By Andie Burjek
Sep. 21, 2020
As the world throws curveballs at businesses, new workforce management tools are created as old ones may become irrelevant or even more daunting to use.
Luckily, new technologies are constantly being created to address these challenges.
With more employees clocking in on their phones, it could be possible for them to clock in anywhere. Geofencing — a capability in which time and attendance tools can put a fence around a location that that workers cannot clock in unless they are on premise — is one solution that’s gaining momentum.
Karen Piercy, a partner in Mercer’s Philadelphia office, said that she’s recently seen more clients ask about geofencing when looking for vendors. While it used to be something that clients were not directly seeking when looking for a vendor, now it’s something on many wish lists.
Fighting burnout and fatigue
One of the biggest challenges of recent years is the quick pace of transformation and innovation, said Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium. These changes can impact the way that employees work on a day-to-day basis. Even before COVID-19 hit the U.S. in early 2020, companies and employees were struggling with how to deal with change effectively.
She gave the example of distribution workers, who years ago may have gone about their day with a clipboard and a manifest and did their daily deliveries based on that paper document . Now it’s more likely they used an iPad, where tasks can be updated whenever it is convenient. In the future, it’s possible that self-driving cars are instructed where to go, and the employee is essentially only used to offload products.
People don’t change as quickly as technology does, which can lead to change fatigue and burnout, Bruce said. Change fatigue refers to people feeling tired out by constant change, and burnout refers to people feeling overwhelmed by not having enough resources to deal with these changes appropriately.
Bruce suggested that resilience training software can help employees deal with change better. Resilience refers to not necessarily working harder but adopting the skills to solve problems or address a situation as efficiently as possible with the resources available.
Additionally, managers have a role, as well. It’s not all on the employees. Managers should understand how employees as a group are feeling and learn the overall climate of the workforce, Bruce said. If workers are stressed, managers can explore the question of what is causing burnout and hindering their productivity.
For this, Bruce recommended using a HR tool or software that provides managers data-driven insights, rather than something that simply shares tips and guidance. Good workforce management tools here will deliver actionable insights to managers.
Adopt workforce management tools with personalization
In the context of burnout, personalized tools can help in many ways. Bruce said the right tools could help people track their stress levels and get instant feedback from a chatbot if someone is seeing a pattern of feeling more stressed than usual.
Users could get insights like that they’re always a little more stressed on a certain day of the week or after a specific type of meeting or event. From there, they can identify a specific stress point and go on from there trying to deal with it better, Bruce said.
Personalization is also something that applies to the broader spectrum of workforce management tools and technology.
Machine learning is gaining traction
The Gartner report “Six Emerging Human Capital Management Technology Trends” explored different tools and technologies likely to become commonplace in the near future. One of these tools is machine learning in HCM, likely to see mainstream adoption in the next five to 10 years, according to the report.
Machine learning is broadly applicable to most, if not all, HCM processes, the report stated, and in order to be successful, organizations must have access to rich data sources, including historical data. By adopting this tool, organizations may be able to take advantage of the many benefits from helping people and processes evolve to guiding talent planning and investment decisions.
The report also included some warnings regarding the impact of machine learning. “Beware of the limitations of machine learning in HCM. A decision based on bad data or a bad analysis will usually result in an unexpected/poor outcome,” it stated.
Additionally, deploying machine learning as a one-off initiative is not the most effective use of the tool, the report said. It’s better used consistently for continuous improvement over time.
Voice of the employee technologies
The Gartner report also highlighted “voice of the employee,” or VoE, technologies, which are able to collect and analyze the opinions, perceptions and feelings of employees through means such as surveys or feedback tools. It is estimated that these tools will see mainstream adoption in five to 10 years, according to the report.
These solutions offer a way for managers to measure and improve employee engagement and retention, and they better allow managers to identify any commonplace issues among staff.
One important recommendation Gartner has for organizations interested in this technology is to build a VoE strategy with data privacy and security requirements in mind.
Chatbots for bots
Organizations have been incorporating AI-enabled chatbots in their HR systems for years, but that becomes difficult to manage when there’s a different bot for each HR function, said Will Manuel, partner at Mercer.
One of the newer innovations is bots for bots, he added. Socrates.AI is one of these software technology companies that helps manage the bots an organization uses so that the way questions are being answered is consistent across bots.
“Otherwise, even though you’re leveraging new technology, you’re still creating silos. And integration is better,” Manuel said.
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