Workforce analytics: The innovator’s advantage

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Workforce analytics: The innovator’s advantage

One of the largest and most important operational expenses governments have is their workforces. Because employees are the front line for delivery of programs and services, agency leaders must understand the true impact of staff productivity, overtime costs, absence management and process compliance.

Most state and local governments are under constant pressure to reduce operating costs and increase productivity while empowering and engaging employees. These steps help agencies provide exceptional citizen services and programs. However, achieving these goals can be extremely difficult, and the challenge is compounded when managers don’t have access to information that could help them make the best decisions. Even when such information is available, it may be delivered weeks, even months after the fact, when it’s too late to take action.

Yet all is not lost. Now there is an extremely effective way to give managers the real-time, insightful data they need:  workforce analytics. This powerful technology uses existing workforce-related data (as well as information from other systems) and transforms this data into actionable intelligence. Or to put it another way, workforce analytics gives instant visibility into the metrics and trends that matter most. As a result, leaders can truly “manage in the moment” and make the best decisions to improve operations, reduce costs, engage employees and achieve other important objectives.

There are four main areas where workforce analytics can help state and local governments achieve significant benefits:

Labor productivity

Employees are the face of the agency, responsible for delivering services and programs to citizens and businesses. To help them continue to be productive, many state and local governments already have invested in workforce management technology as a way to help them spend more time providing those services by tapping into the wealth of workforce data.

Consider time and attendance data. Workforce management solutions automate important timekeeping processes, enabling employees to enter their time using a terminal, a computer or even a mobile device. And once that timekeeping data is collected, it can be put to work.

Productivity dashboards can provide a single, up-to-the-minute view of employee performance. They can be configured to isolate the negative impact of unproductive time -- like breaks, tardiness, or absences -- so managers monitor productivity in real time --without having to wait for IT assistance -- for faster, more impactful decision making to improve employee service levels.

Reducing unnecessary overtime and “pension spiking”

In addition to managing labor productivity, analytics can also help provide the answers to important cost-related questions such as, “Is each department, division, region and cost center on budget?” “How do current labor costs break down?” “How is my current labor cost trending?”

Such a laser focus on costs can be extremely helpful in managing overtime. Workforce analytics essentially connects the dots on overtime data and its overall impact, such as which departments are approaching overtime at any given time. It can highlight the cost benefit of when overtime is beneficial  and when it’s detrimental.  Again, such real-time insight helps managers take action to rein in unnecessary costs right now -- not weeks or months after the fact.

Workforce analytics is an extremely effective way to combat “pension spiking,” or employees’ attempts to generate more overtime as they get closer to retirement to increase their pensions. By providing real-time overtime dashboards to help identify potential cases of pension padding, managers can take steps to address it quickly. Remember, reductions in overtime in these cases don’t just improve the bottom line today, they could significantly reduce long-term pension obligations and help to save taxpayer money.

Managing leave

Unplanned absences and leave abuse can be challenging to manage in a state and local government setting. Yet they are important -- 1 percent of absences equals 1 percent of payroll, so the impact can be dramatic.

Workforce analytics can help provide the insight you need to determine if absence management is an issue or how absences are trending. Whether a manager is dealing with inaccurate leave, unlogged break times or high levels of unexcused absences, the ability to view this data in real time allows for early detection of fraudulent activity and the ability to act quickly to prevent future abuse. Views can be created that show absenteeism percentages for any timeframe -- such as the entire fiscal year -- to identify absence trends and patterns that may have been overlooked.  Absenteeism data can also be displayed by cost center or by employee, as well as total leave liability.

Access to this information can be a huge opportunity to reduce costs and increase service. One major city government, for example, used workforce analytics to increase its logged paid time-off metric by 26 percent -- a significant contribution to bottom-line cost savings and overall productivity.

Improving processes going forward

In addition to addressing productivity, overtime and absence management, workforce analytics help agencies create a culture of compliance and accountability by providing the insight to drive predictable results -- month after month and quarter after quarter. For example, if timecard approval is an issue, the analytics can show which supervisors may not be approving timecards in a timely manner. Or if the issue is at the employee level, managers can drill down to see which employees are consistently late or not returning from breaks on time.

All of this information helps the agency determine if there are process compliance issues and, if so, quickly identify the root cause and take the appropriate corrective action.

More than a win-win

Workforce analytics can help an agency increase productivity, reduce costs, minimize absences and create a culture of ongoing accountability and empowerment. Success in each of these areas is impressive, especially since they can all help the organization achieve significant improvements. Yet the larger benefit -- an increased ability to provide exceptional services and programs -- shows just how valuable workforce analytics are for state and local governments.

About the Author

Rock Regan is the director of industry marketing and strategy, government and education at Kronos Inc.

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