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The Future of Cloud-Based WorkForce Management Systems

It is an understatement to say that we are living in times of great change. This past year has taught us many things about how companies need to operate differently in the future.  Two areas that have become priorities are the need to be better prepared for unexpected change and the importance of supporting the people in our organizations. This past year has highlighted the role that workforce management systems play in a world that has become infinitely more complex and where taking care of people has never been more critical.  More and more companies looking to invest in or upgrade their workforce management systems are learning how much these systems can do, not only to help them save money and be more efficient, but to improve the lives of their employees.

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The notion that companies need to be agile to be successful is not new, but this past year illuminated the difference between those who embraced it, and were prepared with flexible technology, and those who ignored it and found themselves stuck or weighted down with manual processes and workarounds. The importance of agility has never been clearer and workforce management systems will continue to play a critical role in enabling an agile workforce as we move into the future.

At WorkForce Software, one of the biggest areas where we see companies realizing the need for better tools to enable them to make swift changes is around labor forecasting and scheduling.  The circumstances of this past year have required many companies to quickly adjust, and then re-adjust, how many people they need on-site, where they need to be, when they need to be there, and what they will be working on. Even as we eventually move out of this pandemic, companies will always have the need to rapidly respond to unexpected changes in demand or bigger events like natural disasters. Workforce management vendors have been making investments in these areas and there are many solutions that can greatly improve the way companies forecast and schedule employees.

New technologies like machine-based learning have upped the game in predicting staffing levels needed to meet business demand.  Imagine a system that can build a labor forecast, based on business drivers like sales order volume or store footfall traffic, and then proactively adapt that forecast as new data comes in or new trends are detected.  When that forecast is combined with scheduling rules for your organization, an efficient schedule that minimizes labor costs can be generated in minutes that might take hours today manually, and you will have assurance that it is compliant.

Large, multi-faceted organizations often need to schedule different groups of people in different ways. Not all environments need to schedule based on a demand forecast.  Some environments can use a very simple, template-based system, whereas others need to schedule based on job skills and some need a combination of approaches.  In the past, this has required multiple different systems from different vendors.  Today’s workforce management systems are bringing all of these requirements together to provide more flexibility and agility in their scheduling solutions, which will help companies simplify their technology landscapes and maximize the value of their investments.  As this happens, more and more organizations will include forecasting and scheduling in their HR digital transformation projects.

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The other big theme I see in the future of cloud-based workforce management systems is increased innovation around employee experience.  Employees and managers log in to their workforce management systems multiple times a day to facilitate the most important aspects of their work-lives.  There are many ways that cloud-based workforce management systems improve employee experience, from self-service tools that allow employees to view time sheets, request time off, and swap shifts with co-workers, to tools that allow employees to communicate availability for extra shifts.  In today’s work environment, your employees expect these features, and they can be a contributing factor to overall employee satisfaction.  But new innovations will continue to take these experiences to the next level.  I believe that workforce management vendors have the opportunity and the responsibility to add value to these experiences in the lives of the workforce.

For example, new tools, like chatbot integrations, have enabled features such as “in the moment” context-based pulse surveys and pre-shift health screens. These are being used today to check in with employees before their shifts to make sure they are healthy or have the protective equipment they need.  Artificial intelligence technology can trigger pulse check surveys in the moment.

For instance, if an employee has worked many un-planned shifts, or is reaching any number of operational thresholds, notifications can be delivered directly to their manager as a specific employee approaches such a threshold. These touchpoints can ensure that the moment isn’t missed by a busy manager, who has not had time to proactively check reports, and see which employees might be at risk of burnout or have their work experience negatively impacted by other critical moments or actions. There are many potential ways to use artificial intelligence to tap into the workforce management data, “in the moment,” to enhance the experience of employees. In the future, cloud-based workforce management systems will evolve beyond making processes more efficient and play a bigger part of HR employee experience initiatives.

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Business success in the future will require the ability to stay ahead of both business and workforce trends and be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. Having a modern, cloud-based workforce management system is imperative. Workforce management systems are going above and beyond traditional time tracking, scheduling, and compliance functionality, to help companies stay agile and take care of their workforce. Now is a great time to invest in your systems, and your people, to be better prepared for what the future holds.

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