In peak condition for staff productivity

Posted on 6 Jul 2010 by The Manufacturer

For many businesses, the first whistle of the 2010 World Cup signified one of the biggest challenges in managing staff productivity. Matt Wheeler, product and marketing director at Amano UK, which designs and manufactures time and workforce management systems, discusses the key methods of ensuring successful workforce management regardless of the sporting calendar.

With World Cup fever having hit the UK with full force this summer, the debate on staff productivity also kicked-off in businesses across the country. The 30-day tournament ushered in a new set of challenges for employers, but rather than game over for another four years, this is just the beginning of a run of major sporting events culminating in the London Olympics 2012 that will test the Nation’s employers and highlight the importance of successful workforce management.

A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) indicated that many employers were ill-prepared for the challenges of maintaining staff productivity during the recent World Cup in South Africa. According to the poll of 1,000 employers, nine in 10 firms had not developed a policy to manage employees who fail to show up for work during the tournament. Just 5% of organisations had drawn up a policy, leaving a great number of employers at risk of heightened levels of staff absenteeism.

Keeping score of staff absenteeism

Further research by the CIPD revealed the average employee absence is 7.4 days per year with a cost of absence per employee per year of £692. Only 41% of employers monitor the cost of employee absence and under half of employers have a target in place for reducing absence. Evidently, absenteeism is already a huge cost to businesses, but throughout major sporting events, many employers could see an increase in unscheduled absenteeism if they simply ignore it.

Pushing on regardless may also reduce productivity in the long term – both through the temptation among die-hard sports fans to ‘pull a sickie’, but also through festering resentment and damaged morale among all those who simply want to feel part of something exciting. Whether it’s during Wimbledon, October’s Ryder Cup in Wales, or the rapidly approaching 2012 Olympic Games, businesses that are prepared to offer their workforce greater flexibility are likely to reap the benefits with a happier and more productive workforce.

Team talk – flexibility and accountability

When talking team tactics, the need for flexibility and accountability is a key player in ensuring effective workforce management. The methods will vary from business to business, but there are some crucial areas to consider when ensuring staff productivity.

Effective scheduling in advance of any big event, sporting or otherwise, is important to ensure optimum staffing and skill levels are available when needed. To ensure your team stays committed to a common goal, advance planning and transparency is also essential. In addition, employers must ensure that the needs of the business are not held to ransom by providing sufficient cover and ensuring steady productivity levels.

Greater commitment from staff can also be ensured by empowering them to manage their own timekeeping, especially during exceptional circumstances such as a World Cup or Olympic Games. By allowing a fair working-life balance for employees, both morale and staff retention can be improved and overtime costs and absenteeism reduced. By authorising employees to take ownership of their productivity, you can maintain the same high levels of commitment and, as a result, protect the wider needs of the business and the bottom line.

A survey of 100 HR Directors carried out by XpertHR found some businesses were employing flexible working policies especially for the World Cup, helping to reduce the risk of heightened absenteeism and loss of productivity. 67% of respondents planned to alter working practices and enable flexible start and end times to allow staff to watch important games. Other tactics being put in place included extended lunch breaks (49%), last-minute requests for annual leave (44%), or time in lieu (16%).

However, businesses have typically been nervous about adopting flexible working schemes and recent research highlighted the main perceived disadvantages of flexible working to be limited interaction between key workers, lack of management control over employees and security and confidentiality of information.

Yet research also showed that nearly half of organisations surveyed saw flexible working as the key to higher staff productivity. During any event, where the risk of unscheduled absenteeism is a serious threat to productivity levels, time and attendance software systems can therefore offer handy solutions.

Ready, set, go – technology and measurement

But even after reducing absenteeism, how do employers know if their staff are being productive during the working day? With the continued need for improved efficiency, productivity and cost control, there is now a need for time and attendance systems that can track complex working patterns and analyse realtime data that will help businesses to accurately measure impacts on profit. To ensure that the action on the pitch, court or track does not have a negative impact on the bottom line, it is crucial for businesses to possess the technological infrastructure to facilitate more flexible and mobile working patterns for their workforce.

Flexible workforce management systems will help businesses to synchronise time and attendance with activity tracking and holiday and overtime management. Access and permissions can be tailored to allow a ‘self-service’ element, perfectly suited to those periods when sport takes over the TV and effectively managing staff time becomes a top priority.

With the ability to manage your workforce around specific shift patterns, rosters and schedules, time and attendance software systems can help to maintain business output and therefore provide a true return on investment; reducing overtime and recruitment costs as well as increasing the focus on ‘core’ business activities.

Planning for productivity

Whatever challenges the sporting calendar may bring and no matter what systems are in place to support flexible working, the proof that it works is in the planning.

By planning carefully, businesses can ensure they continue to run effectively while offering flexible working options that will both boost morale and staff productivity. So even if you can’t control the success of your sporting heroes, you can guarantee you won’t be scoring an own goal in the management of your workforce.