Today’s post is courtesy of board member Bob Clements, President at Axsium Group,  a leading workforce management consulting firm.

Most organizations are experiencing a labor shortage. While pundits debate the causes (or if the shortage even exists), the problem is very real at many organizations and needs to be fixed.

Here are three ways to fix your organization’s labor shortage:

Fix #1: Increase wages

The first solution is to increase wages. Companies like McDonalds, Under Armor and Bank of America have all announced wage increases to attract workers – moves that have been well received by both employees and the public at large. In principle, it is easy to throw money at the problem, but in practice, it may not be possible. Higher wages cut into profits so you will need to make a strong case that wage increases will pay for themselves, and then some.

Another approach might be to examine the risk of not increasing wages by equating labor shortages to decreased customer service and, in turn, reduced sales. No matter what, you face an uphill battle to get the executive support needed to raise pay.

Fix #2: Increase hours

The second option is to ask your existing employees to work more hours. Giving more hours to your current workforce reduces the need to hire new workers, along with the training and onboarding expenses associated with hiring.

Two big hurdles need to be cleared for this solution to work:

  1. Your employees need to be willing to pick up more hours. Some may be happy to do this others will not or cannot due to childcare, other commitments such as school, or lifestyle. Therefore, offering more hours can soften the labor shortage but may not fully eliminate it. It is helpful to provide your employees with technology that allows them to see what shifts are available and let them choose the shifts they want to work.

  2. Those most likely to take the extra hours will do so to get paid overtime. For many organizations, overtime is a four-letter word and something to be avoided at all costs. The fact is that overtime can be less expensive than hiring new workers. This is due to recruiting costs, benefit costs, and the higher productivity of experienced workers. Fellow Workforce Institute advisory board member John Frehse talks about this in his white paper “The Overtime Lie”. Organizations that are able to overcome their hang-ups with overtime will be well-positioned to keep operations running during a labor shortage.

Fix #3: Increase productivity

The third solution is to increase the productivity of your existing workforce. Increasing the output of workers already on staff reduces the need for more workers and the need for overtime.

There are two paths to improving productivity:

  1. Productivity gains can come from big ideas like eliminating tasks, reducing the frequency with which certain tasks are performed, or redesigning tasks entirely. The bigger the idea, the more time it may take to implement. So, recognize that this path may not have an immediate impact on your labor shortage but should have a large, sustainable impact when implemented.
  2. Big gains can come from small changes. Unlike the big ideas mentioned in the last point, small changes can often be implemented quickly. To find such opportunities, look for tasks that are performed frequently. Eliminating just one step in a frequently performed task or moving a piece of equipment closer to where the task is performed to reduce travel time can have an outsized impact on productivity. Saving a few seconds may not seem like much but when that savings happens thousands of times a day in each store across your entire portfolio, it begins to add up quite quickly.

One size does not fit all when addressing a labor shortage. Each organization and its workforce is different, and what works for one may work differently for another due to culture, demographics, geography, industry and more. The good news is that each of the solutions outlined above can be used alone or in combination with others. They can be implemented in parallel or sequentially. The important thing is to act because one thing is certain: You won’t solve your labor shortage by waiting for more workers to appear.

Today's post comes to us from board member and Group HR Director at Merlin Entertainments, Natalie Bickford.

In the hospitality sector, many of us have fallen into what I think of as “the availability trap”: running our consumer-facing businesses on the whim of a 17-year-old who wants to work, but also attend band practice three afternoons a week. Or the 19-year-old who wants shifts mid-week but likes to hang out with their friends on the weekend. We hire for availability, and then add more employees to our payroll on variable contracts, just to ensure that we have enough staff to open our visitor attraction, our coffee shop, or our store. The result? We have far too many employees to whom we offer far too few hours to create meaningful jobs. Those employees might well then go out and get themselves a supplementary job (or two) meaning that they aren’t available to work in any case when you actually call on them. This certainly doesn’t make for an engaged workforce, often results in reliance on agency staff who might not share your business’ values or have been properly on-boarded, and ultimately damages the consumer experience.

Unfortunately, we have created this mess ourselves. The desire to have maximum flexibility within our workforce so that we can run on skeleton staff on a rainy day, but staff up fully when the sun comes out makes sense on paper if you’re running a P&L. Nobody wants to explain to their boss that they made a loss during a quiet period, with minimal customer footfall and employees sitting around twiddling their thumbs. For many, however, this has gone too far – with the vast majority of the front line workforce being hired on variable contracts, resulting in significant employee turnover, leading to more hiring, and so the addiction to the variable drug  goes on.

So, here’s a thought. Every consumer-facing business needs a core of frontline employees, whatever the weather, the holiday, or what sport is on the TV that weekend. Let’s start by making all of those positions permanent with a minimum 35 hours per week. These folks become your brand champions, your trainers, and your future managers. Then supplement these core jobs with a much smaller number of variable roles, again maximizing the hours as much as possible. Cross train the teams so that they can work across a number of departments. In visitor attractions, this means training employees to “follow the guest” – admissions booths in the morning, food and beverage at lunchtime, and retail sales in the afternoon. This way you can create more interesting work experience for the employee, more valuable and flexible roles, and a greater sense of team amongst the workforce. Supplement this with sales or service incentives, end of season bonuses, recognition programs, and access to training. These variable employees might well then become your core employees of the future.

Implement, if possible, a mobile-enabled staff scheduling tool that allows employees to swap shifts amongst themselves, allowing them to fit in that band practice or shopping day.

Let’s free ourselves from the availability trap and rebuild our work schedules with our employees front-of-mind.  This will have far greater an impact on our P&L than ensuring the maximum flexibility that we don’t really need.

Today's post is from Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

In a press release on July 12th regarding no-poach provisions,  Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said “Companies must compete for workers just like they compete for customers".  The poaching in question is between franchisees of national fast food chains.  The no-poaching agreements have the impact of preventing employees from accepting positions at higher wages from another franchisee.   According to the press release, as a result of the Washington AG's efforts, "seven fast-food chains agreed to stop this practice not only at their over 500 Washington locations, but nationally. Tens of thousands of low-wage employees will be affected across the United States at more than 25,000 locations."

This got me thinking about how other organizational practices that limit employee autonomy and  hurt not only the workers, but also their employers.  Rules that make it difficult for employees to take care of their obligations outside of work may make it easier for their bosses to manage their time, but won't earn those bosses loyalty and productivity.  Practices that limit employees' ability to work in multiple locations of the same business inhibit flexibility that can help both parties.  Especially now, with unemployment as low as it's been in decades, people will vote with their feet when they can find an employer whose culture and practices express respect for workers and their lives outside of work.

One of the most important practices that leaders of hourly employees need to get right to earn employee loyalty is scheduling.  People need predictable work schedules in order to manage their lives, but many don't have them.  Research we published earlier this year indicated that nine out of 10 employees globally think their organization could improve how they manage employee schedules.  A third of employees surveyed globally want solutions that make it easier to swap shifts, seek coverage from colleagues, or opt into open shifts for more hours, especially through mobile phones and tablets.  More than a quarter (28 percent) wish their organization would embrace self-scheduling, allowing employees to build their own schedules or select preferred shifts that make it easier to manage personal responsibilities outside of work.  Employees are also frustrated with how long it takes managers to approve time-off and scheduling change requests (28 percent).

One organization that is taking these employee preferences to heart is Sprint Mart, a convenience store and gas station operator in the southern region of the US.   Chris McKinney, director, human resources, says "Our success hinges on our people as everyday our team members meet the various needs of thousands of customers. It is our team members’ dedication to  delivering a superior customer experience that puts Sprint Mart among the best in convenience stores.”  Sprint Mart invested in Kronos solutions for time and attendance, HR, payroll, and employee scheduling applications across 90 locations in order to create a positive work environment where employees have greater control over their work lives.

Sprint Mart employees are able to swap shifts with each other without manager intervention and work across different locations. Managers also gain access to the entire pool of Sprint Mart employees to select from when creating schedules for different locations. These benefits help generate schedules that take into consideration employee preferences and skill sets as well as store demand, optimizing the scheduling process.

Since making these changes,  turnover has decreased at Sprint Mart. The solution not only allows employees to have a say in their schedules, leave, and other work-related aspects, but also offers data to support performance decisions. With more actionable insights supporting an employee’s performance, the effects of manager perception or bias are significantly reduced when it comes to measuring performance-oriented outcomes.

Few industries are spared from recruitment and retention challenges in the current labor market.  Sprint Mart has cracked the code on how to improve results while giving employees more autonomy.  Per the quote from Washington AG Ferguson at the top of this article, organizations need to compete for talent if they are going to succeed in a tight job market.  What are you doing - or seeing others do - to boost results while loosening the reins that inhibit employees?




Today's post comes to us from board member John Frehse, Senior Managing Director at Ankura Consulting.

When my colleagues and I ask executive management teams about their labor strategies, they often tell us how it is supposed to be rather than how it actually is. In many cases we hear about 3-shift operations working Monday-through-Friday with weekends off. As we dig deeper though, we often learn that employees are working at least 20 weekends a year, morale is low, absenteeism and turnover are high, and the current schedule is broken. Reality can be harsh.

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem 
When we ask management teams how it is possible that the demand for their products and services equals exactly 120 hours of labor coverage, they usually smile and say, “Of course it's not exact, but this is the strategy we have had forever and we tweak it all the time to make it work.”

Although labor strategies with no weekend work are often simple, easily understandable, and in theory, predictable, they don’t always provide adequate production capacity during the “traditional” workweek. This lack of planned capacity forces managers to constantly move people around to meet the actual demand. In principle, labor strategies with no weekend work allow managers and business to operate within their comfort zones, but in reality, last minute demand changes cause last minute schedule changes. As a result, employees are “voluntold” to work overtime on their Saturdays and Sundays, leading to reduced employee morale and motivation.

7 Warning Signs That Your Current Schedule Strategy May Be Broken 
1. Rapid company growth
2. High amounts of Saturday and Sunday overtime
3. High levels of absenteeism and turnover
4. Events driving demand (outside of management’s control)
5. Inaccurate forecasting
6. Impossibly low inventory
7. Increasing reliance on temporary employees to cover off-shifts

Strategies to Address Broken Monday-through-Friday Schedules 
Awareness is the first step in addressing the realities of broken schedules. The next step is to review solutions to mitigate the problem. Possible solutions may include:
• Providing alternative shift lengths with more days off even with weekend work
• Developing alternative day-on day-off patterns to share the burden of weekend work
• Reaching out to employees to learn what they like and do not like about their current schedules
• Building in predictable overtime for employees who want more hours
• Using automated scheduling tools, analytics, and activity management to better understand and manage scheduling
• Providing longer periods of time off, allowing employees to recuperate and enjoy quality time with their families and friends

Changing employee scheduling practices is something that very few companies do well and many companies do poorly. Although challenging, getting out of your comfort zone and coming to terms with the fact that you are no longer a Monday-through-Friday operation is the key to turning your company into a more responsive, agile, and resilient operation.

zombiesSome of you may look at this and see "Halloween costume", but maybe others see another day at the office (store, plant, hospital, etc.).  Our new "Forgotten Workforce" survey asked hourly workers in the UK how they felt about their jobs.

The results indicate that 61% of workers either feel neutral or unhappy about going to work most days.  The key sources of their dissatisfaction?  Low pay (36%), little or no variety to the job role they perform (25%) and unpaid overtime (22%).

Only 25% of workers think their employer is very good at ensuring the right people are in the right place and the right time, and 48% of workers say their employer underestimates the number of people needed for a particular shift at least once a month, making things harder for those on duty.

What do these workers think their employers can do to improve these conditions?   Over 80% are happy to record when they start and finish shifts, but would also like to see their employers using technology to give them  more flexibility and control over their schedules.  Two-thirds of workers have difficulty requesting shifts and 65% have difficulty swapping shifts with colleagues.

Are your employees walking dead like our friends above, or are they dancing in the streets like Michael and his friends?


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