As businesses plan to return to the workplace, workforce management — the process of making sure all resources are in the right place at the right time — has become more challenging and critical than ever before.
Organizations have to adjust their approach to tasks such as employee scheduling, skills management, timekeeping, attendance tracking and labor forecasting, while keeping the health of employees paramount. While these functions were always imperative for managing non-exempt employees, many now apply to full-time, exempt populations as a way to help protect the health and safety of all employees. This represents a huge shift and creates a learning curve for leaders and employees alike. Leveraging workforce management solutions that are designed to help navigate these new challenges will be essential to success.
To keep pace with our evolving reality, employers have access to existing tools and capabilities as well as new ones being rolled out, such as touchless timeclock alternatives that leverage facial recognition and voice commands, surveys to check on employees’ health status, employee proximity tracing and more. These digital tools can go a long way in making employees feel safer while helping maintain the continuity of work.
An Enhanced Role for Workforce Management
Historically, workforce management tools have equipped businesses to run smoothly and efficiently and have helped support more accurate payroll of primarily hourly employee populations. The benefits of these systems typically include automating timekeeping and reducing errors, controlling costs by helping manage staff schedules and overtime, helping companies manage compliance across multiple states or countries, and streamlining day-to-day operations.
Workforce management has always been crucial and now it’s increasingly operationally significant as well, with employers needing to protect the health and well-being of employees and, in service-oriented industries, customers too. The extension of the role of these technologies is natural, given that they are designed to be accessed by everyone on a frequent basis. Timeclocks, mobile apps and web access are all strong vehicles for keeping people connected to one another and to important information. They allow for critical two-way communication for employers and workers.
As businesses reopen and introduce employees back into the physical workplace, these important solutions now have broader applications in fostering employee peace of mind. While every company’s approach to doing business in this new world of work will be unique, one thing is clear: workforce management has a key role to play in helping employees and customers feel safe and secure.
Applying Traditional Tools to Support Health and Safety
With everything happening in the world today, two-thirds of people report feeling uncomfortable returning to the workplace right now, according to a recent Qualtrics survey. Factors that would help them feel more comfortable include continuing to follow CDC and other health agency guidelines and setting strict policies about who can and cannot come to the work environment (for example, anyone who is sick or has traveled recently).
To meet employee demand for safety and help them return to the workplace comfortably and confidently, organizations now need to be able to monitor who among their staff is or was present and when. Some organizations may consider having all employees, including those who are exempt, clock in and out when they are in the workplace, not for the purpose of tracking hours, but in the event that employee proximity tracing is required.
Many employers are trying to reduce potential exposure by staggering shifts or having workers who can work remotely return to the workplace in a limited capacity. Scheduling solutions are designed to optimize employee schedules for coverage purposes, especially in workplaces where demand — typically in the form of customers, patients and guests — fluctuates. But any worker can be put on a schedule, even if it’s simply 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on specified days of the week, so workers know which days to report to the workplace.
To further reduce potential exposure, consider staggering shifts and assigning cohorts of workers to the new schedules. For example, set up three or more sets of start, break and end times to allow you to more easily control traffic and congestion in common areas.
Attendance and absence management have always been essential for controlling costs and maintaining productivity. But now more than ever, it’s important to have visibility into that data to help determine when an unplanned absence or an anomaly in the data could be the beginning of a trend indicating possible exposure.
When it comes to scheduling, especially in service industries, it’s all about matching staffing to consumer demand, an undertaking that has been severely impacted by evolving realities. Case in point: restaurants that are implementing limited seating and ramping up takeout and delivery services need to be careful not to under- or over-staff.
Adopting New Technologies for Further Action
Employee attestation methods have long been used in the hourly world to allow workers to validate the accuracy of their timecard, or vouch for taking their daily meal break. Now, employers are requiring both hourly and salaried employees to attest to their own health and any symptoms they may be experiencing, or potential exposure to others. Whether it is at the timeclock or on a mobile app running on their own phone, these digital health attestation surveys are now an option.
If reducing exposure to shared surfaces is a goal, employers should consider mobile apps for workforce management. This allows workers to use their own devices to clock in and out, check schedules and more, instead of using a timeclock or shared PC. Many solutions offer geo-fencing to enable you to limit where employees are allowed to clock in and out from when using their mobile device.
When using timekeeping and scheduling solutions, employee proximity tracing reports that leverage the data can yield critical insight if someone in your employee population becomes sick and you need to communicate to others that they may have been exposed. To address the spectrum of needs created by today’s unprecedented events, robust workforce management tools like ADP’s new set of return to work features, can complement existing tools to offer businesses even more capabilities to adapt to the shifting work environment.
The Big Picture: Building Long-Term Trust
As today’s workplace continues to shift and evolve in the face of a global health event, organizations must reimagine the processes and procedures in place to plan a careful return. Such moments of transformation can be difficult to navigate, but with them often comes opportunity.
How organizations manage their workforce through these uncertain times can create long-lasting trust with employees and customers and help determine their success moving forward.