Recent survey reveals some unexpected links between the extent of automated workforce management systems and user satisfaction
The workforce management function is one of continuous change and evolution. No longer just about having employees clock in and out, workforce management is a serious business discipline encompassing time and attendance, absence and leave management, staff scheduling, employment law compliance and risk mitigation, among others. Advancements in workforce management technology enable organizations to automate critical tasks, as well as collect key data and analytics that lead to continuous improvement of their labor activities.
Despite the growing importance of the workforce management function, today’s organizations are all over the map in terms of workforce management system adoption. While some have fully made the transition to automated solutions, others depend on a mix of automated and manual approaches, and others rely heavily on paper- and spreadsheet-based manual processes.
Each year, WorkForce Software conducts a survey aimed at better understanding the many dimensions of workforce management at organizations of all sizes and adoption levels—and their satisfaction with their current approach. The survey is designed to gain insight into three main areas:
- What are the most common and prominent pain points?
- What systems are in place today, and how are those tools changing?
- If organizations are adopting new technologies, what is driving the change?
Some of the most visible aspects of workforce management, like time tracking, staff scheduling and leave administration, originated as site-specific manual tasks and are steadily shifting towards centralized automation. In light of this macro shift, you may expect to see clear patterns in the data when it comes to satisfaction scores. For instance, you could predict that respondents with manual processes were more likely to be dissatisfied with their approach than peers who have adopted automated workforce management systems. Looking at the data, you’d be right.
However, there are far more interesting—and much less predictable—results in the survey responses. Perhaps most surprising is that the group most dissatisfied with their current time and attendance approach was not companies still using purely manual processes, but those using a mix of systems.
Why might this be? To understand, it is important to focus not just on the current state, but to explore why an organization may have a mixed set of approaches in the first place. There are three common scenarios that would lead an organization to adopt disparate approaches to tracking employee time and attendance:
- A company acquires another firm with its own technologies and processes and has not been able to move those acquired employees to the systems of the parent company.
- An organization has a large population with fairly common policies and a small population that has highly complex ones, so chooses to track that small population manually.
- An employer has locations in separate regions that each have distinct wage and hour regulations and attendance policy norms, and has granted local managers the latitude to select their own tools and policies in accordance with regional needs.
In each of these cases, using disparate systems is a compromise rather than a strategic decision. For any number of reasons, the primary system was unable to provide complete coverage, and the resulting gap could help explain the pronounced spike in user dissatisfaction. Yet, there is more to the story with mixed time and labor environments.
Another challenge is generating reliable and timely reports. Different systems, particularly administered by different representatives within the organization, are prone to divergent evolution. The very definitions and workflows that underpin the system—how to measure a time “slice,” how a supervisor is notified of a timesheet needing approval and so on—can differ from one system to the other. There are inherent reporting challenges in a purely manual, paper-based environment, yet reconciling two approaches with separate data sets can be just as tough.
The survey also found significant reporting challenges—and an appetite for better reporting. Most notably, when asked what the primary driver would be for new system selection, labor analytics topped all other capabilities. A robust analytics platform can certainly help combine disparate data sets; but even so, the most effective reporting will come from a system that covers the entire population. And that realization, in the face of greater demands for meaningful data, could help explain why mixed approaches to time and attendance fare so poorly.