Author: Tracey Fritcher, Global Director HR Transformation, ServiceNow
The gains in workforce productivity in the last 15 years are numerous. But there are still many organizations today that are filled with a great deal of administrative work to get a task done – much of this work falls into the unstructured category and is a huge time waster.
What if there was a way to look at work and build some structure and automation into processes to drive more productivity? Many organizations are looking at work and finding ways to add some guided insight so people can accomplish more in each day of work.
Searching the phrase “increase workforce productivity” will return approximately 84 million results…in .57 seconds – an overwhelming amount of information about recent improvements and many predictions about future gains.
Many of the articles revolve around management practices and what leaders can do to get to that holy grail of incremental effort – the kind of commitment that fills an employee with the drive to stay up late and take care of a customer problem or come in early when two nurses have called in sick on their floor. This is great when it happens, but people have lives outside of work and circumstances prevent doing any more than what is required for the job.
Smart organizations are seeking productivity gains by identifying the biggest time wasters — the work that often falls through the cracks, is highly administrative, repeatable and many times done via phone, e-mail or still on paper. Some great examples of this type of work are tuition reimbursement, charity gift matching, or following up on a paycheck error.
Employees spend significant time just trying to figure out where to go to resolve these types of issues. Once they think they have the right place to go, the next step is usually an e-mail or a phone call which sometimes lead to an out of office or voice mail. So the next step is another e-mail or phone call and soon more than 30 minutes has evaporated and the employee is still without an answer or resolution.
Automation, intelligent workflow, and guided choices for employees to complete tasks are the keys to future productivity gains within workforces. For many workers, having immediate and direct access to answers is far more high-touch than having to call a service center to speak with a representative. Employees want the power of information and technology at their fingertips – besides, a cloud-enabled portal doesn’t have hours of operations – it’s always open and answers are instantaneous.
Recently, a flight crew from a discount airline was waiting for a hotel shuttle bus and talking about where to go for a paycheck dispute. There were six people in the conversation and each person had a different answer of who to contact. Since the high-touch, phone-answering 1-800 number was only open 12 hours a day, there were lots of work around as far as how to circumvent the often 20 or 30-minute hold time for a representative to look into the situation.
If this even happened 50 times a day, for a global 24/7 operation, the cost implications are beyond significant. In this situation, one employee had a similar issue and was on the phone for over an hour resolving a problem…and on the clock the entire time. A paycheck question is one of the easiest things to solve through automated workflow – there is one place to go and technology helps the employee find the right person for that unique question.
Smart companies start by listening to their employees and finding out what tasks or procedures are causing the greatest frustration. Once you have a short list of “pain points” of high frustration tasks for employees, the work to automate can begin. The great news is that sizable gains can be made just by making information readily available and easy to find. Most companies are looking at overall search capability to serve up answers to an employee without that person having to know exactly where to go.
A search of tuition reimbursement should bring up the policy, a list of FAQs, the link to submit grades and transcripts, a selection of where the reimbursement should go and someone to contact in case of a unique situation (e.g., think of all the recent for-profit college closings in recent years – the right person should be reachable and available to assist in that situation).
When employees are frustrated and administrative items are ridiculously difficult to resolve, the greater productivity impact is around the stories being shared about the awful experience. When an employee’s life event is particularly sudden and there are delayed responses or confusing communications from multiple parties, the result is a worker who is frustrated AND upset.
Terrible experiences with HR cannot be ignored. People share them. It’s too good not to share…and vent…and complain about – and then others hop on the bandwagon of THEIR awful work situation that was confusing and took forever to resolve.
This is all solvable by getting employees used to going one place –one platform instead of multiple systems — to have their issues resolved. When there is a strong service delivery strategy and solution in place within an organization, it really doesn’t matter what the request is – the answer is easy to find, the employee gets a quick resolution and there’s no drama over a ridiculous process.
It is easy to start small and keep building out answers that keep people focused on their actual jobs. Employees should not have to spend a great deal of time and energy to be an employee. At least some of this time and energy can then be expended on real work — like completing projects, making deadlines and serving customers.