Tech is a critical enabler to driving a culture of action and efficiency. The right combination of tech and talent can help companies build a competitive advantage. Likewise, a great workforce strategy can help unlock the potential of people in the future of work. Here is how organisations can move towards success by investing in a strategically aligned workforce technology.
Key challenges for workforce management and planning
With the onset of the pandemic, organisations face a core talent conundrum – ‘how to make the best of what you have?’. The healthcare sector faced challenges from the availability of the healthcare workforce to utilising talent optimally with no fatigue to ensuring appropriate motivation in uncertain environments. As SV Kiran, CHRO, Apollo Hospitals, shares, “Our primary driving principle is our patients, whatever we do is around the patient. Hence, making the right workforce available at the right time, at the right place, with the right skills and abilities, while always having a stand back for attending emergencies, is critical to drive a patient-first culture”.
Workforce management involves a day-to-day outlook on optimally allocating scarce resources to deliver the best outcomes, believes Sumeet Doshi, Country Manager, UKG India. To unlock real-time visibility to the operations is especially challenging in today’s multi-format work formats. But workforce management technology will help drive fairness and equity in the organisation so that employees start feeling the organisation is just.
The new age of workforce management
With new scenarios coming up post-pandemic and huge volumes and businesses in hospitals, getting real-time visibility to talent became critical. Apollo Hospitals found solutions to this in 2019 by enabling mobile apps and data on tabs so that people could access information anytime, anywhere. Managers knew their people’s availability, such as those who could not travel due to lockdown, those who were Covid-positive etc. This daily visibility helped them schedule people and manage operations despite huge fluctuations. Attrition came down due to optimal utilisation and no over-use of people. The workforce management system thus enabled transparency, inner compliance, and enhanced productivity. This was possible due to the right blend of tech and talent.
How to leverage tech for workforce management?
Having the right workforce management technology means understanding the complexities of managing a diverse and distributed workforce. HR has to move away from one-size-fits-all policies, which cannot be done manually. Sumeet says workforce management technology can create a unique work rule for every employee, i.e., a hyper-personalized experience. However, to drive usage and adoption, adequate change management is a must:
- Communication strategy to showcase the ‘WIIFM’: In setting up the Guwahati hospital, Apollo created a communication strategy kick-off weeks before with go-live teasers about what was coming in and how it impacted people’s life positively. “We started talking to people about how we would make their life easy by accessing information 24*7 from anywhere through the mobile app, and better plan their life with factual data available at their fingertips”, says Kiran. It is about creating a sense of ‘this will help me’ and getting people to open up.
- Training: Devise a multi-pronged training strategy with train-the-trainer, then train-the-employees, starting with what is most relevant for them.
- Availability and access: Hand-hold people and give them solutions when they are stuck. HR and IT team members were made available to people and were engaging them through their tech journey. With different work groups, requirements are different, so personalising the experience makes people feel it is for them.
- Reward and recognition: Giving rewards for adopting tech makes people feel good about tech. “We did a 3-day workshop reiterating, and understanding the ground issues, showing them real time analytics”, shares Kiran.
- KPI-driven performance excellence: Regular tracking of KPIs to drive mechanisms such as fairness, equity, transparency, right skills, correct payment etc.
Kiran shares, “We were firm believers tech is for people, and wanted to make it easy for our Apollo family members. When everything is available at a click of a button, automatically adoption goes up”.
Designing the workforce planning construct for the modern workforce
Kiran believes that, at the core, employees want to feel wanted and cared for by their organisation. Moreover, gig workers want their skills to be utilised appropriately. Therefore, workforce strategy with fairness, transparency and trust creates an emotional pull. Apollo realised this need and started two initiatives to enhance their workforce planning, i.e. position-based budgeting and dynamic staffing, which factored in variations in terms of business, case mix, lead seasons etc. “Have a mechanism to treat gig workers at par with employees, show them the fairness and equity ”, believes Kiran. Sumeet also agrees that the key to making contract or gig employees feel a part of the organisation's fabric is to deploy such HR systems across all employees. “Workforce management brings everyone together such that employees know that they are taken care of in a right and equitable way”, says Sumeet.
The effectiveness of any HR system must be continually measured to gain business buy-in. This is especially true for workforce management because it has many inputs from diverse sources, hence the need to define and track the right performance indicators. For example, Sumeet highlights how payroll leakages stand at 1-3% with manual activities; a sound check for payroll leakages. Similarly, overtime payments connected to absenteeism can be minimised with connected systems which give more visibility and control right to the top. Another case in point is when employees take leave but don’t apply to the system, leading to unnecessary encashments. Compliance aspects related to budgets, skill availability, leave policy, on-time scheduling, over-rostering, and even late-outs, i.e. not being there when not required, are other ROI outcomes.
Workforce management thus impacts real money and productivity, apart from its qualitative benefits. In addition, it ties into fairness and equity and closely impacts employee perceptions and engagement levels.