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9 June 2022

The role of digital transformation in workforce management

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Transformation

The future of workforce management lies in digital transformation

Digital transformation – there’s a big clue in the words…

… a case of “it does what it says on the tin”. But is it as simple to define as that? Digital transformation is a broad umbrella term, in simple terms meaning: ‘the integration and use of digital technologies across all areas of an organisation resulting in fundamental operational changes’.

In different ways we have been digitally transforming for a few decades. Letter to fax to email to SMS. Landline to mobile to Teams meeting. Clocking-in card to swipe card to facial recognition. Even the way many of us get our food (groceries or takeaway/delivery) is managed digitally.

In this third blog in our workforce management series (see also the business value of workforce management and the benefits of effective workforce management) we’re going to look at the effects of digital transformation in our daily lives and at work.

Advantages to digital transformation

In essence, digital transformation has sped-up, streamlined and to a great extent, simplified things. In our personal lives banking, communication, consumption of news and entertainment and even adjusting the temperature of our homes are all down to the onward march of digital transformation.

The impact of digital transformation at work has arguably been greater. Improvements in the speed and reliability of financial transactions and day-to-day communications compared with 15 years ago are considerable. The influence of digital transformation in business could probably more accurately be described in terms of a ‘digital revolution’. The digitising of systems and processes has impacted just about every industry – with major benefits, in most cases, to both business and consumer. Streamlined logistics processes (manufacturing, delivery etc) mean many foods and consumer goods are considerably cheaper in real terms than a generation ago. Digital transformation extends into perhaps unexpected areas as well – measuring elements of performance through a lightweight device worn across a footballer’s shoulders and that a publisher can now have a single copy of a book printed and delivered within days are just two.

Effectively managed digital transformation will have a direct, positive impact on a business’s bottom line – it’s just a matter of scale and timelines.

Negative impacts

For some – particularly the elderly – the digital transformation of many areas of day-to-day life has been a lot to take in, let alone embrace. The gradual disappearance of cash (fast forwarded by the pandemic) will hurt some – particularly small tradespeople and ‘traditional’ cash businesses.

The digital transformation revolution has also impacted employment – though it’s debatable whether, long-term, this means a loss of jobs or a change in the types of work many people do.

Some will argue that digital transformation has damaged customer service – that “you are now seventh in the queue with a waiting time of 19 minutes” or being expected to find the answer to your query by searching a series of FAQs on a website don’t represent progress. People, they’ll say, would still rather speak to an actual person.

Digital transformation and workforce management

Start with the basic principles of workforce management – getting the rights skills at the right time and at the right cost into the right place. Those principles in one way or another (even subconsciously) have served businesses and organisations well for many years and through considerable change.

What has digital transformation done to enhance workforce management?

Take rostering as an example – be it for a pub with 10 employees required for a Saturday night shift, to a courier company with 1500 jobs to deliver from one mile to 75 miles away, to a food manufacturer scheduling the making of varying quantities of a range of products. The benefits in tackling any of these rostering tasks with a digital application versus doing it manually (or largely manually) are enormous. Digital transformation applied to workforce management processes will deliver major time savings in scheduling and will save money through the more effective allocation of resources (human and other). More accurate estimating will mean only the required raw materials or components are ordered and used.

In turn, digital transformation means more effective tracking of stock or inventory via mobile devices as well as the highly effective tracking of deliveries – benefiting customer and business alike. It also facilitates the collection and use of data for business analytics – helping prioritise tasks and determining focus. Additionally, tracking employee activity-productivity on a factory floor or in a warehouse is possible. However, the decision to monitor employees so closely is fraught with potentially negative consequences and privacy concerns.

The pandemic accelerated digital transformation, leading to increased flexibility around working hours with remote and hybrid working becoming more commonplace. This has made those organisations more attractive to potential employees – a stand-out benefit in the current ‘great resignation’ climate. Hybrid or remote working can also be a positive for businesses – people tend to work longer hours when they work at home.

In conclusion

Digital transformation – in general and as applied to workforce management – facilitates more effective work practices. However, just having the tools (but not applying them) will mean laboured progress. Creating a digital mindset within a business needs to be kickstarted and driven by leaders and senior people.

Many organisations have taken an evolutionary approach to navigating digital transformation as applied to workforce management – tracking costs and measuring ROI on a step-by-step basis through the journey. Businesses need to get there, though it’s the how and at what pace that’s the really interesting part to it.

MHR works closely to with Grosvenor Technology to offer a range of integrated workforce management solutions for all industries, sectors and organisation size.

Simon Wooldridge, Content Writer, MHR

Simon Wooldridge

Simon is a content writer at MHR.

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