Staffing for early Independence – Avoiding Arthur causes labor management crisis

Unpredictable weather has always been a factor in the northeast US. More often than not, the winter months are when New England especially is susceptible to weather-related interruptions of plans, traffic, school and work cancellations, etc. So when an early July hurricane unexpectedly comes barreling up the east coast, it’s a big deal. When it is scheduled to arrive on July 4th in Boston, you get a July 3 & 4, 2009 Boston July Forth Fireworks Spectacular Images by Jay Connordifferent type of fireworks…

Yesterday the city of Boston decided not to postpone its annual Independence Day celebration, which includes the outdoor concert by the Boston Pops Orchestra and massive fireworks display. Instead, the city decided yesterday, July 2nd to move the festivities up to today, July 3rd. What a nightmare for scheduling all of the labor needed to support the change.

  • Public works, city workers and vendors setting up for the tens of thousands of visitors for the fireworks lose an entire day of work, likely requiring overtime and additional staff
  • The police and transportation workers that are needed not only to support and provide security for the event but the logistics of managing the traffic. Most businesses are open in the city today (whereas many are closed on the 4th). Many roads are planned to be closed at noon today, likely causing nightmare traffic scenarios
  • The retail, dining and hospitality businesses who must also make drastic last minute schedule changes for the tourists and visitors coming in today, vs. tomorrow.schedule1

Automated scheduling can be a huge time savings here. On the fly schedule adjustments, identifying employee availability & potential restrictions, managing pending overtime costs efficiently with projected hours features are all benefits of a workforce management system with advanced labor scheduling. Even sending an “all hands on deck” text message to employees that can help fill shifts via a mobile phone is now a reality with these systems.

4th-of-july-in-boston-4So while Arthur may bring some rain tomorrow, Boston will celebrate our independence as usual. The Pops will play at the esplanade and the fireworks will light up the sky over the Charles River, thanks to the many workers scheduled to work extra hard to make it happen.

Happy 4th of July!

Kronos Compliance Court Now in Session at SHRM 2014

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

More than 14,000 HR professionals are gathered in Orlando this week for the annual SHRM Conference and Expo. As wage and hour lawsuits skyrocket, it’s no surprise that this year’s conference agenda includes more than 25 sessions focused exclusively on compliance. Here at the Kronos booth, we’re educating attendees on how workforce management solutions can help reduce compliance risk.

SHRM1Organizations of every size across every industry can be susceptible to wage and hour and other compliance violations. No company wants to be charged with criminal or legal suits. But labor laws are complex and frustratingly fluid, making it increasingly difficult to manage compliance. Consider this:

SHRM2No matter what the compliance issue, when an employee files a claim or an auditor shows up, you need to respond with confidence and speed. In our booth at the SHRM conference, we staged a “compliance court,” helping attendees to evaluate how prepared they would be for an audit or investigation:

  • Are you compliant with I-9 regulations?
  • How would you respond to an audit from the EEOC?
  • Can you ensure time cards are in accurate and complete reflection of actual hours worked?
  • What documentation do you have for your defense against wage and hour claims?
  • How will you address the variety of regulations presented by the affordable care act?
  • How do you gather enough detailed information to determine if an absence qualifies for FMLA?

Kronos Workforce Ready customer Pioneer Metal Finishing showed SHRM attendees how to successfully navigate our compliance court by being prepared with accurate workforce data. Disconnected software applications and manual processes for managing employee data – one system in HR, another in payroll, and another for time and attendance – mean your data may be out of sync and out of date. Pioneer explained that with Workforce Ready, organizations are better able to identify, monitor, and resolve compliance risk before issues have a chance to spark wildfires and result in fines or lawsuits.

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

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 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.

If Mr. Plow used mobile technology would he still be in business?

The Simpsons, "Mr. Plow". Season 4, Episode 9

Remember The Simpsons episode where Homer starts a snow plow business (Mr. Plow), which is then derailed by Barney (Plow King)? Call Mr. Plow. That’s my name. That name again is Mr. Plow.”

There’s a new commercial airing recently that highlights how a landscaping company in Minnesota is growing its business by providing snow plowing service during the winter months. Not exactly a revolutionary business model as most landscapers in the northern states outfit their trucks with a plow to make extra bucks during the winter. In fact, I actually think they have a pretty good racket going – tear up lawns and flower beds with the plows during the winter so we have to hire them back in the spring to fix them (I actually witnessed this first hand in my front yard yesterday)!

If you watch the video, it highlights how a business is leveraging mobile workforce management technology to track labor productivity. “Everyone from field workers to accounting can initiate, bill and track work in real time.” The driver can punch into work and have his location verified by GPS to track not only where he is but what project he is working on and how long it takes.

What they don’t mention is that today’s systems can also ensure that employees get paid accurately and help mitigate compliance risk by ensuring that company, state and federal policies are enforced consistently and accurately. It also missed the point that labor cost can be measured much more accurately, with the ability to measure active work time, vs inactive work time (vehicle maintenance, refueling, idle time, transit time, etc.)

This same technology is now used by state and local governments to track labor allocation to grant-funded projects. The workforce system of record allows for fast and accurate audits enabling reimbursements and new grant awards. Additionally, manufacturing lines are leveraging labor activity tracking to gain visibility into Work In Progress, and identify which lines, shifts and employees are set up for optimal production. They can also easily reconcile direct and indirect labor expense to production output.

Mobile technology is enabling unprecedented capabilities for workforce management in a number of industries. Smart phones, tablets, in-vehicle/on-board computers, point-of-sale systems and next generation time clocks all provide new levels of data collection capabilities that go well beyond employees punching in and out.