Survey Says: Workforce Management, the Unsung Hero of HR

survey_says-2The passage of time is relative to the topic. When we think about our families, children, and partners, they grow and change so much in what seems like the blink of an eye, the years that pass by so quickly are expected. On the other hand, when looking back on our days at work, we are utterly shocked when we realize that we can begin to share work-related experiences in terms of decades. So, it is with some chagrin that I can honestly say that it has been more than a decade and a half since I was educated on the importance of the Workforce Management Application to an organization’s operation. Up till then, I had seen the direct value of Payroll applications, core HR data, learning solutions, and even early Talent solutions—but as a member of HR, it wasn’t until I was asked to work with the operations team for a large retail organization that I came to understand how central the Workforce Management applications were to all other areas of HR.

My previous experience was that HR primarily viewed the Workforce Management system as an extension of the time clocks—but to the operations teams, this technology was a critical tool in their ability to meet quotas, increase margins, and communicate with their workforce. It was their primary connection to employees from the corporate offices, to distribution centers, and retail environments It gave them a daily touch point with every employee in the organization. It was this system that highlighted for them when an employee was dealing with a difficult situation at home or when a work environment was becoming too stressful. It provided a venue to push daily messages and gave managers data on where they needed to hire or increase training. It was data from this environment that drove most of their requests for HR intervention. It was an important lesson I’ve tried to never forget.

In our second article for our Survey Says series, we’ve chosen to highlight the often misunderstood Workforce Management Suite and share some key findings and a few unpublished nuggets from the Sierra-Cedar 2014–2015 HR Systems Survey analysis on this topic.

There is still some debate on the actual applications that are found in a total Workforce Management Suite, but listed below are the seven key applications tracked in our Survey and the percentage of Survey respondents who have adopted these applications:

  • Time & Attendance (Labor) – 80%
  • Absences Management – 55%
  • Leave Management – 44%
  • Workforce/Labor Scheduling – 32%
  • Workforce/Labor Budgeting – 22%
  • Embedded WFM Analytics – 15%
  • Embedded WFM Social tools – 8%

In previous years, Workforce Management solutions were primarily adopted by organizations with large hourly and part-time workforces such as retail, manufacturing, and healthcare. Today, we also see organizations in other sectors (such as financial services, high-tech, and business services) with similarly high adoption levels as organizations increase the need to track time and work activities for highly skilled workforces—in addition to managing complex leave, absence, and scheduling regulations around the globe.

Workforce Management Buying Patterns
Over the years, we’ve also seen changes in how organizations are selecting and purchasing Workforce Management. Organizations are shifting from a strictly operations-driven decision, which often only focuses on the compliance and tactical elements of the technology, to a broader enterprise view that takes into consideration the strategic role of Workforce Management in achieving HR goals and outcomes. Today, 40% of Survey participants responded that their primary approach to selecting Workforce Management applications was as part of their HRM suite environment. The remaining 60% of respondents were split evenly across the approaches of selecting applications that are part of a Workforce Management Suite, part of a Talent Management Suite, point solutions, or having no strategy for selection at this time.

There seems to be less ambiguity concerning the move from licensed, on-premise Workforce Management solutions to Cloud- or SaaS-based solutions. This year’s Survey data shows 80% growth in planned adoption of SaaS WFM solutions by mid-2015.

Breaking Free from the Time Clock
We also took the opportunity to ask Survey participants what their organizations’ predominant methods were for gathering time from their employees. Individual PCs and company-wide devices (biometric, card-swipe, code) were literally neck-and-neck with just over 50% of the Survey respondents selecting both of these devices as their primary time tracking solutions. Just over 8% of organizations identified mobile devices as one of their primary solutions for time tracking, but we expect that this will increase dramatically in the next year with 24% of organization planning to adopt mobile Time and Attendance solutions by mid-2015.

Organizations have made heavy investments in their on-premise Workforce Management solutions and traditional time clocks, but the advantages of moving to more mobile-friendly solutions with reduced replacement costs are creating opportunities for enhancements that many organizations can no longer ignore.

WorkforceMgmt-sidebarWhy should we care?
Run separately, Workforce Management solutions can help an organization stay in compliance and run efficiently. Those organizations with higher-than-average adoption of all Workforce Management applications are:

  • More strategic – 68% more likely to be viewed by all levels of management as contributing strategic value to their organization.
  • More mature – their average HR process maturity level is 2.6 versus 2.2 on a three-point scale.
  • More automated – they adopt almost twice as many overall HR applications.

But we wanted to see if these solutions also correlated to an increase in specific business, HR, or talent outcomes as well. The answer was yes and no; we found that a combination of solutions that made a difference. We found a link between organizations leveraging full suites of Workforce Management, Talent Management, and Business Intelligence tools and improved HR, talent, and business outcomes across ALL possible outcomes. It isn’t surprising to see a few outcomes improve—but it is rare to see all 14 outcomes that we track annually improve.

For me, this finding brought some clarity to another issue that we’ve struggled with for several years in the HR community: finding the real business impact of Talent Management solutions. It was easy to show indirect cost savings and improved engagement metrics when implementing Talent Management solutions, but these were often less relevant to our business partners. It is the Talent Management/Workforce Management data connection that turns the conversation from an HR discussion to a strategic operations discussion. When Workforce Management is elevated from a transactional system to the same level of strategic importance as an organization’s Talent Management solution, HR has the tools they need to optimize the workforce.

Visit our website for more “Survey Says,” as we’ll be sharing more nuggets each month from the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey. Our Survey is deployed May through July each year; for more information, please click here.

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