Why is there so much resistance to change in Workforce Management initiatives?

Cultivating change within the workplace is complex, both to get it right and to facilitate change among workers. Large transformation programs that impact the entire business and every person within it are bound to meet resistance as staff, processes, and reality collide.

However, before we can answer the question of why so many organisations experience resistance to change in the workforce management (WFM) space, we need to start by setting some context about what WFM actually is.

The Balancing Act of Supply and Demand

Put simply, WFM is the process by which organisations strive to have the right people with the right skills in the right place at the right time.

Managing the dynamics of permanent, part-time, casual or a contracted workforce is complex in organisations with a workforce that works to a pre-defined roster, where workers are typically paid by the hour and operate under some form of Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) or Award. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to these as ‘pay rules.’

Inherent in most pay rules are a combination of base hourly rates plus additional (triggered) payments such as allowances and overtime.

The key objective of the organisation with respect to WFM being to balance the workforce capacity (supply) with the work required (demand) whilst minimising overtime and other triggered payments (optimisation).

When WFM is performed manually, we usually see a number of roster managers that set the rosters for their workers based upon their understanding of the supply and demand of resource. The rosters are developed based upon history and anticipated change (demand) and, more controversially at times, can be biased towards relationships and tacit knowledge between the rosteror and the worker.

It is not uncommon to see rosters built to balance supply and demand in such a way as to maximise the so-called ‘add-ons’ for some or many workers.

Automation vs Human Rostering: Managing the Human-to-Human Relationship

Let’s look at an example:

Where manual timesheets are used to record actual hours worked against a manual roster, it’s not uncommon to see the results of a ‘magic pencil’, i.e., the start or end times on an approved timesheet might not actually reflect the true hours worked. Quite often, we see managers also approving timesheets without any knowledge or evidence to support whether the worker’s stated hours are valid.

Introducing automation very quickly provides an organisation with visibility of rostering data, moreover, where time and attendance is included, the organisation can see where the so-called magic pencils and sub-optimal rostering has been taking place (i.e Rostering the most experienced workers at the easiest and highest paying times, such as a Sunday).

Automation will not prevent the ‘buddy punch’ i.e. where someone clocks in and or out using a buddy’s credentials on their behalf, however, our experience is this practice will dramatically reduce over time if policy and management ownership accompany the automation.

Identifying Resistance: Where to Expect Change

Now we understand the context of introducing WFM, there are a number of obvious areas that naturally will bring with them resistance to the change:

Rosterors: Quite often simple automation allows a rosteror to roster a larger number of workers and as such, it is likely to reduce the headcount of the rosterors. Few rosterors want to lose their job!

Managers: Having an automated system where a Manager needs to approve (online) a worker’s timesheet and any exceptions immediately provides visibility and traceability of decisions. If there are a large number of exceptions, automation gives greater visibility and, therefore, greater traceability. It shines a light on the manager, the rosteror (if different) and the worker to look at where the issue might be. This in turn brings a greater level of visible accountability to managers, who, if deliberately acting sub-optimally, are likely to resist change.

Workers: Having to physically clock in and out requires the worker to be present, thereby eliminating the magic pencil or the fudged manual time sheet. That being said, as noted above, the ‘buddy punch’ can and still will happen. However, over time, the analysis of the data coupled with, increased visible ownership by managers, will expose and thus limit this practice.

So the million dollar question – or more accurately, the many millions of dollars – is: How do we deal with change resistance we’re likely to encounter in optimising WFM?

Accepting ‘What-is’: Making the Invisible Visible

Overcoming resistance requires acknowledging ‘what is’: that is, we must recognise and accept that the practices mentioned above are real and exist within many organisations.

Open – and carefully constructed – the acknowledgement of this to the various stakeholders, such as managers, rosterors and workers, is the place to start. And it’s an acknowledgement that needs to be driven by the CEO.

Senior management must work together to set and implement policy that supports delivering an optimised roster is the second step. Policies need to be considered with respect to the introduction of manager and rosteror KPIs such as:

  • Overtime
  • Exceptions
  • Allowances

Senior management should provide clear statements with respect to policy and accountability, providing visible evidence that data and information will be available and analysed. This will highlight the focus on sub-optimal practices.

Senior management should make clear statements with respect to policy and accountability and providing visible evidence that the data and information will be available and analysed which will highlight sub-optimal practices. This includes introducing worker KPIs, such as:

  • Missed Punches
  • Exceptions
  • Shift Swaps

Producing and publishing regular compliance and relevant statistics will remind all stakeholders that the system is there and being analysed to ensure it is optimised.

Driving Change From the Top

Our experience within the WFM sphere is that it is not enough to simply set policy at the executive level. Change in workforce management has to be driven through all levels of the organisation with robust communication and a focus on fit-for-purpose change management. The best way to achieve this? Facts. Use the information from the system to demonstrate what is really happening, then drive the desired changes from there.

Want to find out more about managing WFM change within your workforce? Read our previous articles on WFM or contact our team on 02 9098 6300 to discuss your requirements.

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