Five Workforce Management Predictions for 2014

by | Jan 21, 2014

In December, the Workforce Institute asked me to shoot a quick video about my predictions for 2014.  You can check out what I and fellow board members said here.  My video is good, but there is only so much to get into 56 seconds.  So, I thought I would try to provide a little more color to what I think is going to happen in workforce management in 2014:

  1. ACA uncertainty to continue.  Okay, okay.  I can hear the groans. Who doesn’t think the uncertainty with the Affordable Care Act will continue in 2014?  We’re getting past the problems with Healthcare.gov, and individuals are finally able to register for health insurance, but that hardly means ACA’s troubles are over.  Last summer, the government delayed the employer mandate until 2015 giving state governments, religious groups, and companies more time to challenge the law and prove it unconstitutional.  Furthermore, as employers and individuals begin to implement parts of the law, lessons will be learned, loopholes will be found, and mistakes will need to be corrected. The law will change, and we will have to adapt.  Employers and individuals will need to stay informed and be nimble for 2014 and likely, the next several years.
  2. Mobile WFM becomes more prevalent.  Vendors have been offering mobile WFM for the last few years, but adoption has been low.  There are two primary reasons for this.  First, many employers are nervous about giving their hourly employees access to WFM via their personal mobile phones.  They worry that time spent looking at their schedules or requesting time off during off-hours will be considered work and that employees will need paid for this time. Second, company-provided tablets and mobile phones have not been widely available on the sales floor, shop floor or hospital unit, limiting their use as a productivity device.  Moreover, where they are available, companies are often not on a version of the WFM software that supports mobile capabilities.  This year that will change.  There will be a groundswell of pressure from employees that want access to their schedules from their phones and employers will finally figure out a strategy to allow that to happen. See my webinar Mobile Workforce Management: All of the Benefits, None of the Risk for more information. 
  3. More big employers adopt WFM in the cloud.  Another topic that has been hot with the vendors but cool with customers has been the cloud.  While small and mid-sized business has been quickly adopting workforce management in the cloud, large business have moved much more slowly.  In fact, my best guess is that fewer than 100 companies with 10,000 or more employees are using a cloud-based WFM solution.  Over the last several years, Axsium Group has been asked to evaluate on-premise and cloud deployment models in every vendor evaluation that we have performed.  However, there are only a few cases where a large employer has gone with the cloud solution.  Large employers are being held back by two things.  First, big business is risk adverse.  Nobody wants to be the first in the water.  They want someone else to get wet and prove the solution first.  They need someone of similar size on a solution that they want to run to have comfort that the cloud will work for their business.  As more companies like Guitar Center, Crate and Barrel, and Marriott adopt cloud-based WFM, they will feel more comfortable doing it themselves.  The second reason is the economics.  It simply costs large employers less to run WFM on premise.   Vendors need to look at their multi-year price model to make it more attractive for big business to adopt the cloud.  If vendors can bring the long-term cost of the cloud below that of an on-premise solution – if they can really prove that they are better at managing their own WFM stack than the client – then adoption by big employers will really pop.
  4. Greater emphasis on productivity.  For many employers, workforce management is all about cutting labor costs. Countless business cases have been funded on the promise of saving between one and six percent of an organization’s payroll cost by implementing time keeping and scheduling.  But, as the saying goes, “what have you done for me lately?”  That one to six percent was great the first year.  What’s next?  The key to the future success is by focusing on the productivity of the workforce as a whole as well as on individual productivity.  This is particularly important as employers adjust their staffing strategies in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.  For those adopting a “fewer people, more hours” strategy, increased productivity will be critical to drive topline growth. For those adopting an “all part-time” strategy, it will be especially important to manage and monitor the productivity of the staff to minimize waste, maximize service, and ultimately, drive the profitability.
  5. Social business moves out of the lab. Since Twitter and Facebook took off, a lot of people have been scratching their heads about how similar social concepts can be applied to business.  Sure, we all use LinkedIn but that is still social networking site above all else. Last year, software vendors like Infor and Kronos began talking about embedding social widgets as part of their workforce management solutions, allowing users across the organization to collaborate and share information, and the demonstrations that I have seen have been quite powerful.  The ability to ask questions and share best practices with peers is a potential game-changer, in my opinion.  Vendors will begin releasing their WFM-enabled social tools in 2014 and early adopters will start trialing these features in the second half.  Some will likely get this exciting capability into production late this year.

    Now, because it is mid-January and I’m a little tardy getting my predictions out, I wanted to share a bonus prediction and this one is for 2015:

  6. Real time is real close. One of the big disconnects between what goes on in workforce management and what goes on in the real world is speed.  Schedules get written well in advance of when they are worked.  When an employee shows up for a shift, he or she is assigned someplace to work based on the schedule or the manager’s expectation for what is going to happen that day.  But, these days, business changes fast.  Staffing demands fluctuate across jobs and departments at a moment’s notice.  I’ve been saying for years that WFM needs to adopt a model that provides managers with information that help them make decisions in real time.  Unfortunately, the technology and processing power needed to do this has not been there.  However, our ability to process unstructured data, as well as large (dare I say, “Big”) data has improved significantly and real-time workforce management is possible.  Reflexis has already introduced the concept with StorePulse , its real-time execution management engine.  Adoption has been slow, and if I had to guess, it is because clients are still developing the infrastructure needed to process information and integrate it with enterprise systems as quickly as needed.  However, I predict that, by 2015 many companies will be in a position to take advantage of this great opportunity.

What do you think is going to happen in 2014?  Comment below or email me at bclements@axsiumgroup.com.  I look forward to December when I can reflect on what actually happened, and maybe, I’ll get my predictions for 2015 out a little sooner next year!

 

 

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