4 reasons why workforce intelligence creates an optimised tomorrow

Hands up who’s wondering how the Omicron variant will affect their plans for a return to the office? Or whether they’ll go back at all? As governments work rapidly to respond to this new variant, it’s a reminder that flexibility is an essential part of any attempt to open offices again. Even in a hybrid work environment, the unpredictable nature of the world and people’s lives means that organisations will need workforce management methods and tools that are flexible and intelligent, to make the transition a success. In this blog, we’ll look at how data is the key to navigating these changing times – and how some of the data requirements that might seem burdensome can be a source of optimisation.

Workforce data – where are we at now?

The pandemic has already forced a sea level change in how operations managers understand their workforce and workload, and how they plan their operations. While traditional workforce management data was based on looking around the office to get a sense of things, and at historical data around skills, schedules, inventory and so forth, the pandemic left many operations managers in the dark as their teams worked remotely. Many organisations have already adapted to this change, implementing new methods of understanding productivity and performance, and of managing employees, that were effective when those employees were working from home.

As hybrid working becomes the norm, the question that many managers are starting to ask is: where are my people most productive? Being able to work from home is the preferred option for many employees, but not all of them – and not all types of work lend themselves to remote working.

Even more recently, other layers have started to appear that present a challenge to operations managers. One layer is that of eligibility – as in, who is allowed to work in an office or not. Of course, US organisations will still be feeling the effects of the government’s attempt to enforce a nationwide vaccine mandate, but other countries are facing similar legislation – such as Australia, where a variety of different vaccine mandates in different states are causing headaches for businesses. Some organisations are implementing their own mandates regardless of national policy – the upshot being that, as a result, operations managers now need to know who is allowed to work in a particular location at any given moment. And of course, as the Omicron variant becomes more widespread and its effects are felt in society, organisations will need to be able to rapidly adjust their plans to keep employees safe and to comply with law.

This can all feel very burdensome for operations managers. More data to gather, more lenses through which to look at workload, resource, and availability. But while there may be some initial pain associated with responding to these new requirements, it’s my belief that they present an opportunity to create a more optimised future of work. Let me explain four ways in which a new world of workforce data makes things better for everyone.

1: It creates a well-balanced and engaged workforce

It’s no secret that your employees will have preferences for where they work. Understanding what those preferences are, and factoring that into your planning, can help ensure your employees are engaged in their work, improving productivity, wellbeing, and retention. If you can layer that information with data on employees’ performance in different environments, you have another part of the picture to help you balance your workforce. Of course, that data may need a third layer - who is eligible to work in which locations – and that needs to be handled correctly so that you comply with any local or national laws that are in force, or will come into force.

2: It reduces costs

This has already been discussed in relation to the pandemic in a few places. As organisations move to hybrid working models, their need for office space reduces – as do the costs associated with it. That could include rent, but also power, heating, water, insurance, and facilities.

But the cost argument goes beyond the maths of office space. Armed with the right data, organisations can ensure that their people are working in the places where they are most productive and happiest. That can reduce costs, mainly in decreased absenteeism, which has been shown to cost $2,650 per employee, per year.

That reduced cost could be used simply to help balance the books in a tight year – or it could mean that funds are available for training and coaching programmes that improve employee performance, or even on rewarding high-performing employees.

3: It expands your talent pool

Although gathering and analysing more data might feel burdensome, the truth is that it enables you to implement hybrid working models effectively and with confidence that they will deliver. And that means that you gain all the benefits of a hybrid work environment – including a vastly expanded talent pool. With remote roles a part of the norm, you can hire anyone, from any country, allowing you to create more diverse and talented teams than you could before.

4: You can make a positive contribution to sustainability efforts

Most organisations are considering how they can reduce their carbon footprint and become more sustainable. If your organisation is using data to support a hybrid workforce, then you should see a reduction in emissions on multiple fronts. You may see reduced emissions as fewer employees commute, and those that do commute less. You may see a reduced need for office lighting and heating – not to mention a reduction in office waste – as footfall in the office decreases.

The workforce data you gather to enable all this will help demonstrate a contribution to your organisation’s emission reduction programme – or could even form the basis of starting one, if you haven’t already.

Stop thinking about eligibility, start thinking about availability

To bring all these benefits to life, it’s important to start thinking about the need to gather data in a different light. Eligibility is arguably the most pressing (and stressing) requirement for organisations right now, and the temptation can be to find a solution that focuses solely on eligibility. But to take a broader view, eligibility data isn’t that different to the other data that you’re gathering about employees and where they can work. You’re trying to build a picture of where your workforce is based – and eligibility is just one more layer on top of others such as where your employees prefer to work and where they are most productive. When you consider the challenge in those terms, the uses for the data you’re gathering suddenly expand. We’re calling the blanket term for this data “availability.”

Of course, gathering availability data – and indeed all the workforce intelligence that makes the four things I’ve mentioned possible – is the trick. In a hybrid world, that data needs to be gathered automatically, wherever employees are based, in real time, to give managers as much detail as possible. But at the same time, organisations need to find solutions to prevent managers drowning in data, which will prevent them getting on with their jobs.

That’s the challenge that ActiveOps solves for organisations – our platform enables managers to gain real-time insights into their teams, departments, even the whole organisation, to help them plan and adapt to changes as they happen. We’re proud to announce too that we’ve developed new functionality to show operations managers availability data for their teams – giving one view of who is eligible to work where, where they prefer to work, and where they perform best. Armed with this single view, it’s easy for operations managers to make the right decisions to keep productivity and performance high while protecting employee wellbeing and ensuring everyone is adhering to organisational, local or national policies around eligibility. Best of all, eligibility data is shown to managers without compromising sensitive personal information which they may not be allowed to see.

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