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October 29, 2020 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

6 Workforce Management Tech Lessons We Have Learned in 2020

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted American workplaces in ways most of us never anticipated. Even organizations with well-thought-out emergency plans have found themselves struggling to keep up with the realities of the new working world.  

Technology is one area that has been laid especially bare by the pandemicEmployers are adapting to a variety of new working structures and schedules, whether that means reorganizing workspaces to maximize distancing, managing employees working from home and other remote locations, instituting flexible scheduling for working parents, or any of the other unexpected changes we’ve come up against this year. Reliable, up-to-date tech solutions are more vital to daily operations than ever before. Businesses that let themselves fall behind the curve on workplace technology before the crisis are finding themselves at a serious disadvantage. Let’s take a look at a few key tech lessons organizations can take from 2020. 

Expanding Your Tech Orbit 

No one can say for sure what the business landscape will look like in the coming years, but for the time being, most experts agree that many of the adaptations we’ve made during the pandemic will become regular elements of our working lives rather than temporary adjustments. HR, operations, and facilities management professionals are increasingly looking for long-term solutions instead of stop-gap measures. That has required an unexpected level of new investment in IT tools and services, another trend that is expected to continue for quite some time. From touch-free time clock systems to mobile apps to better-quality video tools, the pandemic has spurred rapid growth in tech tools focused on workplace safety, streamlining outdated processes, and expanding self-service options.  An unprecedented crisis often spurs unprecedented technological innovation. Employers who hope to keep pace with their competition will need to keep a sharp focus on the latest tech developments as the world figures out new ways to work. 

Thinking Long-term 

Early in the pandemic, many businesses invested in what they assumed would be temporary technology upgrades. As the months have ticked by, it has become evident that a good number of the measures we’ve taken to deal with the pandemic will be more permanent than anticipated. Rather than looking at this as a burden – having to make unexpected and often costly investments in new tech can seem discouraging during uncertain financial times – businesses can think of this as an opportunity to rectify gaps that could be more costly in the long run.  

While employers and employees have certainly both been called on to learn good deal of new technologies over the course of 2020, they have also learned to make better use of systems already in place. In a summertime survey, 58% of businesses reported that they have started using technology that they already had available but had previously abandoned or ignored. By taking advantage of existing tools and integrating them with new systems designed to address the specific challenges of the pandemic, organizations can put long-term solutions in place while still keeping costs down.  

Going Mobile 

It’s become almost a cliche to say that the future of business is mobile, but the COVID era has illustrated just how true that saying is. The most obvious application for mobile tools is remote work, where employees and employers both depend on reliable, responsive messaging and video services to keep lines of communication open. That’s far from the only area where mobility is key, however.  

Even in industries like manufacturing, construction, and healthcare, where remote work is generally not an option, mobile apps have become essential tools. Mobile reporting can improve the timeliness and accuracy of regular HR functions like time and attendance, payroll, and data analytics. App-based self-service options such as changing schedules, submitting time-off and sick leave requests, and enrolling in benefits programs make employees feel more empowered while also reducing the safety risks of performing these tasks in person. A mobile workforce management app also boosts your communication options with messaging functions and push notifications that enable real-time updates no matter where your workforce is located. 

Expanding Communications 

A lot of media attention has been devoted to the growth of the remote workforce during the pandemic. In many industries, video conferencing and messaging tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype have taken the place of conference room meetings and over-the-cubicle conversations. For companies that can work largely remotely, investing in those technologies and developing regular communications strategies are crucial. The kinds of check-ins and status updates that happen organically in a physical office setting now need to be proactively scheduled and maintained to keep employees engaged and projects on target. 

Keeping up regular communication during the pandemic is also a challenge for organizations that don’t have the option of remote workEven in settings where remote work is not an option, most employers have reduced or altered their approach to in-person meetings and one-on-one reviews. That means a greater reliance on tools like messaging apps and push notifications that allow instant communication with individual employees, select groups, or the entire organization. The pandemic has made this level of communication all the more important, as outbreaks and shutdowns require speedy notifications that will be quickly seen by every impacted employee. 

Rethink Performance Management Solutions 

The changes to workplace practices brought about by COVID-19 have required HR and operations managers to re-evaluate their evaluation processes. When work looks so much different from what we’re accustomed to, it stands to reason that the ways we assess that work need to be adjusted as well. In many cases, that means bringing everything under one umbrella with a centralized performance management system.  

Businesses that had previously allowed different departments and managers to set their own standards and metricfor success are now finding that approach cumbersome and inefficient. An automated, uniform performance management software solution keeps your operations more agile, allowing you to set goals and focus on metrics that matter most in your organization’s current reality. A customizable performance management system also enables you to provide meaningful feedback and evaluations based on employees’ current roles and duties. Since so many workers’ expectations have changed drastically since the pandemic and will likely continue to evolve in the near future, that level of flexibility is essential to providing useful evaluations. 

Make a Plan for Managing Your Tech 

The average mid-sized business employs around 185 different applicationsThat’s a lot of technology to keep track of, especially considering that some of those apps and tools are used only by specific departments. Those wide-ranging tech needs raise a number of concerns for HR administrators, including training and education, cybersecurity for third-party apps, and integration with your overall HRIS.  

The pandemic has made it more important than ever to make sure that all of your employees are on the same page, especially when they cannot be in the same place. Regular audits of the apps and programs used by your employees can help your organization weed out redundant or obsolete tech and also identify security gaps and potentially harmful apps. 

There’s no question that 2020 has been the most challenging year in memory for most organizations. One of the year’s few silver linings, though, has been a push toward new technological solutions that will help transform the way the world does business. The working world doesn’t look the same as it did not so long ago, and the transformation isn’t close to being over. By keeping on top of the latest technology and being aware of the digital gaps in their old models, organizations can position themselves for a safer, more efficient future.  

Ascentis workforce management solutions and time and attendance software can help your business fill in the digital gaps and stay prepared for the future. Make sure your business is making all changes necessary before the new year by downloading the Ultimate Checklist of Digital Transformations to Evaluate for 2021.

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With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.