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.

Transportation

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

 

 

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

Seeing Through the Clouds

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

Nobody will deny that the adoption of cloud computing is continuing to grow rapidly for organizations both large and small. In a recent webinar reviewing technology game changers for workforce management, consultants at market research firm the SMB Group noted that cloud computing is quickly becoming “the new normal.” In fact, the SMB Group suggests that 31 percent of small- and mid-size organizations already use cloud business solutions, and that this percentage is expected to increase to 43 percent over the next year.

Based on the buzz and hype surrounding anything cloud-related, we can all likely identify the cloud as a business application model that frees organizations from the burden of deploying and managing systems locally. But consider this: 15 years after the launch of Salesforce.com (the poster child for cloud applications), sales force automation applications are still only around 40% penetrated by the cloud. ERP is less than 10% in the cloud.

This suggests that some SMB organizations still might not understand how the cloud works, where it’s applicable or how they can benefit. For these newbies, one of the best definitions of cloud computing – albeit a very high-level definition – was delivered thanks to this guy:

edisonSo how in the world is Thomas Edison related to cloud computing? The evolution of the electric power plant is surprisingly similar to the transition to cloud computing. Here’s how…

Edison had developed a superior light bulb, but he faced a major problem: generating electricity. At that time, every individual business had its own on-premise power plant to power all its machines, and steam-powered electricity generators weren’t exactly easy to install or manage. Many companies employed a “chief electricity officer” focused on how to generate their own electricity on their own private infrastructure. (Sounds kind of like an on-premise software deployment, doesn’t it?)

So in an effort to promote his light bulbs and other appliances (because Edison was just as good at promoting as he was at inventing), Edison set out to develop an electric grid to supply homes and businesses with electricity. In 1882, he opened the first central power plant to distribute electricity. Pearl Street Station in New York City offered people the opportunity to pay directly for electricity delivered to them via uncomplicated, low-maintenance wires, completely eliminating the smoke-blowing generators, along with the coal and workers required to run them.

A year later, the Pearl Street Station was serving 513 customers with 10,164 electric lamps. Edison had even invented a meter to allow customers to be billed for energy proportional to consumption. Within a few years, an efficient way to transmit electricity over long distance was implemented. [This resulted from the George Westinghouse/Thomas Edison “Battle of the Currents,” but alas, that’s a history lesson for another day.]  Electricity could now be efficiently produced centrally at a low cost and then distributed all over the country.

A single power plant can support many customers who can use the power in any way they like. The power plant charges each customer separately based on their usage. There’s a much higher level of service than an on-premise power plant could ever provide – all at a lower cost. (Now THAT sounds like cloud computing!)

On-premise data centers will soon become just as unnecessary as an on-premise power plant. With a cloud delivery model, customers can license the software and support they want to use without installing or maintaining any software or hardware. The application can be subscribed to and accessed over the Internet so that customers don’t need to install and manage the physical product on their own, which simplifies maintenance and support. There are no upfront capital expenses, no on-premise hardware, and no burden of managing the database or applications. So working in the cloud allows your company to be nimble, efficient and cost-effective.

video

To learn more about cloud computing and the benefits of this application delivery model, check out this short video developed by the Creative team at Kronos. And if you want the full story on how we can link Edison to cloud computing, read The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr.

Unlocking the Big Value of Big Data

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

There’s been so much overuse and misuse of the term “Big Data” that it can be difficult to understand exactly how Big Data can help solve specific business issues. Many organizations are simply drowning in a sea of unorganized information, unable to leverage its full potential.

When it comes to workforce management, the problem isn’t just collecting the data; the real challenge is making the data easier to access and understand so that you can easily identify and resolve workforce challenges. To generate value –whether that’s decreased overtime, cost savings, a more productive workforce, or simply improved day-to-day operational management — you need to combine data with effective analysis and take action based on information-driven decisions. In other words, you need to bring order to the chaotic data for it to have any value.

It’s not just what you look at, but how you look at it

The Workforce Analytics dashboard provides on-demand visibility for KPIs in critical categories like overtime, absence, scheduling, productivity, staff fatigue and timeliness.
The Workforce Analytics dashboard provides on-demand visibility for KPIs in critical categories like overtime, absence, scheduling, productivity, staff fatigue and timeliness.

After workforce data is gathered, it needs to be viewed in context. The first step is to find a technology solution that has the ability to integrate multiple sources of data and present a consolidated view of relevant information to end users without eliminating the ability to dive down into details when needed. Your Big Data strategy needs to incorporate a workforce management solution that can provide on-demand visibility for KPIs in critical categories like overtime, absence, scheduling, productivity, staff fatigue and timeliness.

It’s important to ensure that front line managers can interact with the data they need to make decisions – even when they’re away from their desks. (See Workforce Tablet Analytics at http://www.kronos.com/labor-analysis/workforce-tablet-analytics.aspx.) Don’t assume that more reports are the simple solution to Big Data challenges. Traditional reports don’t yield necessary insight because they’re created in rigid, purposefully inflexible formats to present standard answers to straightforward, repetitive questions. Traditional reports reflect simple information points without any context. For example, a traditional report can tell you that OT is above expectations, but you can’t tell why. Was it bad scheduling? Increased demand? But a true analytics solution enables you to work with your data. Managers need to be able to drill into the data quickly – without combining multiple fragmented reports. When the data is viewed in context, you have actionable data so you can make the right decisions to keep cost, productivity and service on target.

Remember that data is only useful if it’s presented in such a way that decision makers can take action. An Analytics environment, unlike traditional basic reporting tools, extracts and organizes workforce data in a format that allows labor managers to easily access and work with it in the context of their business issues. Managers who have visibility to real-time status can make adjustments to better control labor costs and improve workforce productivity.

Turn data into insight

Data Visualization_Heat Map
Data visualization tools make it easier to spot trends, understand relationships and identify problem areas.

Data visualization tools, such as those available in Workforce Analytics, enable users to easily create a dashboard and visually explore workforce data using a variety of interactive charts and graphs, helping managers to find meaning in otherwise raw, hard-to-understand data. They can easily spot outliers, patterns and trends. And uncover problem areas at a glance. This kind of visual interaction is much more engaging than traditional grid reports and makes it much easier to diagnose problems, understand root causes, and take action to improve workforce performance. (Watch a demo of data visualization tools in action at http://www.kronos.com/labor-analysis/labor-analysis-software.aspx.) Used effectively, Analytics is more than a simple query and report tool; it’s a decision support system that presents actionable information so that you can continuously improve your business.

Data-driven decisions

Big Data is re-shaping the way decisions are made. Managers have traditionally made “gut-decisions,” or they rely on a trial and error approach rather than use fact-based judgments when managing their workforce. This is mostly because managers today can’t easily see how their decisions impact workforce productivity or labor costs. There is no status to guide decisions. There are no expectations – no performance targets or thresholds. Across departments or from month to month, results are unpredictable and performance is inconsistent.

But this all changes when you have data presented in the context of acceptable thresholds. You’ve now empowered managers to be accountable for workforce performance, and they know what action needs to be taken. Visibility to actionable data leads to evidence-based decision making. Now you can tap into the potential of Big Data to make intelligent decisions that lower labor costs, improve workforce productivity and boost profitability.

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.