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June 24, 2020

HCM Summer 2020: 3 Keys for a Smooth Transition to the New Normal

Business as usual has changed as a result of the current pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders. As companies forge a path ahead, they must have the right tools in place to ease the transition to our new normal. Contact tracing and absence management have become critical transition tools. Perhaps even more importantly, employers will need to recruit and retain employees to successfully emerge from what has been, in some cases, a devastating blow to the workforce.

Contact Tracing

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other professionals in the field infectious diseases stress that when someone has an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, managing their potential for transmitting the illness to others is a challenge to public health. To reduce the spread of the disease, those who have had contact with an infected person should be notified as quickly as possible so they can receive appropriate care and self-isolate. Contact tracing is the process for monitoring people in close contact with someone infected. According to WHO this process is comprised of three steps:

  1. Contact Identification
  2. Contact Listing
  3. Contact Follow-up

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), contact tracing is essential to halting the chain of COVID-19 transmission. In the context of the workplace, without visibility into who was working when and with whom, this process can be cumbersome. Yet, access to information that can quickly identify employees who may have come into contact with an infected individual is business-critical.

The question then becomes, how can a business effectively contact trace at a manufacturing facility with a thousand employees? There certainly is no one-size-fits-all solution. In one instance, a company in Holland, Michigan developed contact tracing badges as a prevention tool. These badges are programmed to vibrate when social distancing protocols have been breached. The process also allows for the storage of contact tracing information for 90 days. Employees simply wear the badge and, at the end of their shift, scan a QR code at a kiosk that stores the data. Although this may be a viable solution, it is still reliant on employees to be proactive in the process and, therefore, subject to employee cooperation and participation. An alternative solution involves creating reports in existing software (time and attendance, ERP). By identifying common cost centers at specific dates and times, employers can track potential worker exposures by utilizing reports they already have available.

Absence & Schedule Management

As states begin to relax restrictions and employers begin to rehire or resume staffing levels near normal, managing schedules and unexpected absences is more vital than ever. A recent survey conducted by the Workforce Institute at Kronos, Inc. showed 7% of labor hours are scheduled but not worked, resulting in a 7% direct impact on an organization’s labor budget. Alternatively, as a measure of reaction, the survey showed an average of 6% of labor hours worked but not scheduled (also known as worked but not needed).

The wider business impact of absenteeism is often hidden by the pure financial cost of labor. Financially, assuming employee contract terms dictate that employers pay only for hours worked, the cost of labor deployed is -1% of the planned labor budget (6% worked minus the 7% budgeted). On paper, this appears to be a financially positive labor cost savings; in reality, this means 13% of labor hours were not deployed as planned, indicating that alignment with customer demand has been compromised. Consequently, the 1% reduction in labor hours could easily translate into the 2% impact on bottom-line performance.

Building work schedules that accurately align with the demands of customers, businesses and employees is one of the most complex and time-consuming issues affecting managers. Modern workforce management solutions can simplify the forecasting and labor scheduling process by determining accurate demand forecasts built upon historical data, known events and algorithms. These tools, now aided by new machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques, can enhance accuracy and provide direction in optimizing the deployment of workers.

Accurate labor planning begins with an accurate demand forecast, using budgeting functionality in workforce management solutions. When creating a subsequent staffing plan, employers must take the time to understand regional factors affecting recruitment, deployment and retention. Labor analytics can provide insight into the causes and correlations of absences while enabling managers to be proactive in mitigating and reducing their impact.

Gone are the days of schedules written on a bulletin board; instead there are real-time alerts delivered directly to an employee’s mobile device. Employers are putting the power in the palm of the employee’s hand, and it’s resulting in increased productivity and a more engaged workforce. Employers who directly and efficiently deliver solutions and schedule reminders to their employees are reaping the rewards.

Knowing the data and identifying trends and anomalies is vital to strategic decision making. Likewise, in today's manufacturing environment, it is critical to have a workforce management software (aka Time and Attendance) to alleviate the manual steps associated with scheduling and analytics. Current technology should address some of these key components of schedule and absence management:

  • Approvals and communication between employee and manager
  • Shift swapping with or without manager involvement
  • Transparency to employees on schedule performance
  • Across-year and pay-period reporting
  • Mobile or other smart device functionality

Recruiting & Retaining

Turnover can be extremely expensive when lost productivity and replacement costs are considered. With the most recent changes in the labor market, many companies are struggling to recruit and retain employees. Today’s employees are less committed to companies than they were 20 years ago, and millennials, for example, will stay at a job for fewer than three years. The question then becomes, how do employers combat the statistics? They do this by using creativity when it comes to recruitment and retention.

Job seekers desire a streamlined, user-friendly recruitment process. Employers can easily offer this by taking advantage of internet-based recruiting and job-posting apps that make it easier for applicants to apply on their mobile devices. Employers can increase retention and enrich the employee experience by offering referral incentives or on-the-job perks, such as team lunches for achieving desired operational metrics.

Above all, communication is a key component of employee satisfaction and retention, whether it involves discussions regarding performance and quality of work or looking forward to a career path within the organization. Employees are more likely to stick around if they are aware of the opportunities for advancement and know what actions they should take to reach their career goals. Simple questions can help in understanding what is important to employees. Is it work-life balance? Community involvement by the company? Great benefits?

Finally, it is essential to hold managers accountable for retaining workers. Positive working relationships between managers and direct reports are critical not only to the success of the business but also to achieve a content, cohesive and productive workforce. 

Related Resources

Your Team

For more information regarding the topics outlined above, don’t hesitate to contact the authors directly – Corey Payne (540) 853-8081 or cpayne@cbiz.com and Tim Glenn (540) 345-6600 or timothy.glenn@cbiz.com. The CBIZ COVID-19 resources center provides up-to-date COVID-19 content and webinars (live and recorded) touching on tax & legislative, employees & HR, financial management, and risk & operations topics. 

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