“Main Street versus Wall Street” …“Double-dip Recession” - we’ve all heard the clichés used to describe the current state of our economy. But what does this really mean? As businesses continue to face uncertainty, stemming from troubles both in the US and global markets, we are left to wonder how we will surpass these tough times and build a foundation for a successful future. It’s not easy. No magic formula exists that will guarantee success - there are simply too many variables unique to individual organizations for a “one size fits all” solution to work. But there are commonalities across businesses in all types of industries – one of them being how the effective use of their people can improve service, boost productivity and increase cost-savings.
Employees representing your business are your most important asset; they carry out your mission and are the face of your brand to the customers they work with on a daily basis. But they can also represent the largest variable expense for your organization. Poor workforce management can result in an inconsistent pace of operations, unpredictable quality levels and increased payroll costs due to overtime pay or excess staff.
None of this is earth-shattering news. So it will be no surprise when I tell you that by properly planning and managing your workforce and labor costs, you can:
- Provide significant growth through improved customer service and productivity
- Generate significant improvement to bottom line results
Sound simple enough? All you need is to have the right people, in the right place, doing the right things, at the right time. While it sounds simple, the ability for an organization to get there is anything but simple. The reality is that many organizations aren’t armed with the right information to make knowledgeable decisions on workforce management strategies and don’t have the time to make finding this information a priority. Without accurate data, many clients underestimate the amount of improvement they can make by driving efficiencies in their workforce. I often hear clients say "it would be great if we could improve by 10%” – and to their surprise, my standard response is “how do you know you can’t improve by 25%?” The truth is that companies can’t have an accurate understanding of what type of improvement is possible until they have the data needed to make informed decisions about their workforce optimization strategy.
West Monroe Partners is able to help clients make these informed decisions about their workforce optimization strategy. Detailing the current framework and picture of your workforce is the first step toward workforce optimization. Once you can paint a clear picture of the realities of the operation, you can begin to set strategies in place based on what works best with your culture and desired outcomes. A scientific view of the operation, driven by “real data” collected at the point of execution, is critical to developing a strategy that achieves sustainable results for your bottom line.
Just as the factors associated with success in business vary, so to do the strategies for addressing workforce efficiency. We typically encounter three primary outcomes being requested by our clients:
- Development of Engineered Standards
- Implementation of Incentives
- Optimization of Resource Schedules
It is important to note that although these outcomes are distinct and can stand on their own, they are not mutually exclusive. Organizations that implement new incentive plans or resource schedules without the diligence of collecting data to create engineered standards often see short term gains, but then experience long term losses through over payment in incentives and/or decreased customer service levels. Trying to fix these issues afterwards can prove very challenging and time consuming, thus stressing the importance of getting these strategies correct the first time around.
Furthermore, going back to fix issues as they surface is quite difficult. Your workforce has adapted to the new reality that you have put in place. They have been trained to work a certain way, and provide service to your customers according to the framework that has been established. Asking them to work a different way, or even worse, to expect a different level of compensation is very challenging. Again, this underscores the importance of getting it right the first time.
So, what's the point? The point is that while taking the time to collect data and develop a clear view of your operation may seem misaligned given the pressing need to meet your financial targets, it's the only way you can guarantee that you're making the right decision to drive both short and long term results. The pressure to drive margin is ever-increasing. It's critical to not let that pressure allow for short-sighted decisions that can be counterproductive to your business goals.
Is it important to focus on workforce efficiency? Absolutely. It's even more important to do it the right way. Both Main Street and Wall Street will thank you for it.
To learn more about Workforce Optimization, please contact Sean Adkins, a Director who serves as the company’s US lead for Labor Management solutions.