Workforce management in a post-pandemic world
With COVID-19 redefining the way many of us work, new strategies are required to effectively plan and manage workforces. Kirsty Fowler, Managing Director for Civica HR & Payroll, looks at ways HR technology can support the new normal.
As global lockdowns are starting to ease, many conversations with our customers are evolving from the day to day management of the disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has attacked their businesses with, to how we can support them to adapt and transform to the “new normal” which embraces remote working, virtual meetings and physical social distancing rules. Now more than ever, organisations need to work with their employees to keep them safe and rapidly keep the whole company up to date with important changes and greater visibility of their employees’ engagement.
As organisations gradually re-open after coronavirus lockdown, more employers are looking at new ways of working. Both working from home and shorter working weeks have been applauded by human resources experts as an alternative to a mass return to offices.
Rules came into force in 2014 offering a wider-range of people the opportunity to make flexible working requests and the benefits to business and employees are well documented. However, with 62% of the population successfully working from home during recent months and a growing list of business leaders adding their weight to working from home and more flexible working arrangements, any remaining concerns around productivity should now have been quashed.
Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told staff he expects half of its workforce to do their jobs outside Facebook's offices over the next five to 10 years. This follows moves by other tech giants, including Twitter, which said employees can work from home "forever" if they wish.
While employees who can operate from home are advised to continue to do so, official guidance on the government's plans for returning to the workplace continue to emerge, including eight sets of sector specific guidance.
However, for many employees returning to a physical workplace will be inevitable. The CIPD is urging organisations to ensure they can meet three key tests before bringing their people back to the workplace:
- Is it essential? If people can continue to work from home they must continue to do that for the foreseeable future.
- Is it sufficiently safe? Employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to and take their time with gradual returns to work to test health and safety measures in practice.
- Is it mutually agreed? It’s vital that there is a clear dialogue between employers and their people so concerns can be raised and individuals’ needs and worries taken into account.
How HR tech can support new ways of working
At Civica we are working with customers to get people back to work as soon as possible by supporting them with innovative new ways of working using our integrated, cloud-enabled HR, payroll and time and attendance software.
In addition to homeworking arrangements, going forward employers will need to effectively manage risk by minimising the contact their employees have with others, both at work and during the commute on public transport.
Using time and attendance software (T&A) makes planning, tracking and managing different working times or schedules for different groups of employees, less onerous for people teams and delivers demonstrable efficiencies. For example Cottage Delight have been able to reduce payroll processing time by 75% by implementing new technology and St Andrews Links Trust manage a 40% increase in workforce seasonally without needing additional resources. A good T&A system also supports flexible working and provides a wealth of health and safety and lone worker safeguards.
The need for contactless clocking options will likely abate the popularity of fingerprint readers for clocking on entering the workplace that has dominated the market in recent years. Those wishing to stick with biometrics, for the additional security that it provides, will have the option to use facial recognition technology. Others may revert to simpler proximity fobs and cards that use an RF reader.
However, with an increasingly home-based workforce for the foreseeable future many will be using the latest technologies to clock from their computers or smartphones. This approach doesn’t necessarily mean a free-for-all as staff clock in from any location (although it can mean that), using location-based services, employers can set limits on where staff can clock in from (say, from home, or a customer/partner office, as well as their workplace).
While the impetus for time and attendance may historically have been to boost productivity, going forward it will be the transparency and a more flexible approach to work that generates the real benefits, namely a safer, more engaged and motivated workforce.