The New World of Work Pt 2

money gold coins finance
Waiting for Payday

Waiting for payday has been a universal and shared experience around the globe for over a hundred years with almost everyone in paid work typically waiting between 1 to 4 weeks until they receive the rewards of their endeavours.

This concept was so ingrained within our working life that until recently it has rarely been questioned. The problem though, is that whilst workers wait up to a month to be paid for their work, the reverse is true for purchasing where consumers are mostly required to pay in advance or on delivery.

Personal budgeting is one way of bridging this divide, but for minimum wage employees, an unexpected car repair or appliance failure can easily torpedo your careful planning.

The economic meltdown in 2008 put further strain on the financial well-being of workers across the world and pushed many into the arms of the payday loan market which grew rapidly as a result.

Whilst its advocates promoted the loan as a means of bridging the gap between payday, the reality was the eye-watering interest rates simply compounded the problem and forced many workers further into debt.

However, today organisations are starting to re-evaluate how and when their employees are remunerated in the emerging New World of Work. Some companies such as Wagestream provide tools and services to enable employees to get access to a proportion of their salary before payday avoiding the need for them to rely on expensive short-term loans.

The New World of Work will continue to challenge and change the way we work and the often-heard response “Because this is how we’ve always done it”.

Read The New World of Work Part 1 here

The New World of Work: Part 1

fashion man vintage shoes
The Death of Suits

The office attire, colloquially referred to as being “suited and booted”, has been the default and often mandatory office uniform from as far back as the 19th Century. It gained a new life in the 1980’s with the concept of power dressing as a means of projecting authority and power but today, according to a survey by Travelodge, only 1 in 10 workers wear a suit to work.

This dramatic shift has less to do with fashion changes, rather a reflection on the changing attitudes to organisational structure and colleagues in the work environment.

Historically, you could often ascertain someone’s seniority by the clothes they wore, and this was often encouraged to distinguish management from employees. But this visual reinforcement of the hierarchical structure and decision making is outdated in the New World of Work.

Hierarchical structures functioned well in a world where change happened slowly, and decisions filtered down from the top. But today, change is happening fast, not just in terms of business models, but also in terms of technology and markets. Old hierarchical structures struggle to identify and adapt fast enough to remain relevant and competitive.

The trend is for Managers and CEO’s to be more embedded and collaborative with their teams to enable them to identify and guide the company through rapid changes.

Breaking down corporate barriers also means leaving behind the paraphernalia that divides and instead adopting behaviours and appearance that unites teams and helps foster open debate and discussion.

Unsurprisingly many CEO’s are ditching the suit and choosing Jeans and T-shirts to reflect a more open and approachable style. Breaking away from the office dress code makes a clear statement that the organisation embraces individual thought rather than uniform group-think.

 

Avoid Cloud Confusion

person covering face with blue wooden cloud wall decor
Avoid Cloud Confusion

The tech industry is famous for inventing jargon and terms that lack any clear definition which are then misused by marketing and ultimately mislead potential buyers into thinking they are getting something they are not.  The term “Cloud Solution” is a classic example.

Strictly speaking cloud solutions refer to any software (or service) that is provisioned via the Internet and does not require local infrastructure/install to consume it (typically access is via a web browser). However, this term is broad enough to hide a multitude of sins whilst not challenging any assumptions.

The public experience of cloud solutions is numerous including applications like google, amazon, banking and other consumer retail applications. These applications reflect a specific instance of “cloud solutions” and are based on modern internet design principles including;

  1. Internet By Design: These applications are built for the internet age with an architecture that can scale and more importantly scale over multiple servers that can be increased with demand ensuring users do not experience lag.
  2. Resilient Architecture: Because the application is designed to run on multiple servers there is inbuilt redundancy which reduces unexpected downtime.
  3. Future Proofed: These applications are automatically updated/upgraded with fixes and features without users having to request or pay for the update. This ensures that users are always working on the most bug free and updated version and ensures they never fall into legacy.

This all seems straightforward and many would be forgiven for thinking that all cloud applications follow these design patterns. However, many cloud-based solutions do not, and we therefore need to differentiate between “True Cloud” and those that just run the application in the “Cloud”. The main two “Cloud” variants which are often mistaken for “True Cloud” are;

  1. Hosted Applications: This is where a traditional legacy Fat Client application is hosted in a data centre and users’ access the application via Terminal Services or Citrix. Whilst it is true to say that nothing needs to be installed locally (other than Terminal Services/Citrix) the reality is you are simply accessing an old product through a new way. The application isn’t multi-tenanted, it doesn’t scale, and each instance needs to be individually upgraded/updated. Its an old product on a new server with Citrix.
  2. Web User Interface: Another tactic often deployed by business is to rewrite the user interface so that users can access the functionality through a web browser. Whilst it provides a modern feel and avoids the need for costly Citrix/Terminal Services, the reality behind the scenes is much the same as with a standard hosted application though this is hidden from the user until things go wrong. In the industry this is referred to as “lipstick on a pig

Why Not True Cloud?

Given the disadvantages to both the vendor and the customer of using a “cloud enabled legacy solution” it does beg the question why businesses would not invest in developing Cloud Designed Solutions. The answer is that many businesses have invested significantly in Fat Client/Server solutions for many years (Some from as early as 1995) and do not want to incur the cost required to start from scratch.

The more functionality they add into their old product the more reluctant (and expensive) they are to invest in a new product. It is akin to refusing to buy a new car because you have spent so much money repairing the old one.

HFX is True Cloud

Within Workforce Management, HFX is one of the few exceptions. In 2013, HFX secured significant investment to build a true cloud solution from the ground up. We recruited developers with 15+ years’ experience developing web solutions AND with a strong background in Workforce Management to ensure the solution was “True Cloud” AND ready for the New World of Work.

To find out what a True Cloud Workforce Management Solution looks like contact us

 

The Value of Simplify

“The height of sophistication is simplicity”
Clare Boothe Luce

simple

Whilst HFX has many values, our core value is SIMPLIFY. We believe this core value drives change and provides tangible benefits to all our customers. We apply this approach to all that we do and place our customers at the heart of the process.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
 Steve Jobs

By applying this value to software development, our team have created a powerful workforce management solution that reduces customer configuration time by over 80%. The result is that OUR customers pay significantly less for implementation, and due to faster implementation times, realise savings much quicker than with other providers.

The benefits don’t end there; because we design our solutions for customers and not for ourselves, we empower customers to take complete ownership of the system including the ability to manage the rules themselves. This not only reduces costs but enables customers to adapt the solution as they change and grow.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
Hans Hofmann

Our approach to simplification also applies to our user interface. Where most software companies provide a single interface for managers and employees, we focus on providing the right user interface for each cohort (Role Based UI Design). Whilst managers are often IT literate and require a powerful user interface to carry out their daily tasks, there is a clear advantage in providing a simplified interface for everyone else.

By providing a user interface that is intuitive and simple, our customers significantly reduce training costs whilst ensuring that there is high user adoption and fewer user errors. Our Employee Self Service UI Design is based on the principles and ease of use that Cash Machines provide; No-one ever needed training on how to use a cash machine and this is also true of ours.

The benefits of simplification go further still. By simplifying the user interface, support calls reduce dramatically. For HFX, this means we have more time to devote to our customers who contact us for more complex queries; this is why we regularly receive 100% AWESOME customer ratings on our Customer Services.

“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.”
 Martin H. Fischer

Our approach to integration with other software solutions including HR, Payroll and ERP takes a similar approach. HFX provides RapiD interface configuration that does all the heavy lifting, translation and transformation enabling third party integration to be achieved effortlessly. By handling the complex processes within the application, we simplify the integration to third parties and even enable our customers to leverage the API so that they can integrate directly.

“Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information.”
 Edward R. Tufte

We have also applied our core value to other aspects of our business including the approach to Marketing. Our new website (www.hfx.co.uk) embodies our core value and mission. We designed the website with our audience in mind rather than being slaves to google search ranking algorithms.

We removed all the clutter and present the key information we think our potential customers want to know. There are no cookies, no pop-up ads, no annoying call-outs and no information overload. We want our customers to view the information they want quickly whilst having a fun and positive experience at the same time.

What my kids taught me about Productivity

What my kids taught me about productivity

Firstly, I confess I made a mistake; we needed to write letters to just under half our customer base (650) before Christmas. This was part of our commitment to inform customers of new developments within our group.

We chose a letter (snail-mail) as these days email is more likely to hit the spam than get into the hands of the people you want to reach. My mistake was haste; Had I taken the time, I would have saved about 10-20% of the cost (about £60) by using a 3rd party.

However, I decided to do the mail merge and post in-house and was faced with the task of folding 650 letters and putting them into envelopes. My solution was to invite my children (I have 4 ranging from 8 to 13) to complete this task rather than burden my colleagues.

I calculated that it would take about 5 seconds per envelope and offered my children 5p per item. I was at first sceptical that at such young age they would grasp the potential prize (£32.50) if they completed whole project.

Initially I invited my youngest daughter Arabelle and her older brother Blake to the challenge. Enthusiastically they got to task immediately and within 5 minutes my oldest son joined the party.

Arabelle, independently came to the revelation that it was more efficient to fold all the letters first and then put them into the envelopes after, rather than switch tasks for each letter. She is only 8 years old yet came up with a way to optimise the task and improve her productivity.

Zach and Blake took this further by copying the idea and teaming up together (they agreed to share the rewards equally). They recognised the benefit of collaborating.

Halfway through my other son Jed turned up (he would normally spurn such an opportunity) but was inspired by the enthusiasm of his brothers and sister. He immediately joined the team. Arabelle being generous of heart agreed to team up with him and share the rewards even though she had already done a large amount of the work. She determined that she would fold whilst Jed would put in the envelope (another smart move) thereby focusing each on a specific task.

Naturally given it was now a competition and a limited number of opportunities (650), there was a pressure to cut corners and so I introduced a quality control process; The address needed to be fully visible in the window of the envelope. If it failed that test, then the envelope (and reward) would be handed to the other team for rework. From that point on quality control was embedded in the team and any queries were flagged up to me immediately (I took on the role of Quality Control Officer).

I was literally taken back by how quickly a group of kids could organise themselves, collaborate, optimise their activities and improve productivity without any direction.

With UK productivity still anaemic, there are some powerful lessons we can all learn from this;

  1. If you want productivity improvements, ask those who are doing the task – they know far more than you.
  2. Create a culture that encourages rather than frustrates the innate potential in people to improve efficiency.
  3. Improvements in productivity can be achieved very quickly if there is focus and incentives.
  4. Ensure quality control is embedded in the process not simply at the end.
  5. Measure and track the entire process to ensure continuous learning.
  6. Never underestimate the contribution of women in the workplace; my youngest daughter came up with the majority of productivity improvements. It is no surprise that the Mckinsey report identified that organisations with 30% or more female executives, are on average 15% more profitable (For more info watch our COO, Nicola Smart interviewed by the Telegraph Business Reporter)

For those interested in statistics

Arabelle and Jed achieved 259 with a failure rate of 0.77% (e.g. 2 that failed QC)

Zach and Blake achieved 311 with a failure rate of 1.93% (e.g. 6 that failed QC)

The failure rate was significantly below the industry average for manual processes.

Finally, the reason for the discrepancy (570 completed vs 650 letters) was down to management failure (me) to provide enough envelopes (I guess the final lesson here is to always invest in planning)

To find out more about hfx visit our main website or contact us

Hfx re-invents the website

hfx welcome to our website2

In 2017, hfx realised that it needed a new website, one which reflected our values, our innovation and our commitment to delivering solutions for the New World of Work.

Nicola Smart (COO, hfx) recalls “Early on we decided that the website should provide visitors with a positive and immersive experience that provided clear and concise information. Too many websites bombard and overwhelm you with pointless information and noise”.

12 months later and hfx releases a completely new design of website, different in almost every respect to traditional websites;

  • No annoying banners asking you to accept cookies. We decided early on that we wouldn’t be “stalking” our visitors and therefore have no need for tracking cookies. If visitors want to contact us, they know where we are.
  • No visitor badgering or callouts to nag the visitor into contacting us. We believe you either want to contact us or you don’t. No amount of badgering is going to make you change your mind – indeed in some cases the annoyance of callouts is enough to make you leave.
  • No bombarding you with information you didn’t ask for. Your time is precious, so we simplify and summarise information into key points. If you need more information you have the option to download a pdf or visit our microsite (www.hfxworkforce.com)
  • No email grabbing. We don’t require your email before you can download documents. The only time we will ask for your email is if you want to contact us via our contact form.
  • No Scroll to Infinity. So many websites insist on the “long scroll” – which is intended to take the visitor on a journey ending up with a call to action. The journey, of course, is predefined and makes to many assumptions about the visitor. Users often end up getting lost, frustrated or confused by having to scroll through the irrelevant to find the relevant. There is a need to simplify and we have achieved that eliminating almost all scrolling.

Naturally, when you buck the trend and go against the rules of website design, it’s never going to be easy.

There are no templates or previous designs to base yours on and you are battling preconceived ideas of how a marketing website should be designed. It had to be conceived and built from the ground up.

A new menu structure and navigation system was designed, redesigned and after that several more times to accommodate the vision we had for the website.

There are also trade-offs to be made; Google search and SEO friendly http://www.hfx.co.uk is not. Nor is it particularly mobile friendly. We also accepted that for many the new site would be like “marmite”; visitors would either love it or hate it, but at least it wouldn’t be another bland corporate design.

Let us know what you think of hfx.co.uk

Introducing A New Integration Paradigm

black and white blank challenge connect

Einstein stated that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” and for hfx this has become a mantra and even our core values are expressed by one word: simplify.

We follow this principle both in terms of our processes, methodology and vigorously within our cloud solution design and development.  The first challenge we tackled with Time and Attendance was the complexity of reflecting real world work rules within a simple and easy configuration that end users could quickly master and enable them to take complete ownership of the solution. The result was amazing; implementation time reduced from 9 months to 1 month enabling the customer to achieve accelerated ROI and significantly reduced costs of configuration and implementation.

This success gave us confidence to tackle the next challenge which was more nuanced but no less radical; solving the thorny issue of integration using Application Programming Interfaces.  As a group of seasoned developers with over 30 years’ experience of integration (and a combined list of over 250 interfaces developed under our belt) we looked at the fundamental issues with integration. We recognised that the issue had little to do with coding ability, language but everything to with mindset.

At a high level we recognise three key mindsets that pervaded all interface development characterised “The Solicitor Mindset”, “Pedantic Officialdom” and “S.E.P or Someone Else’s Problem” – Our analysis revealed all 3 mindsets in all 3rd party integrations we had ever seen and worked with historically. Each requires a little explanation to see how they manifest;

The Solicitors Mindset:

If you have ever had dealings with a solicitor (whether when buying/selling a house, Non-Disclosure Agreement etc) you will instantly recognise the legalise, Latin and jargon that seems to confuse rather than clearly communicate its purpose. Any attempt to simplify the text is met with a firm response by the solicitor that “Its not meant for you but for another solicitor”. This is a lazy excuse to avoid clarity and simplicity by relying on someone else with 7 years legal training to decipher text that could and should have been presented in a way that a lay person could understand. This same mindset influences the development of API’s with the argument being that the P stands for programming so there is no need to simplify the API as its not meant for anyone other than another programmer.

Pedantic Officialdom:

We’ve all had this when asked to fill out a form to change some information. Often you must enter the very same information they already hold and then when you hand it in you are told you’ve used the wrong form (often they have different forms to register new information versus amend existing information). When you fill in the correct form (which is almost identical to the other form) you are then told you must use blank ink rather than the blue or that your signature isn’t fully in the box provided (which is often too small) – I could go on, but you get the point. This very same approach is often applied to Application Interfaces. As with Pedantic Officialdom the whole purpose isn’t to make life easy for the consumer (or 3rd party) but a lazy approach to make it easier for the recipient.

Someone Else’s Problem:

Incapsulating and extending on both the previous mindsets is the overarching view that it is someone else’s problem to decipher and to comply with these pedantic and overly cumbersome rules. This approach to integration enables API’s to be created very quickly but the consequence is that they are dumb, brittle and difficult to work with and significantly increases the effort by the third party.

 A New Paradigm:

Overcoming these issues isn’t a question of technology, coding skills or even language, its harder than that because it requires a paradigm shift in thinking about the whole approach to integration.

However, as with all challenges we were confident with the right approach we could completely turn integration on its head to simplify work for 3rd parties and especially to our customers.

The first design principle we applied was that the API shouldn’t be developed for another developer, it should be developed so that a competent IT professional or implementer could consume the interface.  This principle ensures that we don’t make assumptions about who will be consuming the interface and a good test to ensure that the interface is a simple as possible (but no simpler).

The second design principle is that the API should be intelligent and not pedantic in terms of the calls into the API (for instance demanding a different call to add information versus amending information or refusing data based on lazy or pedantic rules).  If the new data requires the creation of associated or dependent information the API can automatically create this on the fly rather than simply failing. This simplifies the work for 3rd parties whilst reducing both manual entry and lazy rejection of data.

The third design principle was that the API should be easy to configure, so that if requirements change (e.g. some information previously sent IS no longer required) the API can ignore the data without the need for changes by the 3rd party. This ensures that the interface is flexible, and our solution can adapt to changes in data without the need for either the 3rd party or the interface to change. It builds in flexibility.

These 3 guiding principles enable a paradigm shift and focus all the intelligent development work within our solution making it simple to integrate from a 3rd party perspective. It turns integration on its head by making “integration our problem” rather than “Some Else’s Problem” and this changes the mindset with the result that issues are tackled and eliminated from the get go.

This approach rapidly increases integration time, reduces the need for testing and 3rd party development work. It also means that with a simplified approach to web services we can easily integrate legacy/on-premise third party products even if they are csv based using our rapid scripts that convert these into web service calls.

The Future of HR

man with steel artificial arm sitting in front of white table

In a future where many jobs will be lost to automation the question arises as to both the future of the workforce and the need for traditional departments such as HR.

The reality though is that whilst automation will encroach further and further into the workplace removing swathes of jobs and assisting with others, AI for all its hype, has its limits.

To understand where the watermark rests is not quite so simple, but there are guiding principles. Machines are capable of processing huge amounts of data instantly and identifying patterns, trends and correlations. This provides enormous benefit to decision makers who can leverage this data to make informed decisions.

However, decision making at a high level is often the result of considering not just one data point however well evidenced, but many and from different disciplines. Computers often can do one thing very well and fast but can rarely assess the bigger picture.

Neural Networks are capable of learning, but again this is often domain focused. We will see in future the rise of self-driving cars and literally billions of pounds are being spent each year to make this a reality. Whilst there is a high degree of confidence that this huge investment will succeed, the code behind it won’t be able to diagnose cancer in a patient.

Humans are never born to drive or diagnose a patient but have the unique ability to learn completely new and unrelated skills. Given the rapidly changing world and technology, this is a good thing, and it is ironical that whilst we are rapidly adapting to new technology, technology itself is not very good at adapting.

So, what does this all mean for the workplace, the new world of work and HR? Computers and AI will be focused on “narrow field” activities and tasks, those that require speed, accuracy and analysing big data. On the other hand, humans adapt rapidly, have holistic and “outside the box” thinking, multi-disciplinary knowledge and creativity.

Whilst HR contains a lot of administrative tasks which can be automated, there is much that cannot. HR requires a whole range of diverse knowledge and insight from understanding the Law to the values and culture of the organisation, from the needs and objectives of both company and staff to respecting union rules and the wider culture of society in which it operates.

HR acts not just to re-enforce polices and values, but also a change maker within the organisation. In fact, to do HR well, you need to understand that you are working with human beings; A statement so obvious it is often missed when discussing how a computer (with no sense of self, empathy or deep understanding) could replace people in role that requires deep interaction with others.

Computers can learn but learning without context can be at best a disaster, and at worst, catastrophic. For example, Microsoft took down Tay, an AI Chatbot on twitter only 16 hours after launch because – through learning – had started tweet offensive and racist comments. It had no moral compass or understanding of the wider culture to recognise that there is good learning and bad learning.

Imagine you are driving your car 60 mph when a child crosses the road in-front of you. There is no time for you to break without hitting the child, so you can either swerve the car up onto a pavement and hit a wall (with the potential you will incur life changing injuries) or kill the child. This is not hypothetical but a real moral and legal dilemma for the manufacturers of self-driving cars. Is their legal responsibility to the owner of the car or to other road-users? There is no legal requirement for a driver to risk or sacrifice their life to save another. Supposing the car is programmed to risk your life rather than kill the pedestrian, but now the person running across the road is a terrorist with a gun whom you are trying to stop with your car.

You might think this is going off-topic, but having a moral perspective, values and a big picture view are all important for the right decisions to be made every day.

Even the best AI lacks these things and for those who believe these issues will be sorted in the future, the answer is that we might not need to wait after all. Many in the AI field believe these kinds of issues can only be solved if AI moves to a biological architecture (rather than digital), that it requires consciousness, self-awareness and intentionality. If correct, then these attributes already exist in what we currently call humans.

UXB: The UneXpected Benefits

With over 1,500 customers you’d expect us to hear some rather extraordinary stories and you’d be right. In our 45+ year history we’ve heard many stories about the antics that companies have uncovered through our Time and Attendance solutions. In our #ItCouldNotHappenHere series we cover our “favourites” – one in each post.

The UneXpected Benefits

When a sudden reduction of payroll costs post implementation of Time & Attendance occurred it raised serious queries about the accuracy of the automated Time-To-Pay rules. The savings were way beyond those predicted based on usual manual payroll errors.

After a complete review of the system the revelation of the error left everyone speechless; it was a bombshell!

The previous manual paper time sheets had an overtime column (double time). When someone worked four hours at double-time the staff would enter ‘8 hours’ in this column believing they needed to do the manual calculation when in fact the payroll system did this. The result; if you worked four hours overtime you would be paid 16 hours at basic.

How long had this been going on for? As long as everyone could remember.

Dead Man Clocking

With over 1,500 customers you’d expect us to hear some rather extraordinary stories and you’d be right. In our 45+ year history we’ve heard many stories about the antics that companies have uncovered through our Time and Attendance solutions. In our #ItCouldNotHappenHere series we cover our “favourites” – one in each post.

Dead Man Clocking #hfxRealStories

We have encountered many cases of staff being paid for up to two years after leaving a company until it was discovered through the introduction of a Time & Attendance system.

However, the most unusual – and innocent – but still costly, was the continued salary payments to an employee who had long been dead and buried. As the saying goes Dead Men Don’t Clock

What Does Brexit Mean for HR?

Since Freedom of Movement within the EU came into existence through the Maastricht treaty in 1992, UK companies have had access to an almost limitless pool of foreign worker to recruit into the workplace. As more countries joined the EU, this pool grew larger and filling vacancies within the company became a relatively simple task.

There was also an incentive for EU workers to work in the UK due to the favourable exchange rate bearing in mind that most would send part of their salary back home to their families (in 2015 £1 would get you €1.4). However, since the decision to leave the UK in 2016, the pound has slipped to about €1.10 to the pound for those EU nationals repatriating their earnings back home, this represented an effective 20% pay cut since 2016.

This has removed much of the incentive to work in the UK and many EU nationals have or are planning to return to their home country. In addition, the pending border controls have created uncertainty and concern among foreign workers in terms of whether they can remain in the UK and how easy it will be to travel back and forth. As a result, high numbers are returning to their native countries in order to have guaranteed stability for their families. At the same time, the number of foreign workers wanting to come and work in the UK has dropped off for the same reason – uncertainty following Brexit.

Figures from the ONS report that EU migration is at its lowest levels since 2010 and that the number of EU nationals returning home has increased by 50% since the referendum. For organisations that have relied on EU workers, this represents a significant challenge as not only are they losing workers, but also struggling to replace those workers through traditional routes. With the unemployment rate at 3.9% – its lowest level since 1974 – the available pool of workers has reduced even more significantly. The impact of these changes is likely to be felt across every HR department with longer lead times to fill a vacancy, increased recruitment budgets and inflations busting pay reviews.

However, whilst the HR department is often left with the problem, the solution may lie elsewhere. To understand the solution, we need to explore whether the limitless supply of workers diminishes the need to improve workforce productivity, since 2008 UK productivity has flat-lined. If the UK had continued to improve productivity as the same pre-2008 levels, then we would be 20% more productive. In practical terms this means that organisations could have achieved 20% more without increasing their staff headcount.

So, what went wrong? This has yet to be entirely answered, but there is a convincing argument that during the 2008 recession many organisations stopped investing in productivity improvements. When the growth did return many organisations took the expedient route of increasing the head count which was accommodated by the pool of available EU workers. Indeed, there is some correlation between the period of productivity stagnation and increased EU workers within the UK.

Regardless of what caused productivity stagnation, the solution lies within the organisation by focusing on and investing in staff productivity. If you can improve the productivity within your existing workforce by just 5% that can reduce the need to increase headcount. As always whilst the solution may not be within HR, often it is left to HR to lead the initiative.

Often productivity is considered hard to measure and organisations find it difficult to identify the areas that require improvement, but there are 5 key areas to explore;

  1. Workforce Planning: do staff rosters align to business demand? Is it such a basic question that it is more overlooked than any other factor? Often the question cannot even be answered without detailed study. In our experience there can often be a 10% productivity gain through alignment of rosters to business activity. Often the issue is that whilst the rosters were originally aligned – albeit with a bit of guess work – they were never updated to reflect the changing and evolving business activity.
  2. Process and Technology: too many manual and/or cumbersome processes that consume too much time and are inefficient.
  3. Training: poor or infrequent training results in poor quality (and increased rework).
  4. Tools: providing the right tools to do the job is essential in maintaining high levels of productivity.
  5. Staff Retention: high staff turnover impacts productivity significantly as new recruits take time to come up to speed and often require time and intervention from other colleagues.

Focusing on these 5 areas will boost productivity and ensure that more can be achieved without needing to add to headcount.

However, there is a greater prize. Companies with high productivity levels have lower costs, increased profit and are more resilient to economic cycles.

Whilst many problems end up on the desk of HR to solve, now is the time for HR to take a strategic lead and present the problem – and solution – to the wider business. At HFX our solutions are powerful tools to help you improve productivity. Contact us via email at sales@hfx.co.uk or via telephone at 03333447872 to find out how our software solutions can help your productivity. Alternatively visit: https://www.hfx.co.uk/solutions/workforce-optimisation/ to find out more.

“Don’t put profit before safety”

Says Nick Whiteley, CEO of HFX workforce management systems

“Don’t put profit before safety” says Nick Whiteley, CEO of HFX workforce management systems

For all businesses, having a profitable bottom line is the measure of success. Running a tight ship means managing operating costs – whether goods, premises or staff – to ensure there is a healthy profit margin. However, one of the lessons learned from successful businesses is that cutting costs should not mean cutting corners.

This is particularly true when reviewing staff budgets. Increasingly, staff well being has become an area where investment should be carefully planned and not automatically be reduced to save on outgoings when sales and revenue are down. This is even more important for lone workers. Often a hidden workforce, it is an area that is increasingly attracting more attention as a cost-effective way to deliver services outside of the business premises.

Lone workers at risk

However, lone working is also coming under scrutiny with new Health & Safety legislation. In recent years, the wellbeing of lone workers has been highlighted as an area of increased risk. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, commissioned by the Office for National Statistics, as many as 150 lone workers are either physically or verbally attacked every day. Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing noted that more than 6% of lone workers in the NHS had been physically attacked while at work.

With the numbers of lone workers increasing, whether in remote or hazardous sites or working late or out of hours, employers have a duty of care to ensure their safety. We have seen Time and Attendance (T&A) Systems come full circle, from a way to manage a large workforce on one or multiple sites, to become the ideal solution also to manage lone worker safety.

Managing the hidden workforce

Long established to keep track of who is in and who is out in fixed locations, today T&A systems offer a flexible way to track lone workers. Using the latest technology, from biometric access control (providing secure, personal identification) that can be ‘zoned’ to monitor late or out of hours, to log-in facilities that enable remote workers to clock in and out when working on a different or client site.

Cloud solutions make this possible – employers can manage ‘anytime, everywhere’ working, while being able to monitor the safety and wellbeing of lone workers. If a worker fails to clock in, a manager can be alerted, and co-workers can be quickly despatched to ‘fill in’. In the event of an accident or issue, managers know exactly the location of staff, either to send additional help or contact the appropriate emergency services, if required.

The added benefit of a T&A system is that everyone is treated equitably and transparently. Regardless of whether your staff are working on a client’s site, in your production plant, at head office or working remotely from home, all work hours are captured and tracked efficiently in one single system.

This transparency and accuracy of working hours, including tracking sickness and holidays, with no hidden late offenders or false overtime claims, has been proven to improve morale.

Happy staff means more productive staff, which in turns delivers a healthy bottom line.

With the right systems in place, you can ensure staff safety, well being and deliver a healthy return on investment. Profit shouldn’t, or need, to be at the expense of safety.

To find out more about HFX and our solutions please call 03333 44 7872, email sales@hfx.co.uk or visit http://www.hfx.co.uk

HFX partners with Cezanne HR to offer Time & Attendance and Rostering to broaden Cezanne’s full HR employee lifecycle management solution

HFX partners with Cezanne HR to offer Time & Attendance and Rostering to broaden Cezanne’s full HR employee lifecycle management solution

Cloud-based workforce management solutions support HR teams with end-to-end systems to streamline recruitment, attendance and performance management efficiently.

HFX, the market leading provider of Cloud SaaS Workforce Management Solutions, has announced a new partnership with Cezanne HR, the UK’s primary provider of flexible Cloud HR systems for mid-sized UK & international organisations. HFX’s workforce management solutions connect seamlessly with Cezanne HR’s software and provides a modern, secure cloud HR management offering that covers the full employee lifecycle. The partnership will enable the two companies to provide organisations with fully integrated systems that streamline core HR, recruitment, time & attendance, absence and performance management and career planning activities.

HFX’s generation of workforce management solutions can be configured to meet exact requirements, to support unlimited numbers of work patterns and can be integrated with all major HR and payroll systems. Cloud-based, they provide the flexibility and features to support both small and large organisations, and are quick to deploy and easy to manage, reducing the costs of a complex IT infrastructure.

Jo Hill, Director at Cezanne HR said; “At Cezanne HR our aim is provide the very best HR system and services and HFX’s pedigree and experience is the perfect complement. Their proven history of developing innovative workforce management systems that integrate with other core HR systems enables us together to provide companies with a complete, seamless end-to-end solution to manage the employee lifecycle.”

Nicola Smart, COO at HFX commented: “The HR department today is an integral and strategic part of any organisation. Whether in a large or small organisation, HR is responsible for ensuring the business has the correct number of staff with the right skills and that employees are happy and safe at work. Working together, HFX and Cezanne HR support HR departments to manage their workforce to meet business demand efficiently and ensure accurate employee compensation and wellbeing.

“Together our solutions enable the automation of key HR processes and integration of performance, attendance and absence data, which enables HR teams to focus on strategic issues, from efficient roster scheduling to meet business needs to career and succession planning.”

HFX’s workforce management solutions include Time & Attendance, 3D Rostering, Flexitime, Workforce Optimisation, Access Control, Visitor Registration with clocking both via wall/door mounted devices and via PC, laptop or mobile app. Cezanne HR’s online service includes integrated modules for core HR, recruitment, onboarding, absence and performance management, career and succession planning.

4 Steps to Protect your Lone Workers

‘Out of sight out of mind’ used to be the mantra for lone workers, but as the number increases in the UK, employers are realising that it’s important to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Nick Whiteley outlines four steps that employers can take to manage their remote workers.

According to Government statistics, working alone is a daily occurrence for almost 6 million people in the UK. Many of us may have employees that classify as lone workers – in fact, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identifies lone workers as those that work by themselves without close or direct supervision from others.

Lone workers can be working in any industry – from housing, including estate agents, housing associations, social & health, homeworkers, transport & logistics, construction and out of hours work, (security people or cleaners). This covers a wide range of sectors and regardless of which your company is in, anyone that is working alone is at risk. Failure to protect them could result in serious harm to them – and to the reputation of your company.

The risks of working alone

All employers have a duty of care to employees as lone workers, which means ensuring that they take responsibility to provide ways to ensure health and safety. There are other benefits that employers who take their responsibility seriously can gain – employees who feel looked after and valued by their employers are more likely to feel more engaged and productive.

Knowing where to start with lone worker safety can be tricky. At HFX we have over 40 years’ experience of workforce management, of which lone worker safety is a key element. We’ve put the following four steps as a guide;

 1. Identify what types of lone workers you employ.

While there are many industries that employ lone workers, we have identified three categories: public-facing, mobile and fixed-site. Once you have assessed your workforce against these types it makes it much easier to work out what sort of protection they require – whether it requires regular calling in, personal alarms or special equipment – or a combination of all three.

 2. Implement a lone working policy

Having a lone working policy means that you can provide a practical guide that employees can apply to their roles. It’s not a legal requirement, but an effective policy can help to promote a strong safety culture amongst your employees, keeping them safe and reducing the risk of potential legal issues.

Your lone working policy should be accessible and easy to understand, and you should ensure that workers are familiar with it. Issuing a copy to new employees who will work alone or to any contractors or temporary workers is a good way to start.

3. Carry out lone worker training

Training is vital to ensure understanding of the risks, consequences and practical elements to ensure lone worker safety. While providing a copy of the policy to new employees shows due diligence, often training is what makes the difference to understanding and engagement. Early training is a worthwhile investment and might include tips on actions and behaviour, for example; making sure someone knows where they are, being cautious, or sharing incidents for future learning.

4. Implement systems to manage your workforce

A Time and Attendance (T&A) system can provide real time visibility of the entire workforce’s attendance and location anytime, anywhere. It enables a company to record staff attendance by collecting data in a number of ways, so you always know who’s in and who’s out. They range from the traditional clock on the wall that uses cards, tokens or biometrics, to apps that employees can download to their mobile devices, online apps, even dialling in by telephone. ‘Zoning’ can also help, so you can see exactly who is working in which department or area of the building at any time – especially out of normal working hours.

The tracking facility within a T&A system also helps to protect lone workers from a health and safety aspect. It can alert managers if staff do not turn up in the event of an incident, to direct help quickly to the right location, whether that is extra staff or the emergency services.

It’s important for the morale of your team and the effectiveness of any department to ensure your lone workers are as much a part of the business as everyone else. As well as knowing where they are, and the hours that they are working, it’s vital to get them to check in regularly and meet up with colleagues so that they feel part of the team. Lone working should not mean working alone.

To find out more about HFX and our solutions please call 03333 44 7872,
email sales@hfx.co.uk or visit http://www.hfx.co.uk

The Tea Bag Stash

With over 1,500 customers you’d expect us to hear some rather extraordinary stories and you’d be right. In our 45+ year history we’ve heard many stories about the antics that companies have uncovered through our Time and Attendance solutions. In our #ItCouldNotHappenHere series we cover our “favourites” – one in each post.

The Tea Bag Stash

The ingenuity of employees to find new ways of destroying Time & Attendance equipment is often amazing.

Ever wondered how to recycle used teabags? Apparently they are perfect for blocking clock card devices so your employer is unable to track your attendance. We have discovered this dirty trick several times when servicing a clocking device and end up with a handful of teabags!