Workforce management software arose out of the constant change that occurs within any business, change that human resources play a key role in, such as employee turnover, training, scheduling, and business demands. Using software to automate systems such as payroll, benefits administration, and service delivery can free up HR professionals time to concentrate on other important tasks that require human input. Workforce management technology can be used to gain a clear picture of workforce activity.
In its early days, (and in some companies today) workforce management was decentralized and carried out manually, meaning that all of the departments within an organization could be using different systems of workforce management, resulting in an increased likelihood of error and mismanaged data. This can have a negative impact on the consistency and quality of customer service, as well as on efficiency of labor, and thus on costs.
These issues led to the development of workforce management software, which has had a massive impact on the way business is conducted, and the way workforces are managed today.
One of the earliest developments in automating workforce management was the automation of recording employee attendance and hours worked. The earliest ‘clock-in’ systems involved employees logging in to a mechanical clock by entering their employee number, the date, and their arrival and departure times from work. This information was then printed on the business time sheet. While saving HR a significant amount of time, this early system still allowed for a significant margin for inaccuracy as a result of human error. Time and attendance recording has come a long way since these early systems, with companies collecting this data using advanced automated systems such as biometric clocks and customisable web entry solutions to suit the company’s specific purposes.
Another area of workforce management software that has developed significantly over the years is the management of leave and absence. Before technology developments allowed for automation in this area, employee leave and absence were either managed internally, managed by a leave administration team, or outsourced to a company or individual specializing in this area. Today, new advanced technologies allow for the automation of data related to employee leave, absence, and availability, making internal absence management and scheduling more efficient and cost-effective, as well as producing reports and analytics to assist in HR and business decisions.
An innovation that has come from the development of workforce management software over time is the consideration of issues arising from employee fatigue, including a higher likelihood of errors, lowered employee morale, and potentially increased employee turnover. The latest scheduling technologies in workforce, incorporating employee skills and shift schedules can help to create business schedules that factor in the importance of a well-rested workforce.
Today, workforce management software continues to develop and is used increasingly to streamline HR within businesses, providing services including employee self-service, allowing online access to training, leave and absence requests and time tracking, as well as improving efficiency in the management of performance, HR administration, payroll, and benefits.
2: What to Look for when Buying Workforce Management Technology
The first things to think about when buying workforce management technology are why you need it, and how you are going to use it. What issues are you facing that could be improved by workforce management technology? Do you have problems with balancing variable demands and resources? Do you wish you could generate accurate real-time reports and forecasts? Are you concerned about the productivity or retention of your staff? Would you like to identify areas where you could improve efficiency and save money? Or maybe you already know where the problem areas are, and you want to automate areas of your business, limiting time spent on manual administration processes, improving accuracy in the process?
The many different systems and solutions available can be overwhelming, but with so many options available, there will almost certainly be a system that suits, or can be adapted to, your specific business needs.
To identify why you need workforce management technology, and how you can best use it, Pritul Khangram, Founder of People Force International, advises considering what the biggest ‘pain areas’ are for your company, for example, could you be better using HR data? Think about how you could take HR or ‘people’ data, such as time and attendance, wellness and productivity data, and use it to achieve the outcomes you want. For example, do you want to identify issues in recruitment, staff management, attendance, and engagement? Do you want to organize this information by the manager, or by location?
Workforce management technology can allow you to look more closely at your HR data and can help you to improve your decision making processes regarding your business and your employees. Ultimately, to decide what you are looking for in workforce management software, you need to really look at your organization, and consider what the issues are.
This will vary in every organization, but key issues that many businesses have include staff engagement, retention and turnover, productivity, and customer satisfaction. Identifying the areas your business struggles with means that you can then look for software that will help you to identify the root of the problem, so you can tackle the issues.
Khangram recommends considering a number of specific questions when choosing workforce management technology:
- What kind of reporting does your organization need and expect from HR?
- Would self-service for employees be useful to your organization, and if you do want to implement this, do your employees have access to company devices that would allow this, such as laptops, smartphones or tablets?
- How do you want to manage the company payroll going forward? Consider whether you would prefer it to be managed in-house or externally.
- If you are planning on rolling out self-service, do you want payslips to be accessible to employees via this service?
- What manual processes within your organisation can be automated?
- Do you need a SaaS (Software as a Service)/cloud-based system, or a system that is installed on your premises?
The final question on this list is daunting for many business people, but it doesn’t have to be. Here, we outline the key differences to demystify this part of the selection process.
So, what exactly is ‘the cloud’?
- Having your workforce management technology on a cloud-based system means that the software that can be used without the need to install on your own IT server
- The installation is managed by a supplier, meaning that there is no need for IT involvement.
- Hardware, software, security, and availability of technology remain the responsibility of the solution provider. This means that any issues should be resolved before you even notice them, and you don’t have to worry about backing up data or ensuring you have enough disc space.
- Cloud-based systems are designed to be used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, wherever you are located.
- You may have heard the term SaaS, or Software as a Service, and again, it isn’t as complicated as it might initially seem. SaaS is a purchase option only accessible using the cloud, and it simply refers to renting a software system, paying for it as a subscription service, as opposed to buying and therefore owning it.
- With a cloud-based system, data is stored in a private cloud designed exclusively for the company, i.e. the data isn’t ‘floating around’ in cyberspace. Your data will also be stored by your cloud application provider. If you decide to choose a cloud-based system, make sure that the application you decide on is ISO27001 compliant. This is the Information Security standard that means you can be confident the provider will have an advanced backup, storage, and security systems in place, including mechanisms for break-ins, fires or natural disasters. Even with this certification, however, make sure you ask where your data will be stored.
- Cloud-based systems are usually scalable, meaning they can grow with your company, and using a cloud-based system also means you can avoid large-scale capital expenses, as there is no need to pay for servers, licenses, IT support – cloud services are usually provided as a subscription service, including all of these aspects. It is worth noting that the way providers charge can vary, for example by user or transaction activity.
- Another factor to consider with cloud use is connectivity – you may have issues using the cloud if the application provider’s data center, or your business, is in a rural area, for example, with limited connectivity.
And what about on premises?
The alternative to a cloud-based system is a system installed on premises, but what exactly does using on-premises workforce management software involve?
- With on-premises technology, the system will be both installed in and operated from your in-house server and IT infrastructure. As a result of this, it is reliant on your IT team to operate the system, troubleshoot and back up data, etc.
- Using an on-premises system means you will need a purchased or licenced copy of the software, and that you, as the customer, are responsible for security, availability and overall management of the software, although you should have access to support from the provider when needed – if you do choose this option, make sure provider support is included as part of the package you purchase.
- It is worth noting that on-premises technology is generally more expensive than cloud-based because it requires in-house server hardware, as well as capital investment in software licenses, in-house IT support staff and longer integration periods.
- However, it is also worth noting that company data is more secure with on-premise technology, because of the entire instance of the software, and therefore the company data, remains on your premises.
If you are unsure of what is best for your company, involve your IT department in the decision. They should be able to inform your decision on which system best fits your organization.
3: How to Choose the Supplier of Workforce Management Software
It can be difficult to know where to start in choosing a supplier for workforce management software, and the technology is continuing to evolve. The first thing to consider is the features and functions that are available, and which of these features your business needs. We will discuss the different types of software available in detail in the next chapter, but the main features to be aware of are:
- Time and attendance
- Recruitment and online recruitment. Online recruitment refers to functionality that allows candidates to apply for vacancies within your company directly through your website.
- Performance appraisals
- Succession planning
- Timesheets. Consider what your organization uses timesheets for, for example, if you have staff who are paid by the hour, are you reliant on timesheets for their pay to be accurate? Does your finance team use it to calculate client invoices?
While the above features are largely self-explanatory and are offered by many providers, there are a number of more advanced features that may distinguish one provider from another. We will discuss how these can be used in more detail, allowing you to consider each alongside your own specific business needs, so you can decide whether or not these are features you need from your provider.
Technology that incorporates real-time adherence allows you to more accurately track employee performance and schedule accuracy. In other words, it means you can compare actual employee achievements with what you expect them to achieve according to your scheduling. This will allow you to see both where your scheduling can be adjusted, and also if any employees are over- or under-performing.
Virtualization can be extremely beneficial to your business. It might be useful if your company operates in more than one location, ensuring that all of your offices are linked efficiently, creating one large virtual organization. An important benefit of this is that it can help to ensure that the workload is spread evenly across the entire company. If you want to take advantage of this use of workforce management software, you will also need to ensure that your software has multi-site capabilities.
Virtualization can also be used to manage remote employees. Encouraging your employees to work remotely can save them money on traveling to and from work, as well as saving you money on utilities, and you may find that your employees will actually put in more hours and take fewer sick days if they work from home. Having your employees work from home will also make your company greener, by reducing the number of cars on the road. If you are considering virtualization, make sure your choice of workforce management software includes access to technical support for all hours you expect your employees to work, as this is key to successfully virtualizing your workforce. Another feature of workforce management software you will need to virtualize your workforce is a task tracking system. This will ensure that employees are clear on how exactly they should be using their time working remotely, and will help them, and their manager(s) to keep track of their time and productivity effectively.
Commitment to an Upgrade Path
When choosing a workforce management software provider, make sure that they are committed to continuing to develop the software you are purchasing, and that you will be able to benefit from these future upgrades. Questions to ask are how often the software is updated, how much upgrades will cost you, and also who drives the updates – the user group or marketing workers? This means that as workforce management technology advances, your company will progress with it, rather than being left behind with out-dated software.
Ability to Be Personalized
As well as looking for the most advanced technology, you also need to make sure that the software isn’t just the ‘best’ in the sense that it is the most advanced or the most expensive – it needs to work specifically for your organization. In other words, make sure it can do at least everything that your workforce management is currently doing so that all aspects of your workforce management are streamlined. Then, consider what else your organization needs.
When you have decided what exactly you are looking for in workforce management technology, and are ready to start assessing the different providers available, create your own evaluation criteria, so you can evaluate different systems against your requirements. When you have narrowed the providers down to those that best fit your needs, you should then ask the providers for demonstrations of the software. Khangram recommends starting with a remote overview demonstration of 3-4 systems, which should last for around 1 hour each.
After this, you should have a better idea of which of the systems on your shortlist will work best for your company. The next step in choosing your provider is to request a detailed face-to-face, on-site demonstration of those you are still interested in. Prior to these in-person demonstrations, make a list of scenarios that you want to see how the system copes with, for example adding a new starter, requesting or authorize a leave request, producing an absence report. Ensure that you engage all stakeholders in the demonstration process, especially those authorizing the budget.
Ask as many questions as possible of the supplier. In particular, make sure you check their business continuity plans and financial status, as well as what technology they use. Also check their references, i.e. other companies using the software. If possible, speak with some of the provider’s current clients and ask how well the software works for them, what the service is like and what they use it for. This is important, as it will give you a much more accurate representation of how the software and the provider operate a business than the people trying to sell you the technology will.
4: Types of Workforce Management Software
There are a number of different types of workforce management software, and in this chapter we will discuss these in detail, covering the benefits, features, and usage of each.
Time and Attendance
Time and attendance software is designed to track and optimise the time your employees spend working, as well as keeping records of the wages and/or salaries your company pays its employees.
Benefits, Features, and Usage
There are a number of ways in which time and attendance software can be used, and its features can bring considerable benefits to your company.
Firstly, time and attendance software can result in improved workload management. If you have employees who work on a variety of different tasks, software allowing them to track the amount of time they spend on specific tasks lets them (and you) see clearly whether they are portioning their time appropriately or if adjustments need to be made to the amount of time they are spending on each aspect of their job
This type of software also allows you to save time and effort with the payroll. Some time and attendance management software will not only allow employees to track their time but will also create timesheets, which can be a huge timesaver for you in calculating each employee’s pay. This is particularly useful for businesses with employees working variable hours.
Having employees track their time will make them more aware of how they are using their time at work. This should help them to take more responsibility for managing their time, and keep them more focused on meeting deadlines and using their time as efficiently as possible, which should minimise time spent procrastinating!
Another advantage of using time tracking software is that you can easily compare how all of your employees are managing their time. The benefit of this is twofold. Firstly, it will allow you to easily see when workload needs to be redistributed across the team, which will make your team more efficient. Secondly, you will also be able to see how your most productive employees manage their time, so that (a) you can give credit where credit is due, and (b) you can encourage those who seem to be struggling with time management to mimic the working habits of their more productive colleagues.
This, in turn, should help you to minimise wasted time and money. Being able to clearly see where your company’s time goes means you can clearly see any inefficiencies, which allows you to correct them, cutting down on unnecessary costs.
Additionally, time and attendance software can help to improve the accuracy of client billing. When you are charging clients by the hour, it is crucial that you track time accurately. Time tracking software means you are able to account for exactly what the client is paying for, which they will appreciate. It can also help you to ensure that you are not over- or under-charge your clients, both of which are equally bad for business; an over-charged client is unlikely to be a returning customer, and undercharging clients means a financial loss for your company.
Payroll software can speed up and improve key processes related to paying your employees, including recording your employees’ details, working out their pay and deductions, reporting payroll information to the relevant body depending on where you live, working out how much tax and national insurance you need to pay, and calculating statutory pay, such as maternity or sick pay.
Benefits, Features, and Usage
Some features that are not common to all payroll software programs include producing payslips, recording pension deductions, making pension payments, and paying people over different periods (for example, weekly and monthly). If you have fewer than 10 employees, it is likely that you will be able to find free software to meet your payroll needs. Some free programs can be found here. However, if you have 10 or more employees, you may need to invest in more advanced payroll software. A list of HMRC approved paid-for payroll systems can be found here.
The key benefit of payroll software is time-saving. Payroll can be a very time-consuming process, but automating the process and calculations involved, for example calculating your employees’ taxes, can free up time to dedicate the running and growing your business. You can use these systems to create a clear and accurate payment history, as they can be used to archive payslips and monthly reports.
Another benefit of payroll software is that the likelihood of errors is reduced. Payroll software can be used to pay your employees automatically, according to parameters set up by you, leaving very little margin for human error.
As payroll software can be used to automate your payments and generate reports, they can also give you insight into where exactly your money is going. More specifically, they will allow you to see where you could save money, so you can make more informed decisions regarding your budget.
Another process that can be extremely time-consuming is employee scheduling, especially if you have a large workforce and/or complicated shift patterns. Put simply, employee scheduling software automates this process of creating and maintaining schedules.
Benefits, Features, and Usage
There are a number of ways in which you can make use of employee scheduling software, and reap the time saving and organizational benefits.
Many employee scheduling software programs will allow for collaborative scheduling, which means that employees are able to input their own availability and manage to swap shifts between themselves when necessary. This means that only minimal input from management is required, in the form of approving shift requests, and ensuring that all shifts are covered, saving time that many managers spend manually creating schedules. Another benefit of this feature is that scheduling conflicts can be minimised, as any clashes will be automatically highlighted, requiring employees to collaborate and negotiate to resolve any issues. This can create a stronger team environment, and give more control over their own schedules so that their work patterns suit them may lead to an increase in productivity.
Another feature of many employee scheduling programs is a ‘drag and drop’ function that allows schedules to be easily carried over from previous weeks, or from one day to the next, which can be very useful if your employees work to similar schedules with only minor adjustments each week.
As well as time, employee scheduling software can also save you money. Some programs can be coordinated with HR and other business data to give you detailed information on staff needs so that you can ensure you avoid the issue of understaffing, but also ensure that you don’t unnecessarily schedule extra shifts or pay additional overtime that isn’t needed.
Many employee scheduling programs also offer mobile accessibility, so that employees can access their schedules outside the office. This can help to avoid problems such as employees misreading or forgetting details of their schedules, helping your business to run more smoothly and efficiently
Human resources (HR) management software can be a massive time saver for your company, streamlining all aspects of human resources, allowing you easy access to all your employee records, to reduce time spent on filing and administration, to generate detailed reports on workforce activity, and the simplify the recruitment and new-starter process.
Benefits, Features, and Usage
An important benefit of automating your HR processes is that you can use it to improve decision making. Having all of the relevant information affecting a business decision to hand, contained within the software, allows you to make decisions more confidently, knowing that there aren’t any factors impacting on your decision that you haven’t considered. Many HR software programs include metrics tools, which can be used to dramatically speed up the necessary on-going review of information and devising of strategies based on the inner workings of your business and your competition. For example, you can use these tools to accurately generate statistics on issues including turnover rate and hiring costs, allowing you to create more informed, and thus more effective business strategies.
Another incredibly useful benefit of HR software is that it can be used to improve productivity. By using software to record information and automate a large number of HR functions such as payroll and benefits administration, you can free up staff time that would have been spent on painstaking manual record keeping for higher-order tasks. Additionally, a lot of HR time is taken up with dealing with employee inquiries. HR management software that allows employees to seek out the information they want themselves will save both HR and the employee time. Equally, using your HR software to save time on recruitment and selection, as well as employee evaluation and training, which can all be very time-consuming processes, can lead to substantial productivity gains.
An additional feature of HR software that you may want to make use of is tracking workforce productivity and identifying top performers. Talent Analytics is an area of HR software management that is continuing to evolve, and it can be used to review the performance of your employees and the company as a whole, identifying strengths and weaknesses to allow you to minimise wastage in terms of time and money.
Human resources software can also be used to improve business security. Security is an increasing concern for many businesses, and using HR management software to reduce the amount of company paperwork is a good way to reduce security issues because less paperwork means fewer opportunities for security to be breached.
Furthermore, it can also be used to reduce errors. The main benefit most people think of when considering HR software is saving time, but what you might not have thought about is that you can use it to reduce the possibility of human error in your company’s HR operations. Automating processes such as payroll information using HR software can reduce the risk of error to a minimum, potentially saving your company the stress and cost of serious legal and financial complications that can result from human errors.
Another benefit you may not have considered is that HR software can help to make sure your company is meeting all necessary legal requirements because it can give you faster and easier access to the information you need to make sure you are staying on the right side of the law.
Finally, you can also use HR software to boost employee morale. Implementing software that allows employees to manage their own benefits and absences gives them more control, both in and out of work, which can help to boost morale and employee satisfaction, and in turn productivity, throughout your company.
Absence management software is designed to help you oversee and record all types of employee absence, from holiday requests to sick leave. It allows you to analyze absence trends within your company so you can clearly see the costs, causes, and impacts of employee absences, and hence understand any absence-related issues that might be causing problems for your business.
Benefits, Features, and Usage
Using absence management software allows you to collect much more accurate data than recording and managing employee absences manually. This will help you to avoid common absence-related issues in business such as misunderstandings over leave allowance, for example by allowing you to quickly and easily calculate leave allowances for employees who work part-time, or who are on fixed-term contracts.
Another benefit is that absence management software can allow staff to access their own holiday planners, and submit leave requests directly into the system. This will save managers time, as they can clearly see where any potential leave clashes might be, so they can effectively organize cover for staff shortages when needed and can approve leave requests with the click of a button. Equally, allowing all staff to access a central system to record and request leave ensures that the company policies on leave are transparent to all, and remain consistent for all staff.
Absence management software can also be used to efficiently keep track of employee sickness, crucially to pick up on any issues, for example with long-term health issues an employee may have, or cases of absenteeism. With the capability in some absence management software to produce data reports for each individual employee, you can make sure you don’t miss any problems.
As well as individual staff reports, absence management software can also create reports on workforce absence, so you can identify, and hence predict absence trends in your workforce, allowing you to more effectively arrange staff cover when you need it.
Making effective use of absence management software reports means you can maximise the potential of your workforce, allowing you to reduce time spent on administration and lower the risk of human error, as well as giving you access to real-time information on absences within your workforce, so you can identify any problems and increase productivity.
In a world where the majority of the population are never without their mobile phones, and 1.6 billion smartphones have been purchased since the technology was first introduced, mobile technology seems to be the way forward for workforce management software.
Payroll Experts argue that businesses need to use mobile technology to keep up with millennials, who represent more than a quarter of the nation’s population. This means that the workforce is dominated by tech-savvy individuals who expect the same digital expertise from their employers. To stay current, your company needs to keep up with the latest technologies. Incorporating mobile-friendly technology into the running of your company will make your employees more likely to access and utilize it, putting your company ahead.
Benefits, Features, and Usage
According to Stephen Millard, vice president and human capital management research director at Ventana Research in San Ramon, Calif, there are a number of HR processes that have been found to be particularly compatible with mobile technology. An example of this is performance management, which allows employees to receive instantaneous feedback via their mobile device.
“It’s the ability of the manager to say, ‘I just want to give you kudos for doing a really good job on the project,’ rather than doing an entire review,” he said. “That’s something people like to be able to do real-time. So, you can do that on a mobile device, and that’s something that’s starting to pop up more now.” (Millard)
Millard also points out that mobile technology lends itself to learning because it allows employees to download and read content, as well as access multimedia content, regardless of where they are.
Another use of mobile HR software that you might find benefits your company is mobile employee directory applications. These allow employees to securely access the company’s database of contacts, meaning they can reach business associates more quickly via their smartphone or tablet when on the move. This type of app could also be used to make the recruitment process faster and more efficient, allowing comparison between candidates, internal and external, as well as making it easy for the appropriate personnel to access their contact details.
Mobile workforce technology also means that you can cater to employees who work remotely some or all of the time with ease. Good mobile workforce management software will allow you to manage your employee scheduling and capture employee performance regardless of location, verify your employees’ hours using GPS tracking and eliminate issues arising from inaccurate time tracking and compliance. Mobile HR software can help you to make fact-based decisions, for example by allowing you to compare headcounts in different locations, check the talent ratio, and pinpoint diversity issues, all at your fingertips, anytime, anywhere.
As well as allowing you to keep track of your remote employees, mobile technology could also make your out-of-office employees more productive. David Ludlow argues that a mobile employee should be able to access the same self-service capabilities as an in-office worker, without being tied to a hardwired desktop computer. An example of how this can increase efficiency and productivity is that an HR executive with access to relevant KPIs about their employee base on a mobile device means they can quickly and easily share these data with a business manager. This, in turn, speeds up the discussion between the two, quickly moving it from the general to the specific. The two can then assess how the KPIs are impacting on the business so that they are able to develop strategies for improvement.
Mobile technology can also speed up the HR-related processes and workflows of your company. Just one example of this is a common issue for many companies: requests that require a manager’s approval, such as sign off on a project, or a leave request, often get stuck in email inboxes because the approver needs to log in to a particular desktop application to approve the request. This can be highly frustrating for all involved, and mobile HR software allowing the approver to access the necessary application on the go can speed up the process. As we all know, time is money, so something that makes such common processes faster and more flexible could be a real time and money saver for your business.
Employee self-service software allows employees to view and manage their HR and payroll information by logging in to their own individual account, connected to a central system. The idea behind this type of software is to free up HR and management time. Using employee self-service software can mean fewer questions from and issues for employees, saving time on HR and administrative tasks that can be time-consuming with a manual system.
Benefits, Features, and Usage
What features of self-service your employees have access to will depend on your software, and what you choose to give them access to, but some very useful features include being able to view and print their payroll information, meaning staff don’t need to submit a request to HR or management every time they need to see their pay slips.
Self-service can also allow employees to update important information, such as their bank details, so that this is updated in the system when they submit the information, rather than having to be updated by another person, saving time and reducing the risk of human error.
Another useful feature of employee self-service is allowing employees to track their hours and log them in the self-service system, which both saves you time in tracking your employees time and helps your employees to stay focused and productive because they are consciously aware of being accountable for their time. Similarly, self-service can also be used to allow employees to request leave and record absence, again saving HR and administration time.
You can check all information that staff enter into the self-service system, for example when one employee makes a leave request via the system, you will be able to quickly and easily check the dates requested against any pre-planned leave other employees will be taking, so that you can avoid staff-shortage problems, before approving the leave request using the system. Equally, you can check employees’ electronic time cards before running payroll to make sure the information is correct.
5: 6 Steps to Full Automation of Workforce Management Systems
This chapter is a 6-step guide to achieving a fully automated workforce. No matter what system you choose, these steps will be invaluable in implementing your new software.
1. Get an Implementation Team Together
To implement workforce management software, you will need a strong team in place, with a variety of opinions and perspectives on what they want and need from automated workforce management. Think about all of the areas of your company that will be affected by the new system, and meet with representatives from each department to get their views on the system as a whole, as well as specific features. This doesn’t just mean the IT department and managers or supervisors – make sure your team includes employees of all levels and pay grades, so you have a full picture of how the new system should work in practice.
This team will not only be invaluable to you in making sure you have thought of everything in implementing the new system. If you have people throughout the company on board with this new system, they will help with getting the rest of the company on board and will be on hand to answer any questions people may have, making the transition easier for everyone involved.
2. Write Down All of your Current Workforce Management Practices, and Review Them
First, you need to look at what you are doing now in terms of time tracking, scheduling, payroll, HR, absence management etc. Once you have your current policies written down, it will be easier to review them, as simply automating your current practices might not be the best idea. Review your current practices objectively, involving your team, and look at areas where there may be room for improvement going forward.
Once you have made notes on how your system currently operates, and how you would like it to operate, you should share both sets of notes with key stakeholders and your vendor representative. This will help them to make sure your new system fulfills all the requirements you need it to.
These notes will also be useful to you as you go through the steps of implementing your new automated system, making sure you don’t forget anything, and that no out-dated, unnecessary practices are carried forwards.
3. Choose Your New System
Choosing your new system and your provider is covered in detail in Chapters 3 and 4 of this guide, but the key things to remember are, to be honest with yourself, and your vendor, about your needs and wants. Be clear about what your business absolutely needs from workforce management software, and what you want, so that you can choose the system that most closely fits your requirements. There’s no point in maxing out your budget on a high-tech system with all the bells and whistles to only use 10% of its features. However, a low-cost system that doesn’t meet all of your basic requirements is equally unhelpful. So, in choosing your new system, honesty really is the best policy.
4. Make Time to Communicate with your Employees
Choosing your system definitely isn’t the last step in successfully automating your workforce management. Once you’ve chosen the system that works best for you, you need to make time to communicate with your employees about what the new system will mean for them, give them plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and, perhaps most importantly, take the time to reassure them about any concerns they may have.
The key to this step is to put yourself in your employee’s shoes. For you, what might seem most important to the new system are the benefits to the company as a whole, for example saving time and money on payroll preparation and HR administration. However, you need to remember that this isn’t something that will concern most of your employees. Think about ways the new system will benefit your employees on a personal level. If the system you have chosen includes employee self-service, your employees will want to know about the features of this, for example being able to update their personal information quickly and easily without filling out lengthy paper forms or checking the status of their leave requests without having to seek out their supervisor. If your employees are paid by the hour, understanding that the new time tracking software will mean they are paid more accurately will reassure them that the implementation of the new system is in their best interests.
5. Training and Testing
This step is absolutely crucial for successful implementation. To test the new system, you may want to consider running it alongside your old system for two or three payroll cycles, so you can make sure everything is working as it should, and any problems can be ironed out.
To get the most out of your new system, it’s really important to make sure all your employees are fully trained in how to use it. You may want to consider supplying a handbook or “cheat sheet” for performing the most common tasks on the system. Check with your vendor first, as they will probably have something you can use for this purpose, but if not, creating one specifically for your company will not be time wasted. In the long run, it will save you time, because it will mean you can avoid answering the same questions multiple times, and the guide can be used time and time again with new recruits getting used to the system.
At this point, you should also create an administrator’s handbook, including important details such as the administrator password, and how to add new recruits to the system. This will avoid issues if your administrator is on leave or quits, as others will be able to easily pick up where they left off if necessary.
6. Review and Revise
Once you have had the new system in place for a few months, go back to your initial expectations of the system and compare these to how the system is working in practice. Is the new system doing everything you want it to? Are there any features you could be making better use of? Are there any features of the system you hadn’t initially considered using that you might want to implement now that you are comfortable using the system as a whole?
Reviewing at regular intervals is important to make sure you are getting, and continue to get, the most out of the system as your business grows.
6: The Future of Workforce Management Systems
Workforce management technology is continually developing and advancing. So what developments can we look forward to in the future?
Many experts are predicting that use of systems on the cloud, as opposed to on-premises, will continue to increase. This is because the cloud’s advantages are well suited to predicted future developments in the workplace.
As workforce management technology improves, outsourcing and managing employees remotely will continue to become easier, giving companies access to a wider pool of talent, so they can make use of the skills of specialists’ both at home and abroad. A cloud-based workforce management system allows your company to centralize management of the workforce so that the same system can be used over several sites. This will be particularly useful for companies outsourcing specialists.
Another reason cloud-based systems are likely to become increasingly popular is that companies can pay for the system as an operational cost, as opposed to a capital investment. As businesses become long-term subscribers, as opposed to one-time customers, future workforce management technology will increasingly focus on customer service, constantly developing and improving software features and competitive pricing. As a result of this competitive pricing, it is likely that, in future, small and medium-sized companies who currently view workforce management technology as above their budget will start to use it, which may result in greater diversity in solutions tailored to companies of varying sizes.
While companies may choose a cloud-based system because it means they don’t need to have the IT infrastructure needed to host the software onsite, the rate at which workforce management technology is advancing means that jobs in IT are set to increase. For companies to be able to make use of advancing technology, they will need staff on hand who can operate the software and help the rest of the company keep up with developments in the technology they are using.
Another feature of workforce management systems set to become popular is fingerprint and face recognition. This kind of biometric technology could be used for increased security, preventing unauthorized access to confidential information. It could also be used for employees to clock in and out, avoiding issues of inaccuracy with colleagues clocking each other in and out. This should improve employee diligence and increase productivity, saving businesses time and money.
Mobile technology is currently in use, most commonly for data management, and employee self-service features such as requesting time off. The use of mobile applications is predicted to increase. Some companies are currently using mobile technology to allow employees to clock in and out, reducing time wasted queuing to use on-site hardware. This usage may increase, particularly as technology advances and allows for GPS tracking of the employee’s location to avoid issues of people clocking in before they actually get to work, or clocking out after they have left. Equally, the use of mobile technology is likely to increase in workforce management as the technology advances and new, improved features continue to be added.
GPS tracking can be an extremely useful feature of workforce management technology, and its use is likely to increase in future, particularly for companies with remote employees, or employees who are required to travel as part of their job, to make sure they are where they should be when on company time. However, it should be noted that if you choose to use this kind of tracking, you must be careful to comply with the law and make sure you do not invade your employees’ privacy. In future, workforce management technology may include solutions to help make sure that your company does comply with the appropriate labor laws when using software such as this.
8: Case studies
You might be thinking that, in theory, workforce management software sounds great. But does it actually work in practice, in a real business environment? The answer is yes. You can find huge numbers of case studies where businesses who have taken the time to find a solution that meets their needs have seen marked improvements in productivity, efficiency and service levels. We have chosen and summarised a few from a variety of different industries.
Township of Brick
Located in Ocean County, New Jersey, the Township of Brick is one of the largest municipalities in the area. Their government offices have been growing rapidly, keeping track of employee time and attendance with a manual paper-based system becomes more challenging and costly. The municipal government needed a better way to manage a large workforce with flexible time arrangements.
What the Township of Brick required was a solution that could:
- Automate and streamline timekeeping and payroll processing processes
- Maximize operational budgets by accurately tracking labor activities
- Ensure compliance with FLSA and FMLA regulations across entire workforce
- Enable employees to access their leave history and clock in remotely
An automated Mitrefinch workforce management system in the cloud streamlines Township of Brick’s processes and provides real-time workforce data to support informed decision making, increase employee productivity and better manage labor costs.
Using Mitrefinch Time and Attendance Software enables the municipality to monitor employees falling under hourly, salary, and union wages, ensuring full FMLA/FLSA compliance. Automatic updates mean the organization is always operating according to the most recent regulations. Furthermore, Mitrefinch Employee self-service software makes flexible work arrangements possible for Township of Brick by enabling employees to manage their own time and attendance directly through the system.
Employees can clock in from wherever they are working using the Employee Self-Service feature on laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices. They can also use the system to check vacation and sick time, and to generate leave requests that are automatically emailed to managers for approval or denial.
The Book People
The Book People are a discount bookseller, based in the UK. They were having issues with schedule management, as their spreadsheet system wasn’t sufficient to handle their widely fluctuating inbound volume. The company releases a new brochure every three weeks, which results in an increase in call volumes, and they were having trouble generating multi-skill schedules, making coordinating staff a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. Since implementing injoxo WFM, The Book People’s workforce has become considerably more efficient. They are now able to generate real-time reports for staffing and call volumes, allowing them to meet demand more effectively. Injixo WFM allows them to generate multi-skill schedules, and the self-service functions of injixo WFM have meant that The Book People’s agents have become more proactive because they have
Another company that has been able to improve its efficiency using workforce management technology is Ingenico, the largest provider of payment and transactions systems in the world, with over 10 million payment terminals being used in over 90 countries. They had concerns that their manual system was not effectively balancing call demands in their contact center with workforce scheduling. Ingenico looked to workforce management technology to implement a more flexible working schedule to reduce employee attrition levels. They chose GMT Planet workforce management as the solution that best suited their needs, and the difference this solution has made is impressive. By implementing a new system with more flexibility, and a new pay structure, Ingenico have seen their overtime costs cut down by 25%. They are now able to maintain service levels over 80% every month, and they have reduced the time the company spends on resourcing by a massive 87%.
Another company that has seen significant improvements in efficiency with GMT Planet is Eurostar. Eurostar provides a high-speed rail service via the Channel Tunnel, with links from St. Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International to Paris, Disneyland Resort Paris, Lille, Calais, Brussels, Avignon and the French Alps. As a well respected and highly in demand service, Eurostar’s contact center handles over 1.3 million calls per year, with a workforce of more than 195 agents. These agents have to deal with calls that vary widely in terms of content and nature of inquiries, as well as the duration and the volume of calls they are expected to handle each day. Eurostar’s old, manual system involved complex spreadsheets that they found limiting. Due to the variety of calls, forecasting business needs is a challenge for this company, and their manual process was not only time-consuming and labor intensive, it was also creating problems in that it didn’t allow managers access to real-time visibility into call activity, so they were unable to adjust for changes in demand throughout the course of a working day.
Additionally, the company’s scheduling system was inefficient – agents had no input into their schedules because the system didn’t allow for them to specify their availability, request particular shifts or request leave. Equally, the system was unable to effectively monitor vital service information, such as schedule adherence, which was impacting on Eurostar’s customer service. Implementing GMT Planet has allowed Eurostar to efficiently balance workload with available resources, so they can create more effectual schedules. Within two weeks, they were able to create accurate forecasts, they gained access to real-time updates on day-to-day activity, ensuring increased demands can be met, and resources are not wasted. Furthermore, Eurostar’s agents now have access to the self-service features of the software, which has boosted morale, productivity, and retention within the company.
Bluebonnet Electrical Cooperative
The final case study in this chapter is the Texas-based company Bluebonnet Electrical Cooperative’s use of Clevest’s mobile workforce management solution. Bluebonnet supplies electricity to members in 14 counties, covering an area of more than 6000 km2. The company is responsible for over 82000 electricity meters, and the maintenance of nearly 18000 km of power lines. Before using workforce management technology, the company was experiencing a number of issues impacting on efficiency. Members, and therefore workers, were spread out over a large geographical area, and workers were reliant on paper-heavy, manual ordering procedures. Communication between the office and field workers only occurred at the start and the end of the day and important information was often delayed, inaccurate, or even unavailable. Bluebonnet wanted to improve its efficiency, and also its security, specifically with the intention of protecting members’ confidential information, to prevent them from being at risk of identity theft. Since implementing Clevest’s mobile workforce management solution, Bluebonnet has been able to make a shift to paperless workflow between the field and the office, which has provided an effective solution to their problems.
In terms of improving security, the new system has proved very successful. The technology encrypts data, resulting in a significant improvement in data protection. This ensures that private customer information is not at risk, which simply was not possible with the old, paper-heavy, manual system.
With regard to efficiency, the new mobile technology has proved equally successful. The software allows workers to maintain effective, real-time wireless communication between the field and the workplace throughout each day. The solution has eliminated the inefficiencies and costs of paper data collection in the field followed by data entry in the office, saving time and money (and paper!). Supervisors and dispatchers can now send orders to crews in the field wirelessly and use the mobile technology, they can easily monitor the progress of each order in real time, allowing them to respond quickly and effectively to any alerts or emergencies that may arise.
Equally, because there is so much less administration and manual effort required, the new paperless system requires fewer employees to operate, freeing up a number of employees for higher order duties. The company has been able to reduce daily phone calls and radio traffic by approximately 80-90%, which has freed up significant time for supervisors and dispatchers to focus on effectively managing alerts and emergencies when necessary. Furthermore, time is saved for field workers, who no longer have to call the office to close an order. Before, they experienced delays and frustration with errors caused by manual input, but the new system cuts out these time-consuming administrative duties, so they can focus on the fieldwork that does require human judgment. Time and money are also saved by an increase in accuracy. The software’s feature of being able to add attachments to orders may seem simple, but it has proved incredibly useful for Bluebonnet. Being able to attach images of meter readings to orders, instead of writing down serial numbers and meter readings for each order have resulted in a significant improvement in accuracy of readings for the company, avoiding costly and time-wasting manual errors. This freeing up of employees time has also resulted in a dramatic increase in capacity for the company, with each field technician consistently able to process more orders than before each day.
Workforce management systems technology is an invaluable resource available to businesses today that will only continue to advance and improve in terms of the increased efficiency it can bring to companies. This guide contains everything you need to know to make the most of workforce management solutions, whether you are already a tech-savvy user who wants to know more, or a complete novice just starting to realize the potential benefits of the software. You can return to this guide again and again for advice on what to look for in workforce management technology and how to choose services and providers, as well as the key features and functions of different types of software, and how to go about implementing a new system to make sure it works for you.
To summarize, there are a few key things to bear in mind when it comes to workforce management technology.
Know your company. Know what you need from workforce management technology as well as what you want – and make sure you choose software that is right for your business, as well as a provider who will support you in implementing and utilizing the software.
Keep up to date with the latest technologies. We’ve given you a head start with current predictions for the future, so make sure you keep an eye out for them. If your provider offers updates that will make things easier for you, take them! And if you feel that your current provider isn’t keeping up with the latest technologies, or that your business needs have changed over time, don’t be afraid to look into changing your provider.
Workforce management software features that fit your business can have dramatic effects for the better. Successfully automating your workforce will save you time and money, improve accuracy, and free up employees whose time was previously taken up with administrative work to take on higher order work requiring human input. It will make management of your company easier, ensuring you can create schedules and forecasts that work for your company, allowing you to efficiently balance varying demand with your available resources. Last, but definitely not least, it will make sure that your company is operating as the best version of itself, by minimizing waste, and maximizing efficiency, creativity, and productivity.