August 6, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Jennifer Ho, Vice President of HR at Ascentis
Making a Business Case for Investing in Workforce Management
The old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can be a hard mindset to break. Sometimes it becomes necessary, though, because “ain’t broke” is not synonymous with “works as well as it should.” That’s often the case with workforce management solutions. Too many organizations are content to make do with a WFM system that’s merely good enough, or even managing these functions by hand. That’s largely because they don’t understand just how deeply efficient workforce management can impact productivity, profitability, and compliance in the workplace.
Selling the investment in new technology is never an easy proposition. For savvy HR professionals, making that pitch presents a unique opportunity to highlight ways that improving your organization’s workforce management system can directly address consistent problem areas that can stand in the way of organizational growth.
Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever, but in labor-driven industries like construction, healthcare, transport, and manufacturing, mobility has always been the norm. Now workforce management technology has caught up with the movements of those industries. By supplying employees with mobile apps, smart time clocks, tablets, and other employer-controlled technology, an organization can give its workforce the tools they need to stay productive wherever they work. Comprehensive online dashboards and smartphone apps make it easy for workers to access important time and attendance and human resources functions even as they travel between worksites, make home visits, or set off on a long-haul delivery.
On the administrative side, upgrading your workforce management processes can virtually eliminate time spent manually making the tweaks and adjustments that keep workers away from their regular tasks. Think about how much time and energy your HR and payroll teams spend responding to scheduling questions from confused employees, or participating in email back-and-forths while trying to correct timesheet errors. Even better, the data generated by a workforce management system provides crucial insights into the policies and processes that keep your business productive. Simple data analytics can help pinpoint specific shifts where productivity dips, scheduling and time management issues that are cutting into work hours, and persistent errors that might otherwise fall through the cracks.
While no executive needs to be reminded how quickly budget projections can be altered by outside forces, forecasting your budget as accurately as possible should be essential for any organization. Workforce management data can and should be a major element in setting a predictable and accurate budget forecast. Investing in an upgraded workforce management system with an accessible data analytics dashboard gives your organization visibility into a number of crucial insights, including:
- Year-over-year payroll spending
- Year-to-year hiring patterns
- Profit-and-loss figures
- Gross margins
Those insights can also help with setting budget forecasts by illustrating where existing templates need to be updated, showing areas of scheduling and hiring that may require greater flexibility, and illuminating issues that could be addressed with more feedback from managers and employees. All of those factors feed into determining a budget that both accurately reflects the realities of your work environment and projects the needs of your workforce.
It's an unfortunate fact that many employers simply don't know a whole lot about their workforces. While management may see figures on things like hiring, scheduling, and payroll, there is often a lack of visibility into the functions that truly keep an organization running. Without that visibility, managers may not recognize issues like lower employee engagement, gaps in skills and certifications, or ineffective schedule management. Left unchecked, those issues can contribute to losses of productivity and higher turnover rates.
Upgrading your workforce management solutions enhances your visibility into data that truly drives your workforce. That might include information such as:
- Employee skills, certification, and training
- Sources of errors and delays
- Time and attendance records, including overtime hours
- Schedule adjustments and shift changes
- Productivity levels across different shifts and teams
By developing a better understanding of your unique labor force and the skills, experience, and culture that makes them work, your organization can better understand your capabilities, your growth potential, and the areas where you need improvement.
Compliance and Risk Mitigation
Workforce management represents a huge area of potential compliance risks. From processing FMLA leave requests to managing overtime pay in accordance with FLSA rules to negotiating state and local payroll tax laws, your workforce management efforts come up against a broad range of rules and regulations on a daily basis. When you take into account the complex union rules that many employers in fields like manufacturing, construction, transport, and healthcare need to abide by, handling risk mitigation manually begins to look like a recipe for trouble.
Automating functions like scheduling, time and attendance, and payroll processing using software that checks your processes against all applicable laws, regulations, and union rules not only saves your management team the considerable time and effort that would otherwise go into those functions. It also automates standard procedures that safeguard your business against the sizable fines, lawsuits, and reputational damage that come with compliance violations. In an era of increasingly complex workforce structures, that peace of mind is priceless.
Direct Cost Savings
Saving money is almost always the primary hook when pitching a new investment, and workforce management offers plenty of angles on that front. Demonstrating the ways that automating functions like time and attendance, scheduling, fraud detection, and payroll can save a business time and money is fairly straightforward. By taking the time spent on easily automated processes off the plates of your HR team, your business can reduce the time spent on menial and repetitive tasks and free up skilled workers to focus on tasks that make better use of their talents.
Even though this may seem like a relatively simple pitch, it pays to come to the table prepared to go into detail about exactly how a proposed WFM solution can save the business money. While some C-suite executives will prefer a big-picture overview and be turned off by an overly detailed explanation, others will want an in-depth breakdown of what exactly they’ll be getting for their money. It’s important to be able to read the room and be prepared to give the pitch the situation demands.
Indirect Cost Savings
There are also a good number of less obvious — and possibly more compelling — cost-cutting cases to be made for a new WFM investment, however. In a recent SHRM article, HR authority Art Mazor notes that "The business case should be about unlocking value rather than just saving money by itself." While all of the above-mentioned features make a strong case for immediate cost-saving, a robust workforce management suite offers many more subtle opportunities to reduce spending in the long run. Some of those might include learning management systems that help workers develop new skills and certifications on the job, or fine-tuned recruitment tools that improve retention rates by helping you hire workers better suited to each role.
For example, in industries like healthcare and manufacturing where reducing turnover is a consistent priority, demonstrating the ways in which a WFM solution can help measure and boost employee engagement has enormous value to C-suite executives. Research shows that employee self-service tools that allow workers to take actions like clocking in and out, adjusting schedules, swapping shifts and submitting time-off requests via a mobile app give employees a greater sense of empowerment. Those are seemingly small factors that can play a big part in retaining quality employees and reducing hiring costs.
HR is an operational arm that touches nearly every area of a business. That can be a great advantage when pitching workforce management tools to a multifaceted organization. A system-wide WFM suite helps to integrate related functions like payroll, scheduling, reporting, benefits administration, and more. That kind of cross-channel visibility makes it easier for teams to communicate their needs and concerns to each other and reduces the risk of human error and duplicated efforts.
For example, instituting more robust scheduling software might at first glance seem to be of interest primarily to HR managers. From a more holistic perspective, though, more advanced scheduling processes relate directly to payroll administration, which should pull CFOs and other finance professionals into the conversation. At the same time, upgrading those functions also creates less of a burden on IT staff, which should be of interest to a CIO. By being prepared to present WFM software as a true cross-platform solution that impacts the entire organization, you should be able to boost buy-in from all corners of the C-suite.
As much as we’d like to believe that an upgraded workforce management system should essentially sell itself, the truth is that it will often require some finesse when pitching to high-level decision-makers. By focusing on direct and indirect cost-saving, the changing nature of American workplace, and the holistic benefits to your entire organization, you can better your chances of connecting with the executives.
Find out more about the many ways Ascentis workforce management solutions can improve operations at every level of your business, from the C-suite to management to front-line employees.
Jennifer joined Ascentis as VP of HR in 2018. She is a human resources leader with more than 10 years experience developing and growing multi-faceted human resource strategies. Prior to Ascentis, Jennifer led human resources departments for several high growth technology businesses, and has a wealth of experience in talent acquisition, training and development, compensation and benefits, and process improvement. Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Management from Minnesota State University, Mankato.