This content is part of the Essential Guide: A guide to workforce management solutions and software
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Know the rules: Workforce management best practices

To get the most from workforce management software, manufacturers should secure stakeholder support and maintain a strong focus on labor rules.

Due to the invasive nature of workforce management software, manufacturers must have a clear vision of what they hope to accomplish with the technology along with backing from key influencers across all levels of the organization. Becoming familiar with workforce management best practices is a good place to start.

Because workforce management tools impact all parts of an organization -- from human resources and accounting to shop-floor workers -- it can elicit strong pushback. Both salaried and hourly employees tend to resist change and can respond with wariness when routine time- and labor-related practices come under scrutiny.

Engaging stakeholders right from the start can help zero in on the key pain points of labor resources and foster the buy-in necessary for widespread adoption, experts say. In addition, getting stakeholder participation in defining the rules “environment” helps to ensure that the workforce management system reflects the right business processes and industry regulations it needs to deliver optimal cost savings and labor efficiencies.

Surveying employees and working with stakeholders to get a handle on labor-related rules at the outset is a good place to channel project resources, according to David O’Connell, senior analyst at Boston-based Nucleus Research. Statistics show that companies overpay employees 1.2% on average, a number that tends to be even higher in companies with more complex rules environments, O’Connell said.

“Rule complexity causes you to make errors and overpay employees,” he explained. “Surveying is a good place to spend money because when you automate and automate well, you’re going to eliminate a high percentage of those errors.”

Enlisting project champions for workforce management software

Gaining the support of rank-and-file project champions was critical to the successful deployment of workforce management software at BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards in Mobile, Ala., according to IT director Craig Honour. The company, which earlier this year won Nucleus Research’s Technology ROI award for its implementation of workforce management software, was able to save $1.9 million annually thanks to decreased administrative time, reduced paper costs and increased productivity that resulted from using the system.

From the very beginning, Honour’s team worked with stakeholders on everything from defining pain points to specifying system requirements to participating in the selection team that evaluated workforce management software vendors. Keeping stakeholders involved every step of the way gave them ownership and a drive to make the deployment succeed. “When you are trying to sell an IT system to blue-collar workers, it’s a hard sell,” Honour explained. “Getting them involved early made life easier.”

The group of influencers was also critical in getting others onboard. “Now you have a cadre of owners who are not badmouthing a system, but are telling their buddies that this is good for them and can bring big changes,” Honour said.

Another best practice for successful deployment is conducting a pilot phase with the vendor’s help before committing to a major purchase, according to Honour. “Doing a pilot keeps the vendor engaged and gives you a leg up on implementation,” he said. “If the pilot is successful, you accumulate lessons learned and tweaks that will be necessary for the go-live implementation.”

Honour and other workforce management software practitioners recommend a number of other best practices:

•         Walk, don’t run. After creating a long-term vision and rollout plan for the software, move forward with a phased deployment, starting with one group or location. Take advantage of every small success to amass deployment best practices and get other groups onboard.

•         Don’t skimp on investment in training. These are complex systems that can deliver huge results when used to their potential. Encourage stakeholders to participate in training and maintain a tracking list to stay on top of deployment issues.

•        Exploit reporting capabilities.  Much of the power of workforce management software lies in the reporting capabilities, which give companies visibility into bottlenecks or inefficiencies that, when corrected, can deliver significant return on investment. The lesson here: Don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day time-tracking aspects of the system that you lose sight of the power of analytics.

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