How do unimaginable amounts of snow impact business outcomes?

The better question might be: How do they not? I sit hear writing as it snows outside, but it barely makes the local weather report today as we’re only getting an inch or two. Now local meteorologists say things like ‘we might get a blizzard this weekend’ or ‘there’s only 10 inches of snow coming Tuesday’. Working in the Boston area, I remember many winters past when 10 inches was a lot. This winter, I’ve experienced a foot or more the last 3 Mondays – not a great way to begin the work week.

My backyard: Yes - that is a fence.
My backyard:  Yes – that is a fence.

You’ve seen it on the national news. At this point, people are officially getting depressed. Feeling trapped – like they are “going crazy.” I choose to find the comical side of all of this. It’s not like we can change it. Let’s make the best of it. Laugh about the ridiculousness of it all. Enjoy the view. Share stories about the first time you saw a woman get out of her car to help push a stranger’s car out of a drift as he was getting onto a highway. I sat mesmerized thinking it would never work, but it did.


So what are a few of the ways bad weather impacts employers?

Unplanned Absences

Simply put, less work is getting done, especially if those absent are unable to work from home. There may not be enough staff available to meet business demand. The staff members that come in are probably more stressed as they are trying to pick up the slack. Production levels go down. Customer service and revenue can suffer. Labor budgets can quickly bust as contract workers are called in and full-timers go into overtime. SHRM and the Workforce Institute have found ways to help mitigate this impact.

Employee Housing Costs

For many businesses that operate around the clock, such as hospitals and hotels, working from home isn’t an option on a snowy day. The businesses typically put up employees in hotel rooms before and during a big storm to ensure they have enough staff on site to operate. Some local hospitals house employees at the hospital itself and cover meals. These expenses add up and influence the bottom-line.


This is the first time I can remember Massachusetts’s mass transit system, the MBTA, being shut down for over an entire day. Employees without a car can’t even get to work if they want to, especially if they can’t afford a cab ride.

Image via MBTA

Over 1900 flights were canceled during the last storm. Think of all the canceled sales meetings and customer visits canceled due to Boston area employees unable to get to their destination. When the next big storm happens, because I know it will, I’ll focus more on the employee experience during this ridiculous weather pattern.




If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, please enjoy. I promise – we’re not resentful – much. After all, we Bostonians have the autumn leaves, Fenway Park, and of course the Patriots. Those make up for it all.

Image via Patriot’s Facebook Page




Workforce Management Maturity Evolution Part 4 – Innovate

This is the final installment in a four-part series on workforce management maturity. With advancements in cloud-based technology, mobile applications and simplified enterprise applications, organizations are able to transform their workforce from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage. Part 4 discusses the final phase of workforce management maturity – innovate.

In Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great, those few companies that distanced themselves from the competition all had common traits among them. The concepts of “Level 5 leadership”, having the right workforce “on the bus”, and transformations that were the result of focus and continuous improvement over sustained periods of time eventually led to achieving greatness.

There are many organizations that have evolved through the first three phases of the workforce management maturity curve, getting the value of their workforce to one of a Flexible asset, and perception of their workforce into an “Agile Workforce.”  However, the best-in-class organizations that have moved into the Innovate phase now view their workforce as a vital workforce and a competitive advantage. For them, their employees are their most critical asset who, when provided with the right tools, training and support enable these organizations to achieve great results that their customers value and their peers and competitors envy.

Big Data and the Workforce

Throughout this series, the application of technology and process change has enabled organizations in each phase of workforce management maturity. Most organizations in the Innovate phase are embracing Big Data initiatives to identify triggers that influence growth, profitability, brand reputation, and operational excellence, as well as organizational transparency and accountability. In the Innovate phase, organizations incorporate labor metrics into their big data strategies, to transform their workforce into a network of individuals all working together to achieve a desired result. (Consider Southwest Airlines, where every interaction with their workforce is one that is focused on delivering a high level of customer service).

The correlation of labor data with operational measurements of inputs & outcomes can yield powerful insight into the impact of your workforce on business growth, brand perception and ultimately shareholder value. However, basic data mining does not equate to a big data strategy that will enable business innovation and continuous improvement. Lack of understanding of how to use analytics to improve the business is the biggest obstacle in achieving success with big data. Organizations must transition the analysis from an IT function to a business operations function – combining measurements, analytics and business intelligence tools with visibility and controls for business leaders to understand and act on.

Workforce Analytics drives Innovation

When workforce analytics is combined successfully with operational data, actionable information will lead to operational comparisons and adjustments. Initial tracking of labor metrics like absenteeism, turnover and overtime can evolve into industry-specific trends and analysis. Retail stores can see the impact in increased operating margins, profit per employee and a stronger brand reputation. Healthcare providers can correlate treatment procedures, provider education/training, and technology with patient diagnosis and outcomes. Manufacturing firms can achieve operational excellence through lean labor principles.

When your workforce evolves from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage, your organization can make that leap from good to great!

Workforce Management Maturity Evolution Part 3 – Execute

This is the third in a four-part series on workforce management maturity. With advancements in cloud-based technology, mobile applications and simplified enterprise applications, organizations are able to transform their workforce from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage. Part 3 discusses the next phase of workforce management maturity – execute.

Throughout this series we’ve discussed how automation and planning can help organizations streamline the common processes of scheduling and paying your workforce accurately and efficiently to keep costs down while improving service levels.

The third phase of workforce management maturity is the execute phase. This phase is about getting the most out of your people every day. It involves leveraging individuals who can adapt to changing conditions quickly to maintain a high level of productivity. Organizations that have evolved to the execute phase will view their workforce as a flexible asset – a group of skilled workers with the tools they need to consistently produce for you and can adapt to different tasks or roles. At this stage, the workforce understands and executes key tactics that have a direct impact on key operational measurements: revenue, service, quality, responsiveness, throughput, productivity.

A simple example is a grocery employee who can stock shelves when traffic is slow, slice cold cuts when the line at the deli is long, or run a cash register when there are crowds ready to check out. That employee is highly valued because of his/her flexibility and high level of productivity.

Manage in the Moment

We’ve all heard the phrase “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In EVERY industry, labor plans are impacted every day. Weather, illness, unplanned absence, mechanical issues, material problems, accidents, funding issues, large orders, even a successful campaign or promotion can impact plans for better or worse. How a manager in the trenches reacts to these constantly changing conditions can directly impact your business.

Workforce management solutions have evolved to enable managers to manage in the moment, with technology that works in real time. Staffing management allow managers to see who is on staff at any given moment and which areas may be understaffed or overstaffed. Real-time adjustments can be made to address the areas that need help, while back-office adjustments to labor tracking, job costing and payroll systems happen automatically, without delays or errors. Labor activity tracking provides line managers with real-time visibility into Work-in-Progress, quality and labor utilization to maximize output and productivity goals. And, mobile access to systems through smart phones and tablet devices empower managers to execute more informed decision making right when and where issues arise.

Are your employees and mangers capable of being agile on the job? Can they react to changing conditions and maintain high levels of productivity?

With cloud-based workforce management on demand, even small to medium sized organizations can leverage and benefit from enterprise-class technology at a fraction of the cost and resource requirements.

In part four we will review the final phase of workforce management maturity – Innovate.

Workforce Management Maturity Evolution Part 1 – Automation

This is the first in a four-part series on workforce management maturity. With advancements in cloud-based technology, mobile applications and simplified enterprise applications, organizations are able to transform their workforce from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage. Part 1 discusses the first phase of workforce management maturity – automation.

Isn’t it amazing that we can land an exploratory SUV on Mars, but yet there are thousands of organizations still manually processing basic HR, payroll and labor management tasks?

While traditional enterprise software has helped many large organizations attempt to get a handle on managing labor hours, payroll, time-off requests accruals, hiring, etc., there are still many organizations, small and large that struggle with manual, but necessary business processes.

In most cases these organizations perceive their workforce as more of an expense – a cost of doing business. And while HR departments aspire for employee engagement, the workforce themselves’ aspire to be unburdened by enabling them to work efficiently and effectively, without obstacles and processes that hold them back.

Workforce Management Maturity – Automate Phase

The first phase of workforce management maturity is to move from manual to automated. The Automate Phase focuses on the ability to streamline, simplify, and standardize necessary business process such as hiring, absence management or converting hours to payroll. As with all phases in workforce management maturity, the Automate phase combines both process and technology improvements. And while the levels of complexity and maturity vary drastically, from one organization to the next, often there are additional automation steps organizations can take even if they have some level of workforce management already in place.

For example, time clocks may automate data collection from hourly employees punching in and out – yet a company may still benefit from biometric identification, automated time off requests or self service labor level transfers. Or, there may be a segment of your workforce that works remotely, without regular access to a time clock, and requires more mobile technology.

The goal in the Automate phase is to eliminate waste and minimize errors by moving from complex, manual processes to streamlining, and simplifying wherever possible.  The end result is fewer payroll errors, reduced time fraud, better accuracy end efficiency – controlling labor costs and avoiding compliance risk.  

The value of the workforce increases as an organization navigates the automate phase.  Manual, unstructured business processes require tedious data entry, transcription, hand calculation, and error-checking.  This is low-value, unrewarding work.  Automation unburdens the workforce and allows their time and energy to be invested in higher value activities that will further the mission of the organization.

How mature is your organizations’ workforce management? How complex and manual are your necessary business processes? Is your workforce considered more of an expense?

With cloud-based workforce management on demand, even small to medium sized organizations can leverage and benefit from enterprise-class technology at a fraction of the cost and resource requirements.

In part two we will review the second phase of workforce management maturity – Planning.

Cloud-Based Workforce Management for SMBs

Small to midsized businesses and organizations (SMBs) need an enterprise-class workforce management suite with an affordable price point in order to remain competitive and continuously improve in order to grow their business. Cloud computing advancements have enabled leading vendors to deliver enterprise-class workforce management specifically designed for these organizations. Cloud services have now become the mainstream deployment option of choice for SMBs as opposed to on-premise models, and now workforce management SaaS is available via the cloud for SMBs.

SMB Labor Management Challenges

It’s no mystery that SMBs have many unique IT and business challenges. The area of workforce management a growing challenge for many SMBs. While enterprise applications often included HR, Payroll and labor management modules as part of a financial suite or ERP package, for decades SMBs have tackled workforce management needs with paper time sheets, hand-written time off requests, and schedules often done on a white board. The use of spreadsheets was considered advanced and manual calculations and data entry resulted in error prone business processes.

Software license and maintenance fees, implementation services costs, custom development needs and extensive IT resource requirements made the much-needed functionality for these organizations financially unattainable.  With minimal budget and typically very little back office support (HR, Payroll, I.T.  are sometimes the same person) SMBs usually have to settle for an internally developed, homegrown system; or a system cobbled together from multiple vendors that doesn’t do a lot for them in the way of integrated Timekeeping, HR & Payroll.  Usually these are low end, stripped down products from the larger vendors. Sometimes SMBs turn to service bureaus and outsourcing providers. They usually have experience with one or more outsourcing vendors or a local service bureau for Payroll and the software they use doesn’t have much HR & timekeeping functionality since it’s geared mainly for payroll.

Managing your own applications means keeping them updated and upgraded yourself.  Or, you have to hope your vendor’s solution is up to date and then upgrade regularly to remain technologically current.  But, many providers are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain these systems and keep pace with technological advancements – in both product capabilities and the user experience.   Most service bureaus remain focused on only the payroll function, with add-on applications being a

Enterprise-class Workforce Management Simplified

Small to midsize businesses are continually trying to get the most from every available resource.  But, a vital asset that offers potential savings and productivity is often overlooked — your workforce.  Outsourcing your payroll, HR, and other workforce management applications to a SaaS model eliminates the technology headaches that can plague internal deployments. It reduces costs. Lets you offer the same premium employee packages provided by your larger competitors. And offloads the entire IT burden from your organization so you can focus on what you do best — growing your business.

The opportunity may be as basic as automating manual processes for capturing and tracking employee time and attendance, thereby reducing costly errors to which all manual systems are prone.  Or it may be upgrading legacy time and labor or payroll technology that can’t scale with your business or limits the ability to analyze your workforce’s effectiveness.  Perhaps you’re simply tired of being “nickel and dimed” by your current vendor who charges you to access your own data and makes it difficult to predict your month-to-month payroll processing costs.

Small and midsize businesses are feeling the financial pressures of a tight economy and having to compete with larger organizations with more resources. A workforce management solution tailored to the needs of SMBs can help them uncover and reduce hidden costs, leading to improved productivity and smarter decision-making” Lisa Rowan, program director of HR, learning, and talent research, IDC

Cloud-based workforce management for SMBs is fast and easy to install and get up and running, with minimal time and resources required.   Employees can use these systems with little to no training.  Business processes are automated, streamlined and simplified while users always benefit from the most current technologies.  Most importantly, similar to most SaaS offerings, users can use only what they need at a given time and fluctuate their usage as needed with no penalties or long term commitments.

Sports fans around the world skip work to watch their teams

A new survey by the Workforce Institute and Kronos finds that “employees around the world have, to varying degrees, called in sick to work over a sporting event. Whether they stayed home to watch it on television, attended it live, played the sport themselves, or needed a day off after staying up late to watch, sports have a significant impact on attendance at work.

Game of Hooky Played Around the World

Guest blog post by Colleen Daigle, Product Marketing Manager at Kronos, Inc.

When it comes to employees “faking” sick days, the United States is not alone. According to a recent Global Absence Survey released by Kronos Workforce Institute and Harris Interactive, China leads the pack with 71% of workers admitting to “calling in sick” when they were not actually sick. In fact, the study showed that respondents from countries with more paid leave, like France, were less likely to fake a sick day (16%) than countries with fewer holiday allowances, such as China (71%) and India (62%).

This survey, which has stirred substantial media coverage since its release at the end of August, reveals that employees in Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S., have all, to varying degrees, played hooky. The majority of respondents in all regions felt they were negatively impacted when co-workers called in sick – mainly because they had to take on extra work and/or shifts. Interestingly, when asked what their employer could do to prevent them from calling in sick, the main response in every region except France, who offers a minimum of 30 holidays per year, was to offer the opportunity to work flexible hours.

Can we all learn something from the results in France? As one of the world’s leading countries in state mandated leave, this study shows, only 16% of French respondents claimed to have taken a sick day when they were not sick. According to Joyce Maroney, Director of the Kronos Workforce Institute, if you”contrast this with India and China, two of the three countries with the lowest holiday allowance minimums” we start to see a correlation. Countries with more paid time off are less likely to call in sick under false pretense.

With unscheduled absenteeism costing organizations 8.7 percent of payroll, is the answer to offer employees more paid time off and flex hours?  This idea of flextime, or the ability for employee to set their own schedules, is not new, but is gaining momentum throughout the world. Does your company offer flexible work schedules and plenty of paid-time off for its employees? What impact do you think this has on a company’s incidental, or unplanned, absences?