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.

EveryOneCloud hits 1 million in 1 year

Rapid increased use of cloud workforce management solutions as companies look to support operations and growth

e1c reaches 1 million

HFX has announced that its EveryOneCloud solution has seen fast adoption by customers since being launched in August 2017. HFX’s EveryOneCloud solution enables organisations to track staff attendance, presence and location. It supports mobile, web, telephony and QR codes for capturing information. Since being launched EveryOneCloud has recorded over one million clockings and HFX forecasts an increase to over five million by its second anniversary.

EveryOneCloud workforce management solution supports over one hundred devices including biometric hand readers, face recognition, finger print as well as traditional card/proximity based devices.

Nicola Smart, COO, HFX and Autotime said; “The benefit of HFX’s cloud solution is its simplicity and flexibility, which has enabled us to extend our portfolio. We have already expanded our footprint outside the UK with our first customer in South Africa, ahead of our planned growth for the end of 2019.”

Nick Whiteley, CEO at HFX said: “This has been a stellar year for our EveryOneCloud solution – we have seen an amazing demand with uptake of an average of six new customers a month. This has accelerated in the last quarter and we expect to see this to continue into year two.”

He continued; “EveryoneCloud is incredibly flexible and we see it being deployed in many market segments to capture attendance, including for Lone Workers, Student Attendance and field staff as well as in the traditional sectors in which we operate.”

As well as recording attendance, EveryOneCloud provides a multi-dimensional data collection capability that enables organisations to record in real-time, staff location, activity, client or contract or any other attribute the client wishes to monitor and report on.

Oliver Page, Account Manager at Workforce Staffing, an award-winning recruitment and staffing agency commented: “EveryOneCloud is a real game-changer for the recruitment industry. The system empowers agencies to deliver a fully transparent and accountable service, combining powerful and easy to use features such as real-time attendance verification, absence alerts, remote enrolment and automatic roll-call, with the convenience of being fully cloud-based so it can be deployed quickly and accessed anytime, anywhere.”

Workforce Staffing has adopted EveryOneCloud to deliver total transparency of its supplied temporary workforce to the Worcester site of metal cast manufacturer JVM Casings, adding significant value to its managed service.  Use of EveryOneCloud has enabled Workforce to assume full responsibility for the attendance of its supplied staff, assisting managers to proactively maintain staffing levels (and therefore maintain productivity on assembly lines), track KPI metrics and streamline its payroll and invoice process.

For a full case study on how Workforce Staffing and JVM Casings are benefiting from EveryOneCloud is available here EveryOneCloud_Case-Study_JVM_Castings

Download EveryOneCloud Brochure

For More Information Contact us

 

 

hfx CEO wins Excellence Award

cup-1010909_1920Nick Whiteley, our CEO, has just been listed in the Global CEO Excellence Awards of CEO Monthly magazine[i]. Awarded Best Workforce Management Business Leader and the Excellence Award for Absence Management Solutions (UK), both awards form part of CEO Monthly’s programme to recognise the CEOs responsible for driving change while successfully managing the day-to-day operations within an organisation.

We are thrilled that Nick has been chosen along with other leading CEOs for his outstanding achievements.  It recognises his leadership and innovation in the development of our next generation product and underlines our position as a leading provider of workforce management solutions in the UK.

Recently Nick has led HFX’s development strategy to design solutions that address the need for today’s organisations to capture and analyse data to provide insights for employee efficiencies. We have focussed on developing powerful solutions that are simple to use and integrate, which is no easy task, but reaps benefits for our customers.

Our Time and Attendance solution, now combined with Access Control and 3D Rostering, forms our next generation system. It enables organisations to gain an important multi-dimension view of staff activity, to identify where costs are going and optimise plans and workforce accordingly.

We are already seeing rapid uptake of our solutions with many new customers facing these workforce challenges. It builds on our expertise of helping organisations to manage working hours transparently and equitably, improving productivity and employee wellbeing.

If this sounds like a challenge that your organisation is facing, then it’s time to talk to us.

Nicola Smart, COO, HFX

[i] For more information on the 2018 Global CEO awards, Sponsored by Hospitality Minds, https://www.ceo-review.com/2018-the-2018-global-ceo-excellence-awards-press-release

 

hfx awarded G-Cloud 10

glcoud10

hfx are proud to announce our approval onto the G-Cloud 10 procurement framework which allows public sector organisations to quickly and easily procure proven cloud solutions and services without the costs and delays involved in standard procurement processes. Not only does G-CLOUD reduce costs and delays, but it enables modern public sector organisations to on-board agile and effective solutions that empower them to rapidly transform their organisations, adapt to change and take advantage of proven technology in the workplace. hfx previously were awarded G-Cloud 8 and 9 and have been providing flexitime and access control solutions to the public sector for over 40 years.

Contact us for more information

 

The Money is Not Enough

silver and gold coins
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Whilst we often avoid the cliché’ it is generally recognised that the combined knowledge, skill and talent of your workforce is the engine of corporate success. Attracting and Retaining talent is a relentless task that will become even harder as employment levels continue to rise and competition for talent becomes greater.

However, I suggest that simply offering Money is not enough nor is it a sound strategy for attracting or retaining the talent of today.  The first reason is obvious; money isn’t unique or special. Any company can simply match or exceed your offer. The second reason is just a reflection of our times; The 80’s dream that students would retire in their 50’s and live a life of leisure for the following 40 years has disappeared. Today they can expect to be working for 50+ years and want to do something meaningful and rewarding not just in work but outside of work. They value time as much as they value money.

The problem may seem daunting but the solution is very much alive within the public sector where pay is often very limited and they have no option but to explore other means of attracting and retaining staff.  Their solution is Flexitime – providing staff flexibility around what times they work during the week. This popular approach helps attract and retain staff who otherwise might be attracted elsewhere through the promise of extra money.

Flexitime is a “integrated” solution because staff can blend their work patterns and home patterns, and this is more beneficial than simply a pay rise elsewhere that would disrupt their home patterns (whether that be dropping the kids off to school, going to the gym or a myriad of other activities). It fully integrates staff to the organisation whilst providing the work-life-balance they value.

THE NUT IS BIGGER THAN YOU THINK

This will often lead into a discussion about whether the solution is a sledgehammer and the problem being just a nut. Staff turnover varies from organisation to organisation but the average is 15%. In general, you feel the pain less because attrition occurs over a year – imagine the pain if 15% resigned in a single week!

In general, it will cost you one year’s salary to recruit and train a new member of staff. This does not allow for all the knowledge lost that cannot be quantified though figures. But the numbers add up.

Of course, not all attrition is due to conflicting work patterns which is why staff exit interviews and surveys are important so you can assess the issues and impact of solutions.

But what if you could decrease attrition by a third? What impact would that have on productivity, reduced recruitment and training costs?

Then there is staff recruitment. Do you survey those that decline a job offer? Are you losing the best candidates because of inflexible work patterns? Does when people work matter more to you than how well they do their work?

How many staff take sick days because of personal diary conflicts? Almost impossible to measure but almost certainly it occurs in every organisation with inflexible work patterns.

THE VALUE OF TIME

The final discussion is often about how valuable flexitime is to staff. The answer of course is that depends on the individual, but only by extent not by absolute.

An employee on £10 per hour will earn about £19,500 per year (gross) and spends 2 hours a day commuting to work during rush hour. By working flexibly, he can cut his journey time from 2 hours to 1 hour a day by avoiding the rush hour. That’s worth (deducting his holiday time) £2,400 per year NET. The equivalent in gross salary would result in an 18% increase.

In another example, an employee that commuted by train to work could save between £500 and £1,500 a year by traveling off-peak.

So, benefits for staff are not just about fitting in personal plans but also saving time and in some cases saving money.  And in these examples, many companies would struggle to match the cash value that translates into flexitime.

ITS ABOUT TIME

Whether the discussion is about how to reward staff when times are commercially tough or how to attract and retain staff when times are good, it’s about time to start discussion now.

Some tips to get you started;

  1. Analyse the figures for staff turnover and categorise the reasons. Your exit interviews need to be carefully constructed to gain genuine and informative information.
  2. Similarly, you need to follow up your application rejections to gain insight.
  3. Get a deeper view of sickness. Not just occurrences but durations.
  4. Implement the Bradford Factor to get another layer of detail.
  5. Identify the staffing groups that easily map to flexitime
  6. Be clear about what times are flexible and what are not.
  7. Create a policy with clear and transparent rules.
  8. Ensure you have a system in place that eases administration, provides transparency and helps demonstrate the benefits.

 

Fatigue is the Phantom Menace

build-builder-carry-585419

The construction industry is a major engine of GDP (over 100 billion in economic output) and employs over 2 million people in the UK. However, it suffers more than many industries in terms of accidents and injury. With more than 43 fatal accidents in 2017 (4 times more than the average across all industries) and over 5,000 non-fatal accidents it is no wonder that this industry more than others is regarded as high risk.

Add to this the other 65,000 work related illness (Stress, Depression, Musculoskeletal Disorders, Respiratory and Skin conditions) and it is clear that Health and Safety needs to be embedded at every level of the organisation and especially integrated into the planning process.

Clearly there are unique and challenging circumstances with construction sites; the dynamic and changing environment and the lack of inherent infrastructure all combine to frustrate the best safety plans. What was safe yesterday may not be as safe today. An unoccupied area yesterday may be occupied today. Multiple activities concurrently taking place create varying risk each day.

Add to this “P&P” (Pressure & Penalties) that now pervade the industry to deliver to tight deadlines or face a financial hair-cut and mitigations that incorporate a 6 or 7-day week and/or long hours for workers and there is little wonder that injuries are higher.

But beyond the hard hats and high vis what can be done to reduce this blight upon the industry?

The first is the recognition that Fatigue is your greatest enemy. Fatigue impairs your ability to process information, slows your reactions and decreases awareness and attention. In short it reduces your ability to accurately estimate risk. In fact, 20% of major road incidents are the result of fatigue and many of the most publicised accidents (Exxon Valdez, Herald of Free Enterprise, Chernobyl, Clapham Junction, Texas City and Challenger) have been linked to tiredness.

To put it simply in many cases fatigue is a predictor (“lead” indicator) to an accident (“lag” indicator).
The maxim “you can’t prevent what you can’t predict” is very pertinent here. If you can understand the causes and drivers of accidents (fatigue) and you can assess likely fatigue in shifts/patterns, then you can reduce fatigue and prevent the associated outcomes (accidents)

The second is to recognise that long hours/weeks are not the friend of tight deadlines but its nemesis. Accidents create downtime and lost productivity. They CAUSE delays. However, because there is not a 100% correlation between fatigue and accidents, there is a tendency to roll the dice when pressure and deadlines encroach. But you cannot build an enduring business or industry upon this strategy. It is not a replicable/repeatable route to success. You may dodge the bullet more than most but sooner or later it will hit and may create not only contractual or financial strife but also long term reputational damage.

The solution lies with new technology and software that ensures you have the right people in the right place at the right time with the right skills. These planning systems can build in cover for absence/training and holidays, so you can ensure both and safe and optimum levels of resource to meet deadlines without the need for overtime/extended work periods. The benefit of planning effectively also delivers dividends through reducing fatigue, overtime costs, absence and accidents. Indeed, some solutions such as hfx already have fatigue factors built into the system to reduce risk and provide assurance.

Another risk factor within construction sites is keeping track of who is on-site and where they are. Again, technology has come a long way with mobile apps that allow supervisors to register staff onsite, fully self-sufficient clocking terminals that are solar/battery powered with 3g for data transit, and beacons/tags that allow the site manager to know exactly who has turned up and exactly where they are in real-time. These solutions are the next generation “high visibility” tools allowing the site manager to know who is where without the need for line of site or audio contact.  If there is a situation the site manager can instantly view the location and presence of his team and act immediately.

The ability to Plan and Track workers in real-time can not only reduce accidents but also provide a constant feed-back loop to enable planners to constantly improve their planning based on outcomes. This process is not only critical to ensure health and safety but also though analysis, improve quality, productivity, delivery and reduce downtime, accidents and delay.

Download Staff Tracking and Attendance Brochure

Alpha6: Complex Rostering Reduced to Six Steps

adult-africa-african-1089550

Defining the problem:

In many organisations business activity comes in ebb and flows based on demands from their customers. Whilst this can be forecast to some degree based on orders, shipments, contracts and seasons of the year etc, there is a high degree of complexity in ensuring sufficient staff are rostered to reflect the level of activity. This complexity arises from the working rules, policies and practices that limit staff assignments; Union Rules, Health and Safety Rules, EU working time rules, breaks between shifts, maximum shift lengths, holiday rules and internal policies all constrain the ability to map the right number of staff to achieve the right level of activity at the right time.

The result is that many organisations tend to roster to meet a constant somewhere between the ebb and flow of the activity levels (if indeed they have measured these). The problem is compounded as managers often do not consider absences (such as holiday entitlement) when they device the roster.

The consequence of these omissions is that often staff are over-rostered – e.g. present when there is little or no work to be done and absent (under-rostered) when there is a high demand of work. The result is that overtime and agency workers are deployed to meet the demand or else the organisation maybe damaged in terms of reputation, Service Level Agreement or in terms of financial penalties.

One way of avoiding the risk is to factor in the costs of overtime and agency work to avoid delays but this makes the organisation uncompetitive and risks losing customers or failing to acquire new business as a result.

Fool’s Gold:
in the past electronic solutions have been developed that attempt to map shifts and rosters to demand through complex algorithms and brute force mapping. The solutions have often been expensive, highly complicated with only IT personnel able to tweak rules and parameters and often long delays between each attempt to identify the correct pattern. The systems often return unworkable rosters that will not meet union rules and are based on a singular fallacy that there is such a thing as a perfect roster. An optimal roster can still be an unworkable one based on the internal preferences and policies of the organisation. These preferences often cannot be codified in a fully electronic system and the missing element is the human factor.

Alpha6 Methodology
Alpha6 is a methodology and process that has been developed and honed over 20 years to create optimal rosters that both meet the requirements of the business and the written and unwritten rules around staff working times. But most importantly it also includes the human factor in guiding the process from each step forward. Alpha6 done manually is not pain free; it requires training, skill and collaboration from other team members.

Alpha1: Demand to Requirements
The start of the process is to identify the demand levels and translate them into requirements. Demand are the activities that need to be completed over a week broken down by between 15 and 60-minute intervals. The activity could be building a widget or packing etc. The important element is when these activities need to start (e.g. when the shipment arrives) and be completed by.

From this Raw business level view of demand, you can with knowledge of the duration each activity takes, and quantity translate these into a requirements grid. Again, this is by 15 to 60-minute intervals over each day for a week. You know have a set of requirements of how many staff you need by each 15-60 segment of the day and week.

However, there is an immediate sense check to do on the requirements grid. Staff do not come into work for just 15 minutes so we need to look at how sensible the requirements and apply some annealing – softening of the requirements.

So, for example, your faithful transposing of demand into requirements (say by 15 minutes) may show as follows: 8:15 = 5, 8:30 = 1, 8:45 = 5 – you will not be sending 4 people home at 8:30 so amending the requirements to 8:15 = 4, 8:30 = 4, 8:45 = 4 will iron out the undoable without impacting significantly either on cost or productivity

Alpha2: Constraints
Understanding and documenting the constraints will save you huge amount of time.
These include the contracted hours of staff, their holiday entitlement, average time off work due to training or sickness, the minimum and maximum shift lengths that have been agreed internally, the number of shifts that can be worked in a row, the minimum and maximum off duty days that can be used.  There may also be rules around how many nights can be worked in a row that is different from how many earlies or days.

Alpha3: Shifts and Requirements
With both the requirements and constraints identified the next process is to select a number of shifts that fit within the constraints identified that can satisfy the requirements. Without an electronic system, you will need to narrow down these shifts before you attempt this stage. In general, the process of mapping shifts to requirements is a two-way process where adapting shift start/end times and durations becomes a learning process. At the end of the process you will have identified the number of shifts and the type of shifts that meet the requirements. By aligning the shift durations and quantity you will be able to calculate the number of staff required to full fill the requirements.

Alpha4: Planning for absence
Whilst Alpha3 provides the number staff to fulfil the requirements it does not consider staff holiday, absence and training. If you need 60 staff to fulfil the requirements, then you must also factor in their holidays and cover. If staff have 20 days holiday a year then that is 1200 days holiday which is an additional 5 staff required (because cover staff also get holiday). This cover needs to be spread over the period of a year and applied to any “tension” days or shifts (e.g. it may be that staff are more likely to take off Saturday and Sundays as holiday or night shifts). You may also factor in things like training or sickness. The main calculation here is how much to plan for versus how much to deal with through overtime. In some cases, your calculation might reveal you need 4.5 people for cover. In this scenario, it might be more cost effective to roster 4 more people and deal with .5 as overtime.

Alpha5: OFF DUTY
With your completed staffing level you now start with a pattern, one week (row) for each staff member. Thus, if you have a requirement for 67 staff the pattern will go for 67 weeks and there will be 67 lines in your pattern (with columns Mon to Sun). Obviously, staff do not work 7 days a week but given the requirements we know how many staff are needed on any given day and subtract that from the number of staff calculated. At the bottom of the pattern we know the total number of off duties for each day of the pattern. The process now is to plug in the required number of off-duties on each day for each row of the pattern. However, in general the 2 golden rules are that staff prefer weekends off and want a minimum of 2 off duties in a row. A roster that has off duty/on duty/off duty is likely to be rejected by staff.  The best approach is to start from Saturday/Sunday and work backwards/forwards ensuring that all off-duties are included. Be cognisant of the period between off duties and the rules about how many on duty shifts employees should work in a row. The key point here is that staff generally care more about when they are NOT working than when they are working. Getting this right is a critical stage.

Alpha6: ON DUTY
With the Off-duty roster completed the next step is to plug in the on-duty shifts. Based on the previous steps you will know how many of each shift need to be done on each day. However, an early typically cannot follow a night shift and you need to be cognisant of any rules about how many night shifts can be worked in row.  You now have an optimised pattern that meets the business needs whilst also being employee friendly.

HFX Imperago Workforce Design incorporates and automates the Alpha6 process reducing this process from 3-5 days to 15 minutes.