If constant change is the new normal, it means that in 2024 we can expect more upheavals in the world of work. That’s why, for any HR or operations professional with workforce management (WFM) responsibilities, having a WFM strategy, setting goals and building a plan to achieve those goals will be critical.
Not only are you responsible for managing rosters and staying within a set labour budget, but you must also meet regulatory, reporting, and budgeting requirements and drive business outcomes that are crucial for the success of your organisation.
Thankfully, technology can help. Indeed, managing these challenges without the support of a robust digital workforce management solution is an uphill battle.
This article will help guide you through your workforce management goals in 2024. We identify key industry trends, including WFM goal setting best practice, and the importance of taking an employee-centric approach to workforce strategies, where the needs of your employees are always prioritised.
It's difficult to take your people-related projects to new heights without first knowing where you're headed and what the end result will look like.
For example, some businesses that are currently struggling with workforce management for frontline workers may be struggling to simply find enough skilled workers, let alone ensure they are being used as effectively as possible. It’s also possible that manual processes like paper timesheets are being utilised – costing valuable time and resources.
Alternatively, recent M&A activity may have resulted in a consolidation of multiple systems and people processes, adding unnecessary complexity to day-to-day operations.
For other businesses, compliance and reporting obligations may be increasing, adding to the administrative burden for managers and HR. For these organisations, it might be time to consider upgrading existing WFM software to manage complicated tasks and integrate business intelligence like POS systems to accurately set staffing numbers and produce real-time reports.
Humanforce, for example, has a dedicated Workforce Analytics solution that helps managers and HR make more informed decisions supported by real-time, data-driven evidence. In-built reports covering project costs, tardiness reporting, hours worked to hours rostered ratios, causes of unauthorised timesheets, and more can improve visibility of what’s happening across your business and show where planned and unplanned costs are occurring.
All of these factors alter the steps that will be right for your organisation going forward.
In 2024, a strategic workforce management plan will typically:
Be based on in-depth analysis of the organisation and the external environment. An analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) can be useful to understand where the business currently sits and where it might head in the future
Take more than one year to implement and execute. However, it’s not ‘set and forget’; course corrections should be done as circumstances and priorities change
Shape the character and direction of HR management activities, including the key roles (and skillsets) that will be required to execute the plan
Help in the allocation and deployment of organisational resources (i.e. money, time, personnel)
Be numbers and data-driven
It’s just as critical to ensure any WFM technology investments will support – and help achieve – the strategic goals of your organisation. This needs to be clearly articulated in the business case for new technology.
By adopting a WFM goal-setting best practice approach, it means that, as time passes, you'll know whether you're on track or need to course-correct to meet your target outcomes.
Any goals set should be SMART. That is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Defining these parameters as they pertain to your goal helps ensure that your objectives are attainable within a certain time frame.
Business-oriented WFM goals relating to the use of technology in action could look like this:
We aim to switch 90% of our paper-based timesheets to automated and electronically signed timesheets by 2026 by moving teams from five geographic locations onto the software each month, thereby saving up to 20% on labour costs and reducing manual reworks.
We will implement a unified compliance dashboard in our business operations department and provide training within 12 months. We'll achieve this by onboarding the software in 60 days and training 8 people each week. The dashboard will provide us with WFM Analytics to drive data-based decision-making and reduce compliance-related breeches.
Within the next 6 months we will give our staff the ability to swap shifts and bid on shifts so that they feel more empowered. Doing so will result in increased engagement, a 20% increase in shift uptake without requiring manager input, and a 25% decrease in ‘no shows’ – thus putting less pressure on rostered staff and delivering superior customer service.
Within the next 12 months, we will reduce time spent on timesheet approvals. At present, our frontline workforce team of 25 people each work 3 shifts per week. That means our manager has 75 timesheets to approve each week, and each timesheet takes 2 minutes to check, on average. Our manager also spends 20 minutes following up on missing timesheets, errors, sick days and other discrepancies. With automated clocking and authorisation by exception, the need to manually review timesheets will be reduced. This means all that’s left is the 20 minutes needed to review unexpected issues – a saving of 2.5 hours of admin time each week.
With the labour market so tight in 2024, it’s crucial that any WFM strategy prioritises the needs of your employees. What are their pain points? Where can improvements be made to their day-to-day activities? Is there a danger of burnout or increased absenteeism if current WFM processes continue (e.g. excessive overtime)?
There’s a strong correlation between new technology and the employee experience (EX) – and by extension, employee engagement. Research from Emergence Capital found that 23% of HR professionals said improving the EX was the reason for investing in new technology, second only to productivity (33%).
Providing shift workers with flexibility and autonomy to choose their own work hours are amongst the biggest contributors to engagement.
The best leaders care about their employees' happiness and want to see them thrive. They're also aware that staff engagement can impact the bottom line. Research from Gallup suggests that highly engaged business units can achieve:
A 41% reduction in absenteeism
A 17% increase in productivity
A 10% increase in customer ratings
A 20% increase in sales
Therefore, you might want to consider an improvement to employee engagement as a WFM goal. Even a minimal improvement of 5-10% can make a difference.
Goal prioritisation in WFM projects is the next vital step. While seeing a positive return on investment in the shortest amount of time is always desired, some of the above goals have longer timeframes and it may not be possible to address all goals immediately.
Prioritising goals also ensures there are no conflicting tasks or resourcing issues. Once you have achieved these goals, the next group of goals can be worked on. This approach will give your team razor-sharp focus and avoid overwhelming them, which also increases your odds of success.
Communication during WFM projects, including the adoption of WFM technology, plays a huge role in achieving buy-in from employees and other stakeholders. Part of this is about creating psychological safety and confidence in the tools being used – and the key to that is not just support and training, but transparency and two-way feedback.
Leaders should be continuously sharing information across the organisation so that everyone affected feels like a part of the ongoing journey. Also remember that frontline workers have daily contact with customers and may be the first to notice new issues. If they can share their observations and insights, it benefits the whole organisation.
However, it’s also important to outline why decisions are being made. 2023 research from specialist training organisation Axonify revealed that 58% of frontline workers said that key communication wasn’t reaching them, and 68% of frontline managers agreed. Those results indicate that if decisions are being made about things like technology, they are not being communicated effectively to frontline workers.
In any WFM initiative, including the adoption of WFM technology, never forget to communicate the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor. All your stakeholders, including employees, will want to know:
How will this new approach or new technology solve my challenges?
How will it help me perform better?
What are the tangible benefits for me in my daily job?
How will it affect my team, my customers, my suppliers, etc?
Here are 5 tips for effective WFM goal setting.
Assess where you stand today.
It's crucial you take some time to assess where you currently stand in terms of workforce management. What are the key talent-related challenges your organisation faces (e.g. high turnover, low engagement)? Do you have enough staff to fill shifts? Do you find you are constantly under-resourced and have to rely on agency staff to fill those shifts? What’s the split between full-time, part-time and casual/agency workers? Are staff having to commit to large amounts of overtime? Just as critically, how is all of this managed? With manual spreadsheets and paper-based timesheets? A talent and technology audit will help you to map your current future needs.
Clarify why your business needs new technology (i.e. your reasons for change and expected ROI).
From organisational priorities to budgets, through to the level of technology maturity, every business is different. However, there are often common themes that can guide decisions about investing in WFM technology. For example, it may simply be that your current software is outdated and no longer has the functionality your organisation needs. It may be that it’s not cloud-based, making upgrades costly and time consuming. It may be that the team behind it are no longer providing customer support. Or it may be that it provides a poor user experience, which is discouraging people from using it.
Align with the business strategy.
Any HR and technology strategy must run in lockstep with the overarching business strategy. Business growth is often the first casualty when this does not occur. What would happen if an aged care business aimed to open two new regional residential aged care facilities in the coming 12 months? Given the acute skills shortage in this sector, where would employees be found? How will technology help to optimise the use of your existing human resources, or will additional staff need to be found?
Embed goals into any change management plan.
Having landmarks throughout any WFM initiative, plan or project can help ensure it’s on track and delivering what’s expected. For example, most WFM tech rollouts will take a phased approach, starting with a pilot group in one location or one department. The pilot group will provide feedback and make suggestions before a broader rollout starts. A phased approach also means that participants must complete the preceding phase before moving to the next. This structured approach ensures everyone is onboard and can move forward together, even if some people may need extra support or training. Embedding goals and milestones also helps managers recognise the small wins along the way, which can give a boost to the overall project and its participants.
Treat change as a journey, not a destination.
A WFM strategy is never ‘set and forget’. It requires constant monitoring and adjusting to ensure it continues to meet business needs. In a rapidly changing world, it may be necessary to revisit the WFM strategy quarterly. Technology implementation is also never set and forget. Mistakes will be made and delays will occur. Treat these as learning opportunities for future projects. A continuous improvement approach is best as there are always new users, refresher courses to run, new features to learn about and implement, and so on.
Your people are your organisation’s greatest asset, yet they are also a significant expense. It has never been more important to manage your workforce effectively.
Selecting the right technology and choosing the right vendor will undoubtedly have a major impact on your WFM strategy in 2024. The methodology and approach taken by Humanforce is based on increasing the rate of adoption of the new system and embedding your standard procedures into the Humanforce solution.
The most critical aspect is the people involved in the project and ensuring that engagement of key stakeholders is sustained throughout the implementation and even beyond the timeframe of the project. Human-centred design is fundamental to our approach. We aim to understand your business, your goals, and your processes to ensure the change is well-managed and the system configuration delivers a high-quality solution.
Contact us to see how we can help your organisation.