Hitting the right note with workforce management

By Mark Longstaff, Director, Technology Sector for HRZone

Your staff are your most important asset. Without them, your business will come to a grinding halt. You need to treat each individual with care to ensure that they are able to do their job and able to do it well. A well-managed workforce is a productive workforce; a productive workforce leads to happier customers and better revenues.

Everything I’ve said up to now is of course accepted wisdom. The problem is that the way we work nowadays makes managing the workforce much more of a challenge. Global offices, remote and flexible working, and 24-hour omnichannel businesses are far removed from the 9-to-5 local businesses that dominated yesteryear. This has created a much more complex beast that can achieve more but has a much finer margin for error. Anyone can play the triangle but it’s much harder to become a virtuoso pianist.

Singing from the Same Hymn sheet

There are many elements to managing an effective workforce: forecasting, organising and scheduling staff, tracking workload and project completion. With so many workforces spread across multiple locations, communication becomes a fundamental ingredient to success, ensuring everyone is pulling in the same direction.

It’s important that your R&D team in Swindon knows what the marketing team in London are doing and vice-versa. Not to mention whatever head office in Boston has planned. Unfortunately, this can’t be achieved over a quick chat at the water cooler. Different time zones, different departments and different offices all have differing priorities and this is a fact of business but a successful business will ensure that each department and market is working toward a common goal; if not, you’ll have less of a harmony and more of a noisy mess.

The right instrument for the right time

It’s fair to say that most workforce management processes are conducted either via phone calls or emails. At a glance, these make sense: email can be used to quickly reach a lot of people while phone calls are a good alternative for speaking directly to the specific individual you’re looking to reach. This is a problem in larger businesses for certain but also a concern for smaller businesses who rely on part-time and freelance staff.

There’s an obvious channel which is all too often ignored when it comes to workforce engagement and that’s SMS. Virtually every person of working age owns a mobile phone which they have to hand come rain or shine. SMS is reliable, available on virtually every mobile device (from spanking-new Samsung to the old Nokia your mum uses) and is prioritised by users; 90% of text messages are opened within 3 minutes of receipt. They’re also more likely to be read than the emails we over rely on – 98% compared to 20%.

The funny things is a lot of companies understand the value of mobile, using it for customer interactions but even those who do all too often fail to apply it to internal communications challenges. But a simple SMS can be the best way of sharing urgent information, generating feedback or resourcing for a project. It’s perfect if you need to alert the IT team in the case of a sudden data breach or senior spokespeople in light of some breaking news. Likewise, a meeting reminder via text message about a last minute time or venue change to a meeting can save the day.

SMS can sometimes get a bum rap because it’s simple but that’s why it is so effective. It can also be surprisingly deep whether that is providing a link to a website in the case of that breaking news or even as a means of a quick straw poll 2-way survey for sourcing opinion.

SMS can’t and shouldn’t replace all your internal comms channels but its addition to your communications mix could make all the difference.

The Right Mix for the Right Sound

In many ways it’s HR’s role to ensure that everything runs smoothly, keeping everyone on track and moving in the same direction – our conductors if I can take the metaphor a little further. Just like when it comes to customer communications, internal comms relies on understanding the different types of messages you’re looking to communicate and utilising different channels to map to those. This means a blend of mobile, email, voice, social and applications to create the perfect mix to meet your business goals.