No dimension of an enterprise is more important, or more expensive, than people. However, the human dimension can often seem too complex to turn into a statistic and limited in opportunity for quantitative observation, refinement, and improvement.
But what if the human element could be quantified in a more multi-dimensional way? As renowned management consultant Peter Drucker once said: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” In other words, the more measurable the human dimension can be throughout an employment life cycle, the more effectively workflow and productivity can be managed, and ultimately enhanced. The better approach is Workforce Analytics.
Workforce Analytics is the comprehensive and continuous assembly and evaluation of data in an organization on “Who is doing what?” and “How well?” around the building, around the country, and around the world.
It is about linking measurement and management to not just monitor behavior, but motivate it.
It is a way to gain visibility into the organization’s largest single expense, the flexible workforce, to efficiently allocate resources globally and staff projects appropriately.
It is a holistic approach, from hiring to retiring and the myriad stops in between that now comprise the ebb and flow of any modern workforce.
Successful workforce analytics is about a streamlined, inspired workforce firing on all cylinders, so that a company does not just survive, but thrive.
The New Normal Dictates New Approaches to Workforce Design
Intense as the war for talent may be when an economy turns up, the time of change we find ourselves in now is, unquestionably, also haunted by uncertainty. The comeback is happening, but slowly, and there is a keen awareness that the imperative to grow must be offset against the risk of moving too fast and spending too much unwisely.
That means new vigilance not only on who is hired, but for how long. To this end, companies view a contingent workforce – the temporary employee – as a critical solution to flexible staffing where needs arise. With a variable workforce, companies can fill urgent gaps, allowing the core team to focus on priority projects. They can also make flexible hires that possess the exact expertise required to quickly turn around a time-critical project. This new modality in work requires a higher degree of precision to fully understand the complexities of managing a workforce woven of both permanent and contingent employees around the world.
In addition, the traditional way of devising a hiring plan based on the company’s annual business forecast is a 20th century approach that is of diminishing value in today’s constantly evolving environment. Workforce Analytics enables a more constant aggregation and analysis of data to gain better visibility into progress toward goals. If the success or failure of a given project is not personalized to the precise level of who got it done or who did not, no amount of statistics on all the other ROI can build the broader picture necessary to truly optimize performance. HR and procurement professionals must work hand in hand to engage in an ongoing assessment of not only the what of a given result, but also the who and why to pave the way for repeated success.
Workforce planning is also too often driven by crisis. When a problem hits, it is arguably too late to “fix.” Disruptions cannot be wrung out of the system entirely, but a continuous and dynamic collection of data organically prepares a company to proactively meet requirements before they become emergencies.
The Essential Qualities of Workforce Analytics
Successful Workforce Analytics is about more than monitoring. It is a new corporate mindset, from the C-suite to HR, but it also can, and should, encourage a culture of excellence among the workforce itself. The four key qualities of any strong Workforce Analytics program are:
Interactive – Workforce Analytics must be leveraged as a living tool with dynamic, visual, intuitive data that integrates comprehensive historical data, including exceptions and outliers.
Intelligent – Analytics programs should provide enough context to not only answer questions, but also raise them. The data should be predictive, and be able to address “What if?” scenarios.
Actionable – The data on a company’s strengths and weaknesses must generate real world recommendations that guide management decisions for cost savings and risk mitigation.
Motivational – Workforce Analysis should ideally go beyond mere mandates and inspire employees to have a stake in best practices.
Workforce Analytics and Contingent Labor: The Example of Vendor Management Systems
Within the universe of Workforce Analytics, Vendor Management Systems (VMS) are specifically designed to ensure that the contingent labor force is functioning as well as possible, given the flexible workforce is often an organization’s single largest expense.
VMS is most often an Internet-enabled, Web-based application that helps manage and procure staffing services from requisition to billing and reviewing, delivered through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. VMS streamlines manual processes and provides a complete view of a contingent labor force, including analyses of performance efficacies, spend, compliance, and vendor performance.
At the heart of VMS is the ability to ask the right questions. What is a company’s flexible labor headcount globally? How much is the organization spending on flexible labor? Are there redundancies with the same job being done in Brazil and China? What about compliance, amid the multiplicity of requirements of a global workforce? Who is an outstanding supplier and how can we translate their best practices to other vendors? Adapted to a company’s precise needs, a VMS can transform voluminous data points into aggregated information that can be closely and comprehensively analyzed to identify trends, manage costs and risk, and allow better oversight of the contingent labor force.
Workforce Analytics in the Global Village
Application of analytics to a contingent workforce is a key part of its value and relevance, but its applicability to the tremendous challenge of managing the total global workforce is an added compelling aspect. With more businesses expanding internationally, managing and assessing a 24-hour-a-day, full-time and flexible employee base around the world can be a daunting task. Even in challenging economic times, companies are continuing to expand (U.S. companies created 1.4 million jobs overseas last year1) indicating a trend that will most certainly continue to grow as we progress through recovery.
An economy that has never been more complicated demands commitment to a revitalized ability to measure the most fundamental ingredient in the success or failure of any enterprise: people. Workforce Analytics is about having the precision to enable the right assessments and the creation of a whole new level of visibility, insight and foresight about the people across the entire global organization.2
In this age of the knowledge worker, the most inspired, outside-the-box minds will build the economy of the future idea by idea even more than brick by brick. The need to identify the right people in the right place at the right time can be satisfied by Workforce Analytics.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. The exciting news is that you can measure it.
Companies that do, in good times and bad, will not fail to measure up.
1Gogoi, Pallavi. “Where are the jobs? For many companies overseas”. 28 December 2010. Associated Press. 2Agarwal, Rishi. “Workforce Analytics for Global Enterprises” Webcast. 5 June 2007. Human Capital Institute.