What’s Your Mobile Strategy?

Guest blog post by Kristen Wylie, Product Marketing Manager at Kronos

Recently Kronos celebrated a corporate milestone: achieving $1 billion in revenue. CEO Aron Ain hosted a town hall employee meeting that reviewed, among other things, our product direction. Aron covered social collaboration, gamification and other recent and future product enhancements that will help us achieve the next billion dollars in revenue.

FitbitWhat’s driving our product vision? Our internal development efforts focus on product innovation, but we often explore the latest technology developments around us, and then adapt that technology for our own industry. Aron pointed to the FitBit (a wearable fitness device) on his wrist and explained that he and other Kronos executives were personally evaluating wearable devices to better understand their practical uses. He shared his belief that wearable devices hold great promise for workforce management utilization in the future.

By leveraging the latest technology, including consumer technology, we can more efficiently help our customers evolve the way their workforce interacts and connects with their organizations. According to Aaron, this forward-looking approach enables us to offer customers new capabilities before they even know they want it or need it!

A great example of this approach is our mobile apps. As HR industry analyst Josh Bersin noted in a Forbes contributed article a few months ago:

“It’s amazing how mobile computing snuck up on us. In the six years since the first iPhone was introduced the computing landscape radically changed. There are now four times as many mobile devices as PCs in the world, and more mobile phones than people in the US. … Why is this disruptive? Because HR buyers want software their employees will use. Mobile is becoming a critical buying criteria.”

tabletscreenMobile didn’t “sneak up” on Kronos because we were already aware of the market trend. Whether enterprises will actively roll out a mobile app or are preparing to meet the inevitable demand from employees for a mobile solution, Kronos is ready with a proven solution today. The Kronos Workforce Ready mobile application provides managers and employees with immediate, instant avenues to their workforce management solution, wherever they may be. This app, available for iPhone or Android devices, is a natural for companies whose people are frequently on the move, want to address common tasks quickly and easily on their mobile device of choice, and need to maintain productivity and functionality across the entire workforce management spectrum – from time and labor management to human resources, and payroll.

mobile graphAccording to the 2013 SMB Mobile Solutions study, a review of mobile usage by organizations with 50-1,000 employees from analysts at the SMB Group, 84% of small and mid-sized organizations already use mobile collaboration apps such as email, calendars and contacts. Many are also starting to use mobile apps for business-specific functions. In fact, 68% indicate that mobile solutions are “critical” to their organizations.

Mobile workforce solutions enable remote workers (sales, field service workers, home health aides, etc.) to enter timekeeping information and view schedule changes from anywhere, at any time via mobile devices. Employees working onsite but away from their desks at an office, factory, store or hospital can use mobile apps to process overtime requests, make time-off requests, adjust staffing, and perform other tasks in real time. Likewise, managers can manage scheduling and payroll when it’s most convenient.

What is your mobile strategy? In a recent webinar with Kronos covering the top technology game changers for workforce management, the SMB Group provided the following guidance for organizations as they prepare a mobile workforce management strategy:

  • Assess your current mobile readiness
  • Determine highest value mobile use cases for your business
  • Identify the types of employees and managers that need to use mobile apps
  • Select mobile apps that integrate seamlessly with your workforce management solution
  • Use partners as needed for mobile guidance, implementation, management and support
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ACA Readiness – Can your existing systems get you started?

According to today’s Bloomberg article on the March US Job report: “Some companies are struggling to make do with fewer workers…  Employers boosted hours to meet demand. The average work week for all employees increased to 34.6 hours.” Per the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as of January 1, 2014 these workers are all considered ‘Full-time equivalent employees’ and will be eligible for healthcare coverage.

By now the ACA has likely caused concern amongst your HR and Finance teams. At best, you have been proactive and spent time and resources learning about the new regulations and preparing for the imminent changes. Or, like many organizations, you may still feel completely in the dark and unsure of how to begin taking steps in the right direction. One thing to realize is that complying with ACA involves more than providing affordable healthcare coverage, and will have an impact beyond just your HR department.

Fortunately, for those companies that have automated time and attendance, HR, payroll or scheduling solutions in place, there are things you can do today to begin your compliance efforts in preparation for January 1, 2014.

Look-back period…

Do your current systems give you the necessary visibility to determine which employees are full-time or part time? One of the first things you must determine is which employees are eligible for coverage using the “look-back” period (a 3-12 month timeframe to determine which part-time employees should be reclassified as full-time). Organizations must then provide coverage for those eligible employees.

Monitoring Workforce Schedules

Can you proactively manage labor hours to influence benefits eligibility and control costs? See current hours and projected schedules to arm managers with the information they need to control hours, and enable them to make scheduling changes easily.

Strategies for addressing ACA will vary from company to company. For employees that are over 30 hours per week and currently not covered by your current plan do you a) Make them FT and add them to existing plan; b) offer them an alternative, lower cost plan; c) adjust scheduling practices to find an the right mix of full-time and part-time workers based on your labor budgets; d) pay the penalties as they are incurred?

Regardless of your strategy, your workforce management system can be a major asset to your ACA compliance and labor cost control efforts.

How do you Manage in the Moment?

No matter what industry you are in, the status quo in the workplace has changed. As organizations are running leaner, looking to maximize productivity and efficiency with their existing (or reduced) workforce, the demands on labor have sky rocketed. The combination of routine incidents like unplanned employee absences, combined with the real-time influences of online change orders, social media marketing campaigns, and even unusual weather have caused chaotic management challenges for labor managers.

How do you (or your managers) react to changing conditions in the workplace? How can you redirect labor resources instantly, when and where you need it, and still keep schedules, paycodes and labor levels accurate and up to date? How can manufacturing line managers track work-in-progress in real time, and make adjustments in mid shift to ensure maximum operational efficiency and completion of orders on time and at a high quality?

With virtually every workplace subjected to dynamic work conditions and unpredictable labor impact, the ability to manage in the moment is more important than ever; which is one reason why the iPad has infiltrated the workplace.

“Employee demand for iPad in the corporate environment remains strong, and CIOs continue to embrace iPad in an unprecedented rate. In just over a year since its debut, 75% of the Fortune 500 are testing or deploying iPad within their enterprises.” – Peter Oppenheimer; CFO, Apple April 2011

The iPad has evolved from a mobile device used to simply surf the Web, watch movies, and read ebooks into a professional, productivity-driving device used around the globe across many industries. Business managers who depend on enterprise software to do their jobs are now untethered from the confines of the back office with access to operational information wherever they are in the workplace. Businesses in turn have also realized that managers are much more productive when they can leave their office and work directly with employees and customers.

With a client-based, desktop computer application, managers are often faced with the challenge of addressing operational situations while being removed from the action – and often the reactionary changes can’t be made to the workforce management system until it’s too late to impact operations. To be most effective, managers need the ability to make informed decisions and take action on issues in real-time where and when the activity happens. Make adjustments to schedules on the fly when employees go home sick. Adjust staffing to cover visibly busy departments – or check to see if any other departments are overstaffed and can spare some coverage. View reports and drill down into information in the moment, to see how overtime is directly affecting your operations. Tablet-based analytics apps deliver on-demand visibility and insight into your workforce’s impact on business-critical metrics and trends like labor costs, sales per labor hour, overtime costs and more, allowing retail district or regional managers to make fact-based decisions from any location at any time.

Expect this trend to explode in 2013, as more and more enterprise software vendors extend their connectivity and visibility through the use of tablet applications.

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 2 – Planning

This is the second 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 2 discusses the next phase of workforce management maturity – planning.

The second phase of workforce management maturity evolution is Planning. This phase is about putting your best team on the field to try and address the challenges in managing overtime and ensuring the right amount of coverage.  Once you have automated many of the manual processes that are obstacles for your workforce, the focus should turn to deploying the right person in the right place at the right time – or in other words provide structure to the important business process of matching labor to volume.

Organizations that are in the Planning phase see the value of their workforce as beyond just an expense, and more of a resource – categories of people with certain skills & hard to retain. Similar to an asset like equipment or materials, the workforce is an important component of their business with skills and capabilities that need to be deployed the right way in order for financial objectives to be met. 

Within the planning phase are processes that drive organizational complexity. How these processes are managed can determine an organization’s maturity.  Planning how to deploy a workforce effectively begins with matching labor to volume – short-term labor planning. Based on past data and trends, they should translate business/activity volume forecasts to labor forecasts and create labor standards. This information combined with workforce constraints and requests should yield a labor schedule.

Mature organizations have typically developed sophisticated labor standards, accurate forecasts and schedule optimization capabilities that provides standardization, centralization, visibility and control. By eliminating manual scheduling processes, organizations can reduce excess labor costs from over scheduling and the quality or service level impacts of under scheduling. Overtime and supplemental labor usage is reduced and balanced schedules greatly improve staffing. Moreover, employees are much happier. The time and effort required in manual scheduling processes is eliminated, and schedules automatically adhere to rules, requests, skills, certifications, availability and experience.

How does your workforce know when they are scheduled to work next? How is the right level of coverage for each shift determined? Are employee shift requests and seniority taken into account when a schedule is created? Are there any seasonal or external influences that could impact demand on your business this scheduling period?

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 three we will review the next phase of workforce management maturity – Execute.

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.