Happy New Year! As I have been known to do, I’m kicking the new year off with three predictions for the coming year. So let’s talk about what 2024 may have in store for the workforce management industry.
WFM Prediction 1: Workforce Management Modernization Efforts Accelerate
Last year, I said WFM system modernization in the industry was going at an unprecedented pace. This year, predict the rate of change will increase even more as companies upgrade, migrate, or replace their old WFM systems for shiny, new ones.
It’s easy to point at UKG’s Workforce Central end of life announcement as the big driver for this trend. The reality is many organizations are sitting on old and outdated versions of their WFM systems. (Yes, I’m looking at you Infor 6.x or older users. And yes, all of you on a version of Blue Yonder’s WFM product that still refers to it as “JDA” or “RedPrairie.” And, of course, anyone running any WFM system on premises.)
We can quantify this acceleration by looking at the activity my company, Axsium Group, is seeing in the market. The number of new upgrades, migrations, or implementations we are working on increased about 30 percent between 2022 and 2023. We expect to see nearly twice as much activity in 2024.
That is a lot of modernization.
WFM Prediction 2: Putting Artificial Intelligence to Use… Finally!
Late last year, I surveyed my LinkedIn followers, asking if they were using their workforce management systems’ artificial intelligence features. Less than half of the respondents said that they were! This result didn’t surprise me. AI has been embedded in WFM systems for years, but I haven’t seen a whole lot of adoption.
This situation reminds me of mobile WFM, which was introduced years before its features were used in production. And while legal and compliance fears slowed mobile WFM adoption, trust is what’s slowing AI adoption. A lot of companies simply do not understand AI’s features and benefits. They don’t have the time to investigate it. And they have a hard time understanding the results and how they were produced when they do.
Now, as we look ahead 2024, my prediction is that we are going to see AI more widely adopted. Why? Since being introduced, AI has expanded it’s footprint and gotten better in most WFM systems. Rules-based AI is making better decisions, machine learning is producing better forecasts, and generative AI is helping managers and employees be more productive.
For mobile WFM, the breakthrough finally arrived when employees demanded it. The fears still existed, but employers overcame them when they realized the benefits mobile WFM provided their managers and employees. For AI, the tipping point will be its pervasiveness. AI touches so many parts of a WFM system. Companies that have modernized their WFM (see prediction #1) will not be able to avoid AI, even if they do not fully understand how it works.
WFM Prediction 3: Working Relationship Pendulum Swings towards the Employer
For the last several years, we have seen the employee command a lot of power at work. The employer-employee relationship pendulum swung far in employees’ favor. Employers had to provide better pay, new benefits, and various forms of flexibility to attract and retain talent.
Now, the pendulum is swinging back in employers’ favor. While unemployment is still low, the labor shortage is much less of a problem than it was 18 months ago. Employers are frustrated with their frontline workforces’ perceived lack of reliability or accountability.
In response, some employers will manage more firmly, pull back on benefits provided, or reduce flexibility. For those feeling this inclination, I encourage you to go easy.
Your company does not operate in a vacuum. Other employers will not reverse, or if they do will do so slowly. Those companies will be attractive alternatives to employees in shock or hurt by a change in their relationship with you. I refer to the employer-employee relationship as a pendulum for a reason. It forever swings. Right now, it’s swinging in the employers’ favor but rash action can cause it to swing the other way quickly.
Cheers to the Year Ahead
I have to tell you, in early January confidence in my 2024 predictions comes easy. I’m interested to see how they play out over the next 12 months.
Before I sign off, I have one more prediction for you that I’m particularly excited about. The 2024 Axsium WFM Forum will be the year’s most exciting WFM event. This year’s Forum takes place April 23-25 at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Austin, Texas. It’s a great opportunity to network with other WFM professionals and hear thought leadership from some of North America’s most recognizable brands.
I hope to see you there! And if you cannot make it, I hope to see you at one of the year’s other industry events. Happy 2024. I wish you the very best for the coming year.