The Engaged Workforce: Why it’s not just HR’s Concern

By Spiros Paleologos

Canadian organizations continue to face numerous challenges, both internally and externally. On top of constantly having to navigate a turbulent economic environment and ever-present competitive threats, they also need to successfully maintain an efficient and productive workforce while regularly attracting fresh talent. And attracting that quality talent is becoming an increasingly challenging task, given the expectations of the newer generations.

These challenges are not mutually exclusive — and they’re not just a concern for HR leaders — as various studies have shown a direct correlation between employee engagement and improved business performance. For example, Gallup reports that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% on earnings per share. Yet, only 13% of the world’s workforce is actively engaged.1

According to the Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, “employee engagement is a headline issue throughout business and HR.” Fully 85% of survey respondents (and 91% of Canadian respondents) ranked engagement as a top priority, yet only 46% reported that they were prepared to address engagement challenges.2

The challenges are sizable, and the impact is tied to significant dollars. A recent global study from The Workforce Institute at Kronos and Coleman Parkes Research found that Canadian businesses waste CDN $88 billion per year on unnecessary administrative tasks, significantly more than any other country.3 That works out to approximately CDN $4,934 per employee per year on burdensome tasks not directly related to employees’ core job. Not only does this significantly impact a business’ profitability, it creates a disconnect between the employee and their role, potentially leading to frustration, disenchantment and apathy.

That same survey shows a willingness on the part of employers to improve workplace productivity through improved operating procedures. Sixty-eight per cent of Canadian operations and line of business managers surveyed believe employees need to feel more engaged in the business.

The good news is that relatively small, incremental changes can reap big rewards. Many organizations turn to Human Capital Management (HCM) and workforce management (WFM) technology to automate activities such as data collection, forecasting, budgeting, and scheduling. At their core, these tools alleviate the administrative burden across the organization, deliver actionable insights to senior management, and allow employees to have greater visibility and control over their work and schedules.

By deploying such tools, performance and competency – and subsequently employee engagement – improve by avoiding non-productive and time-wasting processes that could negatively impact a business’ bottom line.

Organizations need to evaluate current (and future) systems with three key stakeholders in mind: executives, front line managers, and employees.

Executives: is the bottom line enough?

Fifty-eight per cent of employees think their CEO is focused on finances rather than employees. This may seem a rather harsh evaluation of a position whose purpose is to focus on business performance, yet it’s fair to say it may be difficult to juggle staff concerns while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

Modern WFM technologies can help alleviate some of this pressure. Analytic dashboards can provide greater insight into real-time costs, production, and forecasting of business outcomes across the entire organization. This data helps executives proactively address situations before they negatively impact business results, while also offering a window on some of the issues facing employees.

Unfortunately, this level of executive involvement with WFM is still rare, with only five per cent of organizations in Canada today operating at this level of maturity.4 While businesses continue to use manual processes and/or outdated technologies, it may make it difficult for senior executives to have more direct involvement in fostering employee engagement.

Front line managers: caught in the middle?

Often the intermediaries between senior management and employees, it’s not unusual for front line managers to frequently find themselves in the middle between executives’ demands and workers’ needs.

WFM technologies can give managers instant access to insight and analysis enabling them to proactively address critical business issues and challenges before short and long-term business goals are compromised. Additionally, WFM can help to ensure proper staffing levels and support to meet and manage customer demand and executive expectations.
Current data shows only 20% of organizations are operationally efficient, with outdated systems and technology again being one of the main stumbling blocks.5

Employees: handle with care

The majority of employees strive to be recognized as an asset to their organization, but can often be hampered by tedious administrative tasks. Seventy-three per cent of respondents to the ‘$88 Billion Question’ survey said they do not find it easy to complete all their tasks on a given day due to unnecessary administrative and other tasks unrelated to their jobs. Furthermore, 62% want to put their focus on tasks that help meet business goals and objectives.

Automating basic time and attendance processes such as timesheets, electronic approvals, and conditional workflows can significantly lower administrative effort and costs, and increase efficiencies. But this is merely the first step. Organizations can then focus on integrating more complex workforce procedures into the company’s ERP, financial or production systems. Benefits include:

– Deeper insight into labour performance and productivity by management;
– Automation of burdensome tasks for employees, allowing them to focus on value-add tasks that help deliver business – results and exceptional customer service; and,
– Enhanced communication with employees for greater transparency.

The end result is more employee empowerment, with a stronger determination to deliver on tasks and goals that have been set for them.

The journey in three steps

It’s easy to say organizations need to evaluate the current state of their WFM technologies, but in reality it’s a multi-stage journey that, despite its complexity, can be achieved by following these three steps:

– Begin with the ‘low-hanging’ fruit and automate tactical procedures, such as timesheets, schedules and business rules;
– Once that foundation has been set, begin integrating with other business systems for deeper insights into labour performance and productivity; and,
– Shift to a level of analytic capability that provides:
— Ability to identify trends and patterns across an organization’s most important metrics
— Exposure to underlying issues and opportunities to improve productivity and quality of service
— Transparency so employees and managers alike are better equipped to make data-driven decisions on key issues impacting performance and operational outcomes

By following these steps, while constantly keeping in mind the needs of executives, management and employees, organizations can begin to reap the full benefits of WFM that will help them realize an unprecedented level of workforce engagement.

1 – Gallup, Inc., State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide, p 6., 2013
2 – Deloitte University Press, Introduction — The New Organisation, February 2016, https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/human-capital-trends/2016/human-capital-trends-introduction.html.
3 – Coleman Parkes Research and The Workforce Institute at Kronos, The $88 Billion Question – Is Employee Engagement the Driver for Business Success?, 2016, found at https://www.kronos.ca/resources/88b-question-employee-engagement-driver-business-success
4 – Kronos Canadian Systems and HR Horizons, Canadian Trends in Workforce Management: Harness the Potential, 2015, found at https://www.kronos.ca/resources/canadian-trends-workforce-management,
5 – Ibid.

Spiros Paleologos is the Vice President and General Manager for Kronos Canada. During his 20 years of leadership, Spiros has grown Kronos Canada to be the leading provider of Workforce Management solutions in Canada.

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