The year’s strong start gave way to prospects of a coming economic downturn. Duke University’s CFO Global Business Outlook has 69% of respondents anticipating a recession in the latter part of 2020. Looking 12 to 18 months into the future is helpful, but begs the question, how does one take full advantage of the market conditions today while preparing for the uncertainties of the future economy? One solution is to step up your organization’s efforts toward true workforce optimization, thereby taking full advantage of today’s market opportunities. No doubt we face a tight labor market but there are ways to operate even more effectively even in these conditions.
In a service economy, optimization not only improves overall productivity, but can directly drive revenue by ensuring the right people are in the right place at the right time with high levels of engagement. The effect is to satisfy customer expectations, building brand loyalty. It increases the customer’s intent to return and recommend and it holds the potential to maximize profitability through better cost management. To be sure, this is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring. Part art and part science, its beauty is in maintaining the relationship between customer expectations and employee attitudes.
Perhaps for you, the key to doing this right is to start with a willingness to let go of long-held operating assumptions along with outmoded methods of planning and tracking – i.e., Excel spreadsheets. With apologies to this valuable business tool, accurate workforce forecasting, and planning is best addressed and optimized through use of smart technology. Investing in an up-to-date, algorithm-enabled forecasting and labor management planning system pays off quickly in the ability to respond nimbly and maintain performance in the face of market fluctuations and changes.
Properly aligning all aspects of workforce performance, including skills, attitude, availability, and timing, puts you in the driver’s seat to consistently meet the expectations of your customers and drive optimum bottom-line performance.
Eliminating Data Silos
To take full advantage of the opportunities the market has available requires employing an integrated technology that can look at guest satisfaction, employee engagement and productivity data together to understand the correlation and then use this knowledge as a catalyst for moving the business forward. This requires evolved thinking from the traditional model, where marketing has focused on guest satisfaction, human resources on employee engagement, and operations on productivity. Workforce optimization requires “de-silo-ing” the data, reviewing these aspects of your business in terms of cause and effect.
Properly approached, this process will streamline the big data collected throughout the operation, decreasing the burden often borne by regional and unit managers who find themselves swimming in data without useful context. Investing in the right technology brings data streams together, simplifying what used to be the complex tasks required for optimization – precise and predictive forecasting, planning and scheduling coupled with timely analysis of key criteria that can be acted upon to continuously boost results.
Knowing your customers
In an ever-evolving marketplace, it’s getting more challenging to understand customer expectations in real time. What factors most influence their intent to return and recommend? How do those factors differ from a year ago? Six months ago? To truly optimize your operations, you need to know your customer and focus your time, team and budget on the specific things that keep them coming back.
As an operator, you instinctively know that within a single customer category there are segments with varying needs. Understanding those preferences and nuances are key to ensuring that each customer segment is satisfied with what you’re able to deliver.
Focusing on the factors that matter most to customers – and staying up to speed on them as they evolve – will help inform necessary workforce management processes and technology to optimize standards, forecasts and planning.
While staff has historically been viewed as a “cost” of doing business, viewing associates instead as strategic assets enables managers to think differently and to deploy them effectively with better training, higher engagement, and, thereby, increased revenue per employee. Knowing that your service standards are in sync with changing marketplace perceptions will give your organization a distinct competitive advantage. Engaged employees work more efficiently which leads to improved bottom-line results. They also are more likely to bring commitment and passion to their work, equating to higher quality service delivery and greater guest satisfaction, keys to driving top-line revenue. Data across a wide variety of companies I work with confirms that those who measure and respond to employee engagement consistently perform better, and one of the keys to this is regular assessments of engagement, not just the once-a-year survey.
It’s no secret that Millennials desire greater control in managing their schedules and work/life balance. These up-and-coming managers are already influencing a shift in organizational culture. They want to manage their schedules the way they organize the rest of their lives—from their smartphones. As a bonus, this practice – for companies employing mobile scheduling technology — is improving communication between staff and managers. It also provides a perfect platform for implementing pulse surveys to measure engagement and receiving ongoing feedback from team members.
Putting these measures in place constitutes smart business. Laying the groundwork now fosters resilience for any market conditions that may lie ahead. And critically, ensures you take full advantage of today’s top and bottom line opportunities.
So, what’s holding you back?