The past decade has seen massive upheavals in how we undertake work. These changes have resulted in a new awareness of just how important efficient workforce management practices are for the smooth running of a business. This is especially the case in frontline (or ‘deskless’) workplaces where there are complex variables to navigate, including:
Disengaged and burnt-out workers
The need to create an attractive workplace for shift-based workers
The difficulties of aligning staffing needs with business priorities
Tight labour budgets
Compliance and regulatory obligations
It has never been more important to find the right balance between the amount of work to be done and the human resources required to handle that work. That’s essentially what workforce management is all about.
However, with the world changing rapidly, it pays to stay one step ahead of changing workplace dynamics. This article will help you do that by outlining several emerging workforce management trends.
Most aspects of workforce management are made easier with the aid of technology. From onboarding to roster creation and tracking time & attendance, through to payroll and almost every other touchpoint a deskless worker will have with their employer, an integrated technology ecosystem can impact the overall employee experience and boost productivity for businesses.
In 2024, workplace technology will continue to benefit from gains made in consumer technology, such as greater personalisation and AI/machine learning. Major technology trends shaping workforce management include the following:
Being able to access critical data and continue HR functions from anywhere enabled many businesses to survive through the pandemic. Cloud computing brings increased flexibility, functionality, and security – all without the high cost of hardware.
This is critical for deskless workplaces, where managers and team members are often geographically spread out, working odd hours and may have limited interactions with HR. Being able to access rosters, timesheets, payslips and make approvals on-the-go is essential. So too is the ability to see real-time updates, enabling managers to have better oversight of their workforce.
Humanforce’s Work App offers all of this functionality, proving the worth of cloud-based, mobile-driven tech many times over.
Since much of HR’s remit involves several time-consuming manual processes in areas such as onboarding, rostering, timesheet approvals, performance management, and payroll, this function is ripe for automation. Intelligent process automation can help to deliver consistent, timely experiences, a feat that many HR teams have previously struggled to achieve due to the diverse nature of the requests they manage.
Humanforce’s entire suite is geared to automating time-consuming, repetitive tasks. For example:
Our Rostering & Scheduling solution can streamline the creation of rosters by pre-populating rosters automatically and sending out updates to staff.
Similarly, timesheet approvals can be streamlined and done in bulk using our Time & Attendance suite.
Our Onboarding solution can create automated reminders for tasks to be done by new hires and other team members.
Closely tied to automation and streamlining processes is employee and manager self-service functionality. This is especially critical in deskless environments. With HR often based away from the frontline, it makes sense to empower both employees and managers to undertake foundational admin tasks.
Below is an overview of how HR self-service functionality can benefit employees, managers, and HR:
Humanforce has embedded self-service functionality across its suite. For example:
Our Core HR solution empowers workers to update their profiles, including details such as banking, tax, qualifications, and more.
Leave requests and leave balance checks can also be done via our Leave Management solution. Direct managers can also approve and track leave easily, without having to involve HR.
Data-based decision-making means making savvier decisions using data from different sources to address challenges relating to the workforce, generating insights about what might happen, as well as the actions required to address emerging issues.
To this point, HR has relied upon retrospective data to make decisions. Slowly, with the aid of technology, predictive insights are possible.
When smart reporting tools are used, this data can produce actionable insights. For example, Humanforce’s Workforce Management suite can generate reports relating to labour costs, absenteeism, tardiness, shift uptake, overtime, compliance-based worker ratios, and more. Our wider HR Management suite can also produce reports relating to engagement, diversity, wellbeing, and more.
The Humanforce platform can also draw upon data from other business intelligence systems. In the retail industry, for example, it can draw from point of sale (POS) systems to create a more accurate picture of demand peaks and troughs. This helps to make smarter rostering decisions, to ensure that shifts are never under- or over-staffed.
From attendance summaries to pay comparison reports and countless other workforce management reports, Humanforce Workforce Analytics enables HR and operations managers to make more informed, data-driven decisions. Users can utilise pre-made dashboards or create bespoke dashboards to highlight what’s most important to their organisation, understand where planned and unplanned costs are occurring, and identify opportunities for improvement.
From job application through to exit interview, the employee experience (EX) is the lens through which every experience and interaction an employee has with their organisation should be viewed. It includes a patchwork of systems, environments, conversations, relationships, benefits and rewards that all play a role in the day-to-day experience and overall journey for each employee.
The EX has several defining characteristics:
It encapsulates what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their tenure at an organisation and brings together all the workplace, HR and management practices that impact people on the job.
High employee engagement and an appealing workplace culture are the outcomes of a positive EX, but so too is greater employee advocacy, productivity and retention.
It prioritises people data and analytics. Data can be gathered through traditional engagement surveys, pulse feedback tools, a multitude of wellness and fitness apps. Data is also gathered through HR and workforce management technology, such as time and attendance and rostering (e.g. tardiness) and scheduling solutions (e,g, shift offer uptake). This data can offer insights into various outcomes that flow from a positive EX, such as engagement.
It’s an iterative process, constantly evolving and never ‘finished’.
Underpinning just about every aspect of the EX is technology. Keeping in mind that technology is an enabler and not a standalone solution to a better EX, workers want technology that is:
Personalised. It should be able to take consider past user history and current circumstances (i.e. current role) and potentially make suggestions and recommendations for the future. This concept is borrowed from consumer retail and entertainment platforms like Amazon or Netflix.
In the workplace, for example, Humanforce’s Rostering & Scheduling solution can consider worker preferences for where and when they take a shift and ‘learn’ from what’s been done previously – creating a more personalised experience for each worker.
Collaborative. It needs to be interactive and embedded into the tools workers are already using, so they can interact in real-time and more efficiently access the information required to do their jobs.
Humanforce’s Work App, for example, ensures that workers can check rosters, bid on available shifts, and communicate with peers and managers from anywhere on their mobile devices.
Flexible. Deskless workers undertake work from multiple locations, at different times. They may not have access to desktop computers or laptops. However, they do invariably have access to a mobile phone. That means they can access what they need from anywhere at any time, including clocking in and out of work shifts.
Humanforce’s Time & Attendance solution offers flexible options to suit any business, such as on-site kiosks or mobile QR Clocking. Innovations such as finger vein scanning, facial recognition and geo-fencing also help offer greater flexibility and accuracy for deskless workers.
Seamless. Employees want single-sign-on access to multiple HR services that may rely on other departments for information, and integrated access to onboarding, payroll, schedules and rosters, benefits, and performance management.
A ‘best-in-one’ human capital management (HCM) suite like Humanforce offers solutions for almost every area of HR management, combining the depth of features expected in best-of-breed tools with the power and convenience of an all-in-one suite.
Intuitive. Work tech shouldn’t require a training module or lengthy instruction manual. Intuitive solutions that rely on AI and machine learning to constantly improve based on previous interactions with users is something that all technology providers, including Humanforce, are working on.
From smarter team scheduling to easier clocking on and off, through to faster onboarding and simplified manager approval processes, the right workforce management software solutions can make a significant difference to employee engagement and productivity, and even their health and wellbeing.
How can HR ensure delivery of their services and value proposition keeps pace with the dramatic changes happening in the workplace? One suggestion is to adopt agile work practices. Research from Gartner suggests that 74% of HR leaders believe agile management is a way to achieve better alignment with and impact on business stakeholders.
At its core, agile HR is about iterative development and testing. Instead of waiting for a perfectly formed HR initiative to be launched, a process of constant improvement and feedback means that early prototype initiatives will grow and develop. Agile methods are typically faster and more flexible, allowing HR to adapt more effectively to changes in their environment.
Agile workforce management is vital in 2024. If workforce management is defined as having the right capability within your workforce to align with and meet business objectives, it’s clear there are benefits to agile workforce management. With skills shortages rampant, employee burnout impacting productivity and available staffing levels, new regulations and government compliance requirements constantly being introduced, and the need to adapt to new employee expectations about work, HR should be able to adjust their strategies and approaches quickly.
Agile workforce management is about looking at your workforce needs through the following lenses:
The right size – How many people are required at any given time? Is it possible to base this off historical data to better align staffing level with expected demand?
The right location – Are they in the right place geographically, are they in the right place structurally – i.e. the mix of workers and managers?
The right time – Are employees at their workplace at the point of time that they’re needed and for the duration required to meet business needs?
The right cost – Are labour costs constantly blowing out due to under-staffing and the need to fill vacancies with agency staff, or is too much overtime being required?
The right risk – Certain industries require mandated hours to be worked. This might be due to complex staff to patient ratios in hospitals or staff to child ratios in childcare centres, to cite two examples. What are the risks of not meeting those obligations? Think in terms of financial risk (fines, etc.) and reputational risk.
The right shape – This works on multiple levels, from the fore-mentioned ratios of managers to staff, to the right mix of full-time, part-time and casual workers, and even in terms of diversity – are the rostering processes biased with the same groups of people receiving the most sought-after shifts over and over again? What are some diversity targets to be aiming for? Is there a level of gender parity to reach?
Workforce management software plays a key role in all of the above. For example:
Humanforce Rostering & Scheduling enables HR and operations managers to take all staff requirements, their leave requests, availability and qualifications into consideration when building out rosters. It can also build demand-driven rosters by factoring in business intelligence about when demand peaks and troughs occur based on historical data.
Our templates allow for the creation of a base roster with a standard pattern of shifts, and shift bidding empowers staff to take control of their schedules. The ability to make shift offers via text message means staffing gaps can be filled quickly and effectively, without managers having to scramble with phone calls and messages to available staff. The impact of unplanned absences – always a challenge for frontline managers – is minimised as employees can bid on and accept shifts as they come up.
Humanforce Time & Attendance can also help with agile workforce management. For example, in the stadia and events industry, employees may enter a large venue via a number of ‘muster points’ and then need to walk some distance to their actual starting point for work.
Employers need to be able to see that employees are on-site but not have them clock-in to claim paid work until they arrive at their work location. Humanforce Time & Attendance offers dedicated functionality for stadia workers. Wrist bands can be printed at check-in and may be used for more accurate clocking, in addition to providing POS access as required.
Humanforce’s Onboarding solution ensures that new hires get up to speed quickly with a paperless onboarding experience. Pre-boarding means employers can easily capture key employee data regarding personal, tax and bank details, and new starters can be entered into rosters immediately upon joining the organisation.
From there, onboarding processes can be tailored based on employee role and experience level – for example, potentially reducing redundant steps for more experienced staff. By digitising the onboarding process, hospitality employers can provide a better employee experience, while ensuring all compliance obligations are met.
Predictive analytics are shaping how we use and interact with technology. Driven by breakthroughs in consumer technology, which helps apps like Spotify identify what music we like to listen to, and make suggestions based on that knowledge, technology used in the workplace is also adopting predictive analytics to improve the employee experience.
At its core, predictive analytics learns from existing data to forecast individual behaviour. It analyses historical data and outcomes to anticipate what might happen in the future. For workforce management, the impact of predictive analytics can be profound.
The creation of demand-driven rosters is perhaps the most obvious example of the power of predictive analytics in a workforce management setting.
For employers in retail and hospitality – and any business with demand-driven variables – it’s important to understand your demand curve of sales and service and roster accordingly to more effectively handle both busier and quieter times.
If you have high sales on a Monday, but this decreases over the week, you can schedule staff accordingly. The same applies to public holidays, seasonal times like Christmas, and industry-specific surges that will spark a surge in demand, such as sporting events.
Smart, AI-driven rostering tools will take all that knowledge onboard, as well as worker preferences and availability, and help managers create optimised rosters.
Well-integrated software solutions are critical here. The more data you have in your system, the more effectively you will be able to predict your demand curve and create rosters to match demand.
The Humanforce suite presents robust integration capabilities, bringing together payroll, workforce management, and other business intelligence systems based on event data, as well as occupancy, foot traffic or point of sale (POS) data, to help create an interconnected ecosystem. This ecosystem allows businesses to seamlessly link different sources of data to help create more efficient rosters.
The HR department deals with vast amounts of employee and financial data – all of which must be accurate, secure, and compliant.
The data explosion has unfortunately also resulted in a dramatic increase in cybersecurity threats. A study by the World Economic Forum in 2023 found:
91% of surveyed organisational leaders believe that a far-reaching, catastrophic cyber event is at least somewhat likely in the next two years
43% of leaders think it is likely that in the next two years, a cyberattack will materially affect their own organisation
Humanforce prioritises data security and compliance for its entire suite. In summary:
Security: Humanforce’s commitment to the highest standard of data protection and risk management has been recognised by ISO 27001 Certification. This applies to our entire HCM suite, including workforce management, intelliHR, Payroll and Thrive Wellbeing. The certification process involved a rigorous evaluation of Humanforce's security practices, including its advanced technical controls and security-first approach to system design. Key elements such as robust access control frameworks, meticulous risk management, and unified encryption practices were assessed to ensure the highest level of security for customer data.
Cybersecurity is not ‘set and forget’. You need a technology partner like Humanforce that remains vigilant and has an evolving plan to future-proof against cyber criminals. When choosing a technology partner, it’s critical to check that they utilise a security protocols that can guard against unauthorised access and detect malicious software.
From the rise of predictive analytics to a stronger focus on cybersecurity and the uptake of agile workforce management practices, through to continuous refinements to the employee experience, 2024 will continue to bring new challenges and opportunities for businesses.
Regardless of your industry or business type, good workforce management practices will always be key to providing a competitive advantage. Having the right people in the right location, undertaking the right work will never fall out of favour – and it’s only possible with the help of workforce management software.
For more on how Humanforce can help your company with workforce management practices in a challenging world, get in touch today. We’ll be happy to set up a free, personalised demo.