Automation to improve workforce productivity, planning and utilisation in the 2021 workplace


By Sumeet Doshi, Country Manager, India, Ultimate Kronos Group

It has been a year since the Covid outbreak and here we are in 2021, still reeling under its impact. The new normal is here for good and everyone is coming to terms with it. And with this, we can also say we have proudly achieved a feat never attempted before a near permanent work from home strategy implemented at god speed, overnight; and still keeping businesses alive, if not thriving. 

Over and above health implications, Covid has probably had the most lasting impact on our mental models than any life event, simply because it was unforeseen and challenged us out of our comfort zone. From employees who struggled to integrate work into their personal lives and space, to CEOs who have had to reimagine their business models and now CHROs who are rethinking their people strategy, Covid has been an accelerator of positive transformation and will hopefully make organisations and the workforce more resilient.

The global workforce today has spent over a year to balance their work and personal life from the confines of their homes, thereby becoming more agile and collaborative. And given this realisation of productivity, employees now expect the practice for flexible schedules to continue in the post pandemic workplace too. But most importantly, the pandemic has highlighted that employee productivity was never truly dependent on the culture of being present or the cohesiveness built while working from within a singular physical space. In fact, there has been a significant cultural shift in how the tenets which govern employee output are understood. And CHROs today are combing through various ERP and WFM solutions that can best complement but least interfere with their talents’ productivity. 

Even as Covid has fast tracked the digital transformation journey of several companies much of this innovation has been customer centric or done with the interest of keeping business afloat.  But for a company to become digital first, it will need to have a digital first people strategy to respond more effectively to future disruptions. 

Technology with all its pervasiveness has never been tested before like it was during the pandemic. No doubt, it can be the most unbiased enabler in objectively assessing work related contribution and also measuring output.  Just like how a good CRM solution powered by AI and deep tech can make lasting impact on customer relationships, having data analytics on how people who serve customers are just as important. Not only do these data cuts give the management a view into how their heterogeneous workforce is spread out across locations but also ensure they are their collaborative best giving more room for productivity that can add to the companies bottom lines. 

According to the Workforce Management Reset Survey commissioned jointly by SHRM and UKG, as companies are drawing up suitable workplace reentry strategies, CHROs in India are now focusing on elements like flexibility, multi flexible workforce, rewards and incentives to upscale organisational productivity for the services sector. In fact, the study suggests that  frontline workers in sectors like healthcare, retail and others functioning in the gig economy all expect employers to be responsible for their wellness, from the time they leave for work and are back home. So while employee wellness has several intangibles to it, technology can play a critical role in minimising workplace stress, burnout and even bring in a sense of equity and fairness. 

Essentially, if employees are empowered to plan their work and be outcome or goal oriented with the help of tech tools, they can be their best, most productive self at work i.e. achieving more in less time. And this would in turn ensure fair pay for actual work done for contractual or shift workers and compliance with laws of the land for employers.

Having intelligent technology replace mundane time consuming tasks such as scheduling and staffing functions can definitely unburden the managerial staff from administrative work and allow them to focus on essential projects, thereby improving their productivity levels. In fact, the Workforce Management Reset report cites that 48 per cent of the respondents believe that workforce scheduling and staffing solutions can better enable manpower planning, deployment and utilisation at the post pandemic workplace and a good 50 per cent believe it should be automated.  

With India Inc. making a staggered entry into the workplace in 2021, the HR leaders are focused on driving up employee efficiency by addressing concerns and instilling a sense of trust; and in pursuit of that they are looking at removing bias from the regular workplace process. Thinking beyond today requires taking an end to end view of businesses and their operating models, but most importantly, on how the workplace can be transparent and bias free so employees can focus on what matters.

As we continue to push through the aftermath of this pandemic, it is time for CHROs to build on this unique moment of realisation that technology can meaningfully empower. We have already begun the building process, and now must leverage the best of technology to simplify an employee’s life.


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