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Fueling growth with smart workforce management

September 19, 2016
Imagine your organization relying on a workforce working on complex shifts, some workers on flexible contracts, others freelance, some not even on payroll, many of them working remotely, across a range of locations. For some organizations that spells increased administration and more stress on managing growth. Others, though, are able to take advantage of the benefits of today’s more complicated working arrangements and actually fuel growth. How do they do it? They have the processes and systems in place to manage the complex modern workforce.

They are using Smart Workforce Management.

A well-deployed contingent workforce

Smart Workforce Management starts with excellent management of the contingent workforce. In the past, this was almost exclusively blue collar, but not today. Current uses of contingent labor include personnel such as project managers, sales, hospitality staff, and healthcare professionals. These workers may not be on the payroll but they are professionals who deliver high value.

In the past, enterprises used sub-optimal techniques to deal with contingent workers, typically using shift systems and engaging in over-resourcing to ensure coverage requirements were met, or dangerously under-resourcing to cut corners.

In the healthcare sector, for example, nurses, doctors, and anesthetists were typically fully employed. As a result, schedules could always be drawn up as required. When staff weren’t required for shifts, there was always other work they could do, but it was not an optimal way of managing the staff’s time. In contrast, today’s systems allow for a more natural way of working, where the workforce goes to work only when it is needed.

Flexibility and data

This era of flexible working suits the workforce as well as it suits the enterprise. Not everyone wants to work full-time. In today’s society many workers have other responsibilities often centered on caring for their children or elderly relatives. Being able to schedule efficiently means employees can spend time on these important tasks, while also working. In the past, either employment or the level of care given to family members would most likely have suffered.

But Smart Workforce Management can move from being just efficient to being effective. Flexible workforce management also allows fast-growing companies to build pools of labor to cope with surges in demand. Some of these spikes are predictable: For instance, retailers require additional labor to cope with the holiday shopping rush from Halloween through New Year’s Day, and that extra headcount must be managed effectively to generate the greatest ROI.

In the past, these peaks in labor demand could only be predicted crudely. Today, data tools can predict changes in the demand for labor far more accurately, thanks to the power of big data. For example – the need for extra retail help on Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) and the week before Christmas can be predicted based on a huge volume of past data as well as current economic projections.

The benefits of sharing

Of course this power extends well beyond the health and retail sectors. Project managers often need to pull a team together at short notice. To do that successfully they need to know not just the roles they need to fill, but something about their preferred way of working. Do they prefer a two-week or a two-month assignment? Do they speak French? Do they have the flexibility to travel at short notice? Who is available now, but scheduled for work in the future?

In most organizations the answers to all these questions probably exist, but not necessarily all in one system. A smart approach to HR does not require stripping a set of existing systems, but rather finds ways to share data quickly and effectively across them, allowing great project teams to be formed by searching across data that identifies optimal members.

From transactions to strategy

Smart Workforce Management, then, finds the right answers faster – like providing the best team member for a new project team, or scheduling contingent labor to enable company growth. The key thing, though, is that it does all this without the need for the HR department to be involved at all.

Set up right, a smart approach to HR enables project managers to look at possible project teams without needing the HR department. It will alert team heads to future peaks in demand directly. By putting in place the right systems, most of the transactional work of HR can become self-service. The role of HR then becomes more significant: Helping managers run their departments better, providing not just predictive analytics, but prescriptive analytics.

Smart Workforce Management not only fuels organizational growth, it releases HR to take on a strategic role.

Mitri Dahdaly, Director of Product Management, Workforce Management
  • North America
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