What's Ahead: The Transformation of Your Workforce into a Strategic Asset

This is part of a special advertising section on What's Ahead for HR Leaders.

Friday, April 1, 2011
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The single most significant expense for almost every business is labor. Over the last 50 years, the prevailing management perspective on labor has undergone a dramatic shift. Labor, once viewed as a cost center or expense, is now considered a company's most important asset. The growth of human-capital-management technologies can, in part, be viewed as industry's effort to harness its most important resource.

However, only recently have HCM solutions become integrated, sophisticated and powerful enough to deliver on what businesses have sought for so long: the transformation of human resources into a strategic asset.

Traditional HCM solutions, such as payroll and benefits administration, improve back-office activities, and workforce-management solutions such as scheduling, time-and-attendance and labor budgeting improve frontline business activities. The automation and integration of workforce-management solutions can have a significant, immediate and proactive impact on business performance.

Workforce-management solutions that use today's best technologies and practices can help companies maintain compliance with complex regulations, optimize workforce deployment and improve operational predictability. By providing companies with the ability to embed corporate objectives into the planning, scheduling and measurement of their workforces, managers can gain a better, more immediate understanding of how their daily workforce decisions proactively impact ongoing corporate performance.

Typical Company, Typical Workforce-Management Solution

Consider the fictitious company Retail Electronics, a national electronics retailer operating 100 stores across the United States. RE has state-of-the-art back-office HR operational solutions with fully integrated recruiting, payroll processing, benefits administration and self-service solutions. But RE's front-line activities are managed using a variety of stand-alone manual and automated processes.

In summary, RE has automated time-and-attendance, cash register and store traffic systems, but none of these systems are integrated. Store scheduling is the responsibility of store managers, who use a variety of manual methods to create each store's weekly employee schedule. RE provides store managers with specialized training to ensure they use several best practices when creating store schedules.

For instance, store managers are provided with detailed store traffic and store sales information. RE also provides store managers with periodic target store sales and labor quotas. In addition, store managers must have familiarity with appropriate local, state and federal labor laws. Most store managers spend approximately four hours per week creating and maintaining store schedules. RE's higher-than-average store manager turnover rate costs the company approximately $200,000 per year (for recruiting, hiring and completing the onboarding process for new store managers).

A Workforce-Management Solution Using HR as a Strategic Asset

Today, RE can use a fully automated and integrated workforce-management solution to transform its workforce into strategic business partners. A complete workforce-management solution integrates time-and-attendance, scheduling, labor budgeting, and sales and store traffic information with a built-in knowledge of complex local, state and federal labor laws into an easily used, easily deployed application. In summary, store managers can use a graphical user interface to complete complex store scheduling in less than 30 minutes per week, freeing up 3.5 hours per week to meet with customers and increase sales.

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Corporate objectives and targets become more visible at the store level, allowing store managers to make better decisions and maintain alignment across all of RE's locations. Because the workforce-management solution is fully automated, networked and online, RE store managers and management have immediate metrics on all aspects of front-line activities allowing for the elimination of reactive steps that led to issues with compliance.

Company best practices can be built into the solution so store managers clearly understand, for instance, when weekly schedules violate labor budgets or local, state or federal labor laws. Solutions can have multiple interface points from multiple devices, allowing a dynamic workforce to easily receive and update schedules or swap work times, if store managers approve the schedule change. Because the new solution is much easier for store managers to use, RE's store manager turnover rate decreases, saving the company significant dollars while allowing it to retain top talent.

Perhaps best of all, the new workforce-management solution uses the latest technologies so it can be easily deployed, is easy to use and requires little or no change to hardware infrastructure.

When fully integrated with traditional HCM back-office solutions, front-line workforce-management solutions can finally fulfill the HCM promise: the transformation of a company's human resources into its most strategic asset.

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