Talking one-on-one with clients about how they’re benefiting from and managing issues with their workforce management (WFM) system is always a big win for me. I got the chance to do just that this past week at our second annual Axsium WFM Forum here in Chicago (while this is our second North American Forum, we had our sixth UK WFM Forum this past March). It’s a one-of-a-kind vendor-neutral event that allows field professionals to share their experiences, best practices and the challenges they face related to their WFM systems and processes. The agenda is driven by current trends in the industry and highlighted by unique case studies told by retailers and hospitality professionals in their own words.

Each year, I provide a “state of the WFM industry” presentation which covers what WFM vendors are up to and trends affecting the workforce. At this year’s Forum, I also shared five strategies to spark innovation in your WFM initiatives:

  1. Take control of your digital workplace – In far too many companies, associates are using apps like Facebook, WhatsApp and Shift Messenger to manage their schedules because corporate is not giving them the tools to do it within the network. This creates a whole host of privacy issues and puts the business at risk as you lose visibility into what’s going on with your workforce behind the scenes. Taking back control includes prioritizing and setting a strategy that makes the most sense to your business goals (you can read more about this in a previous blog). Offering employees mobile real-time options for scheduling, training, communication and team messaging will ensure you maintain control of your corporate culture and flow of information.
  2. Make productivity your business strategy – WFM professionals often find themselves reacting to changes in their business and instinctively respond by cutting labor. However, you can only cut so far. To get out of this unenviable position, I encourage WFM professionals to set a strategy for your team to increase productivity rather than cut labor. Yes, the work is harder but the results can be great. By creating a plan to increase productivity and delivering on that plan, you elevate WFM to a strategic role in business operations. Failing to create a productivity plan relegates WFM to the cost cutting role.
  3. Employ tools for an agile and sustainable labor model – WFM systems have taken the place of spreadsheets to manage scheduling, but some businesses are still using spreadsheets to manage their labor models. Ultimately you need robust tools to create and manage an effective labor model. From an Axsium perspective we offer two work measurement tools – Opus and Studia – that allow organizations to collect data to reveal non-value added areas of waste and inconsistency in the workplace and provide ways to make work easier and employees more productive. You can then build out labor standards and a healthy labor model. These tools let us do our job better, when we’re helping you with your labor model, and help you to do your job better too.
  4. Increase field adoption to amplify your impact – Time and again we see customers roll out a new WFM system without defining a clear adoption strategy. The problem here is that the business case organizations want to achieve will never come to fruition because they’re not correctly monitoring how the system is being used by their workers. If, for example, you see a lot of schedule edits, forecasts are off or your people are not using specific aspects of the system then you need to find out why. A key indicator of any successful WFM implementation is how well end users adopt the new solution. By ensuring your workforce is using the system to the fullest, and in the right way, you will exceed your business case.
  5. Strengthen and expand our global WFM community – I always want to encourage WFM professionals within our client organizations to grow their network as well as the community at large. That’s one of the key reasons why we hold this Forum. We all get better by having relationships with other WFM experts. Our roles are unique – and there aren’t a lot of us out there – so the more we can learn from and share with each other, the more successful our companies will be. Having said that, along with our North American and UK Forums, we are looking to expand into Australia. We’ll also shortly introduce virtual WFM Forums where peer and expert speakers from around the globe will meet online a couple of times a year to make sure we all stay connected.

These strategies created great discussion among the attendees, and that’s really what the Forum is intended to do. This isn’t a user conference. It’s not about software configuration. This is an event focused on the broader topic of WFM that provides an executive setting where WFM experts can share their experience and learn from each other. One client talking about their vendor’s software and how they’re working to keep their labor model simple, is very relevant to another WFM professional using software from another vendor, but still experiencing the same problem. Business problems are universal and our Forum is a great place to look for answers.