No matter what industry you are in, the status quo in the workplace has changed. As organisations are running leaner, looking to maximise productivity and efficiency with their existing (or reduced) workforce, the demands on labour have sky rocketed. The combination of routine incidents, like unplanned employee absences, combined with the real-time influences of online change orders, social media marketing campaigns, and even unusual weather have caused chaotic management challenges for labour managers.

· How do you (or your managers) react to changing conditions in the workplace?

· How can you redirect labour resources instantly, when and where you need it, and still keep schedules, pay codes and labour levels accurate and up to date?

· How can manufacturing line managers track work-in-progress in real time, and make adjustments in mid shift to ensure maximum operational efficiency and completion of orders on time and at a high quality?

· How can retail store managers see current workers on a shift and tasks assigned by corporate that need to be completed?

· How can a nursing manager recognize when the hospital is understaffed in the ER, and overstaffed in pediatrics?

iManagement?

With virtually every workplace subjected to dynamic work conditions and unpredictable labour impact, the ability to manage in the moment is more important than ever; which is one reason why the iPad has infiltrated the workplace.

The iPad has evolved from a mobile device used to simply surf the Web, watch movies, and read eBooks into a professional, productivity-driving device used around the globe across many industries. Business managers who depend on enterprise software to do their jobs are now undeterred from the confines of the back office with access to operational information wherever they are in the workplace.

Businesses in turn have also realised that managers are much more productive when they can leave their office and work directly with employees and customers.

Managing in the moment can not only help with issue avoidance, it can greatly improve employee satisfaction and manager productivity. How many times has an employee approached their manager and said, “I’m very sorry, but something has come up and I can’t work my shift tomorrow.” Managers immediately get pulled into the vicious cycle of reviewing who is already scheduled to work, who is available, who is capable of doing that job, how many hours have they worked or will they work that week and other such issues. Now imagine that manager simply pulling up the electronic schedule on an iPad and having the system automatically present a list of best-possible candidates, make the schedule change and notify the other employee of their new shift, all while the back-end updates to time cards and labour levels are also completed in real time. Schedule management in the moment!

Working in real-time

With a client-based, desktop computer application, managers are often faced with the challenge of addressing operational situations, while being removed from the action — and often the reactionary changes can’t be made to the workforce management system until it’s too late to impact operations. To be most effective, managers need the ability to make informed decisions and take action on issues in real-time where and when the activity happens.

Make adjustments to schedules on the fly when employees go home sick. Adjust staffing to cover visibly busy departments — or check to see if any other departments are overstaffed and can spare some coverage. View reports and drill down into information in the moment to see how overtime is directly affecting your operations.

Tablet-based analytics apps deliver on-demand visibility and insight into your workforce’s impact on business-critical metrics and trends like labour costs, sales per labour hour, overtime costs and more, allowing retail district or regional managers to make fact-based decisions from any location at any time.

With workforce management automation comes labour insight. With labour insight come informed managers. And mobility makes these managers more productive. Productive managers are able to manage their people, in the moment, when the need arises.

They won’t be wasting time chasing down replacements, or timecard errors, or trying to determine if an employee can take a day off next month. No longer will they be spending their time tracking attendance, but will be managing the exceptions automatically identified for them. They will be managing their employees, enabling them to become better at their jobs.

This automation will allow your entire workforce to become more productive, while simultaneously increasing employee satisfaction. And with the emphasis on mobility in today’s workforce management systems, your managers will be managing in the moment from their own device, wherever they are, and will not be locked down in their office on their desktops. This on-the-go access allows managers to maximise productivity for themselves and your employees by making critical workforce management decisions instantly — from the shop floor, across the building, or when travelling from store to store.

We expect this trend to explode in 2013, as more and more enterprise software vendors extend their connectivity and visibility through the use of tablet applications.

(The author is Director - Product Marketing, Kronos International.)

(This article was published on January 24, 2013)
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