Automate What You Can Automate

by | Aug 25, 2021

A Simple Mantra for Increasing Employee Productivity

Stop me if you have heard this one before: there is a significant labor shortage, especially in retail and hospitality. If you are reading this, you know that already. And you have read article after article – including some from Axsium – about how to attract and retain workers during the labor shortage. This is not one of those articles.

Instead, this article is going to focus on what to do to reduce the strain on the workers who are currently in your labor force. Employers need to be able to address increasing demand – at least partially – with the workforce that they have already. To do that, they need to be able to increase the productivity of their employees so that they can do more with less.

At the same time, employers must be cognizant that they can’t push too hard, lest they risk losing their current employees to another employer. There are some steps that employers can take to improve employee productivity while still emphasizing employee engagement and retention. If you are looking for the cheat sheet for improving labor productivity, it’s this: automate what you can automate.

One area of automation that employers can address in relatively short order is a mobile/communications platform. This accomplishes a couple of goals when it comes to increasing employee productivity. First, by deploying a comprehensive employee mobile and communications platform, employees can be kept up to the minute with changes in business priorities, any new work opportunities that arise due to employee availability changes, or any changes to opening and closing times. Leveraging existing mobile platforms or deploying mobile solutions that facilitate communication between management and employees can automate many of the time-consuming administrative tasks that prevent employees from being productive.

A second area where organizations can improve productivity is to automate the decision-making around when and where labor is needed most. Machine-learning forecasting and scheduling is one area where organizations can uncover significant improvements in productivity. In working with clients from across the globe, one thing we consistently hear is that they have teams of people working on the demand and labor forecasts, and that a system could never get the results as accurate as the people who are doing the forecasting.  And perhaps in the early days of forecasting systems, this was true. But today, AI-driven forecasting is taking accuracy to a new level. Leveraging these tools can help drive productivity in two ways. First, the managers who had been generating manual forecasts no longer need to spend the time that they needed to spend in the past, allowing them to re-focus on more customer-facing activities. Second, you can be sure that you have the right employees on-site when you most need them, helping to ensure that their working hours are being spent productively.

A third way to increase productivity is by exploring workforce automation in the most literal, technology-driven sense.  You might be thinking, how can robots make my employees more productive? Part of it comes down to how you define productivity. If you define productivity simply as the rate at which people do things, then introducing machines does not help. However, if you look at productivity as the ratio between revenue (or revenue-driving activity) and your labor budget, then taking tasks away from employees that distract from their goal of serving customers can be a huge productivity-driver. Tasks like cleaning and performing inventory checks are critical tasks that need to be performed – they just don’t have to be done by people. Instead, if you give those tasks to machines, then your human labor can focus on generating and servicing revenue.

Improving employee productivity is critical during any economic period. It’s even more important today, as the labor shortage continues to threaten organizations across the globe.  By focusing on the principle of “automate what you can automate” and looking for areas where you can achieve short, medium, and long-term wins, you have the opportunity to achieve productivity gains and beat the challenges posed by today’s labor market.

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