The increasing importance of workforce planning and management

The increasing importance of workforce planning and management

The march of innovation and digitization is unrelenting. It has the capacity to disdainfully sweep away any force that dares to stand in its path. Though probably an apocryphal story, the belief held by some over a hundred years back that everything that had to be invented has been invented has been proven misplaced again and again. Change and innovation, if anything, have been happening faster and faster with the passage of time. It is now believed that the rate of change is only going to increase in future, not slow down.

As a new entrant into the BPO space, oWorkers bring with it fresh ideas, technologies and processes, to augment the learning the industry has gained over many years. It has already carved a name for itself and been awarded as one of the top three global BPO vendors in the field of data related offerings.

 

The human challenge

But the one challenge that the march of automation has not been able to address is that of human beings; how to become smart enough to replace them? To the relief of many, it is now clear that Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not likely to replace human beings, at least not anytime soon.

What does that mean?

The only thing they are probably going to do is to automate jobs where the skill required, usually measured in terms of the amount of human decision-making needed, is low, and most of the tasks are repetitive.

At the same time, the number of people required with higher skills, evaluated in terms of the number of occasions and complexity of human decision-making required, will increase. After all, the automation tools and algorithms that drive mechanized work will need some supervision and maintenance and control.

With its access to deep talent pools driven by its positioning as a preferred employer, oWorkers is able to choose ‘horses for courses.’ It selects the most suitable skills for its various client projects and then trains them to be job-ready. It has been witness to a rising level of complexity in the positions it hires for in client projects. Thankfully, oWorkers can access talent pools with adequate skills for all positions.

 

Customer experience

For organizations, customer experience will be the holy grail, and the complex new jobs that get introduced as a result of automation, will be goaled to drive superior customer experience. In a world with information symmetry, customer experience will be the primary differentiator, even though customers, at least of retail franchises, will almost always be interfacing with tools and technologies for their needs to be served.

Smart companies have known it for many years, perhaps decades, but the world is becoming increasingly aware of customer experience being directly proportional to how engaged its employees are.

With the employee skill level rising, it is a given that in any given situation, the number of customers as a ratio of the number of employees will be a rising graph. This means that an employee will have the capacity to influence a much larger section of the company’s customers through his/her actions, both positively and negatively.

Eventually, whether we interact with a customer or not, the end goal of a business is customer satisfaction and delight. oWorkers is conscious of this fact and endeavors to deliver the best service and quality on all projects. Clients also save up to 80% when they outsource to oWorkers, without compromising on quality and timeliness of delivery. That combination is difficult to beat.

 

Challenges for workforce management

Workforce management emerged as a distinct discipline with the rising size and spread of companies, especially those with retail franchises. There was a need to manage large numbers of employees and ensure they were adding value to the company. Many different software tools such as Genesys, Verint, NICE and Aspect came to be regarded as essentials for companies that had a large employee pool to manage. The accent was on ensuring that staff members were utilized efficiently and that the wastage and down time was minimized or eliminated.

The wheel, however, seems to have now come a full circle. Increasingly, the focus is shifting from demanding efficiency from employees to ensuring that they are well looked after and their expectations are being met. The Great Resignation is an event that many companies would rather forget.

With the shift in focus in how employees are managed, one might intuitively assume that the heyday of the workforce management (WFM) technology is in the past. However, that is not how it is playing out. From being focused on extracting efficiencies from the workforce, WFM technologies are evolving to blend efficiency enhancement with the business goal of enhancing customer experience while ensuring the employee needs are being met.

With its multiple partnerships with leading technology companies, oWorkers accesses the latest technologies for use in client projects.

 

Evolving role of WFM

Technology and tools will keep developing, advancing and changing, in tune with developments taking place in the world, with the objective of retaining and expanding their relevance in the changed world.

That is the easy part.

The more difficult part is the behavioral change required on part of the people involved in the process and their evolution to stay in step with the changing requirements of a changed world. As we have seen earlier, one of the outcomes of greater automation and digitization is that simpler jobs will be automated, while there will be a rise in the number and type of more complex jobs that require human intelligence for execution.

There is no reason why WFM jobs will buck this global trend.

With the integration of customer experience as one the goals, in addition to the legacy goals of efficiency, staff members holding WFM positions will need to step up to the plate quickly and ensure they are able to pick up the skills required for them to do a more complex job for best results for their organization. With omnichannel customer experience also becoming a part of the strategy of many organizations, WFM staff have work to do to stay relevant.

Creating efficiencies in a scenario where there are many similar jobs may have been a far simpler goal to manage than doing the same thing in an environment where each job could be different.

oWorkers has worked with teams both large and small while managing its workforce. Its 22+ language service is a case in point. Some of the languages that are less popular usually have only one or two practitioners who are deployed in a manner that maximizes efficiency and utilization.

 

Scheduling and rostering

Employee dissatisfaction owing to rostering and scheduling related issues are not new. They repeatedly rear their head in most employee engagement surveys carried out around the world in the last few years, regardless of the software tool that is used by the WFM team that is usually responsible.

Would the disruption to business activity owing to Covid-19 have made the task of WFM departments any easier?

Unlikely, as there are added complexities in the new world.

For one, there has been a huge shift with the acceptance of work from home as a viable option for work in many industries. Besides, as the world emerges from the shadow of the pandemic, it is increasingly becoming clear that a hybrid model, with some combination of work from office and work from home, is the likely norm in most companies, with each settling down in a comfort zone that is unique to them.

The gig economy is another reality all businesses will need to contend with, sooner or later, with all its peculiarities and flexibility.

Driving efficiencies in manpower utilization itself is expected to be a tall order in this new normal. Add to it the expectation of contributing to a positive customer experience, and you could have a complex but powerful role being played by WFM.

With each of its global centers offering a 24×7 operating window, oWorkers has long managed rosters and schedules for a workforce that needs to operate as a continuous process, and the associated challenges. While most rostering is done at a team level, individual preferences are taken into account.

 

Smarter workforce tools for a smarter workforce

While clearly WFM tools will keep evolving to stay relevant, WFM teams also need to reskill and re-goal themselves to ensure that they are catering to the expectations of a workforce that is moving up the skill curve and in keeping them aligned with the company’s goals. They also need to ensure that it is a participative decision-making process, rather than the top-down approach followed by many organizations with a formal workforce practice in place. Today’s workers don’t want to be told when to start work and how many hours to work; they want to make decisions themselves, while ensuring they are contributing to the employer’s goals and not taking away from them.

The differentiator is expected to be the capability of the WFM team in managing the larger set of variables in the changing world, overlaid with the need to manage customer experience.

That being said, for WFM teams, the immediate goal should still be the satisfaction and experience of employees as satisfied and engaged employees can be expected to deliver a superior customer experience.

The ability of oWorkers to provide additional staff at short notice is a stellar example of their workforce management capability. They can offer up to a hundred additional resources within 48 hours if a client experiences unusual or unexpected volumes.

 

In summary

While it is a tautology, it must still be stated that a mix of technology and well-trained and engaged WFM teams will be crucial to delivering a great employee experience which, I turn, will lead to great customer experience. WFM is no longer a support function; it will be a critical function in the journey of delivering a great customer experience.

The components of a successful strategy are expected to be:

  • Identifying the right technology for the WFM function; that can keep changing with time
  • Training and right hiring for staffing the WFM teams, which could even be an outsourced partner, that can focus on the end goal of customer satisfaction via delivering great employee experience
  • Alignment of goals and strategies between the larger organization goals and the departmental goals of WFM

oWorkers offers security and comfort to clients with its super secure facilities and ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). Its GDPR compliance only adds to its credentials.