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The coming of age for workforce management systems

17 November 2017

​Workforce management systems have become increasingly available and affordable, providing cleaning businesses with an effective means of achieving unrivalled levels of transparency, operational control and customer communication, argues Paul Ridden, CEO, SmartTask

Advances in smartphone technology and the growth of cloud-based software have made workforce management systems easily deployable and scalable, whatever the size of a business or its budget. The ability to combine a wide range of operational functions – including rostering, proof of attendance, real-time monitoring, incident management, auditing and inspections – is providing an opportunity to better manage resources and gain complete visibility over staff. This in turn is adding significant value both internally and to customers.

Creating a single platform that delivers such an extensive suite of capabilities can have a real impact on office-based functions by helping to reduce administration; share information between different business teams; and provide immediate access to centralised client records. 

Furthermore, by plugging this solution straight into existing HR, payroll and invoicing systems it is possible to increase the accuracy of operational data as well as simplify and automate back-office processes that were previously handled manually. For example, it can be used to maximise the profitability of contracts and verify timesheets by ensuring a company bills correctly and is not overpaying.

Adding value

With cleaning businesses operating in a highly competitive environment, workforce management systems are evolving beyond traditional capabilities to help overcome marketplace challenges and make the most of field-based teams. Opportunities exist to use the technology to introduce an expanded service offering to generate revenue and enhance contract delivery in order to improve retention rates.

The flexibility and functionality of the technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, so cleaning companies can look at clever ways of differentiating their business proposition and add value to their service. Simply using electronic smart forms on an easy-to-use smartphone app, can enable cleaners to quickly report spillages or other cleaning issues (with supporting details and an image if required), undertake replenishment audits or even inspect equipment in line with health and safety regulations. 

The continued blurring of boundaries between different FM disciplines is also changing the role of many service teams, with employees now having to look beyond their individual responsibilities and be mindful of the wider work environment. With this in mind, there is potential to empower cleaners to report maintenance issues or security risk, which is then automatically escalated to the appropriate team. Realistically, this can only be achieved if the process is quick and easy to complete, but a simple smart form should be enough to capture and report the necessary details. 

Meanwhile, RFID tags can be placed at key points within a building, which are scannable using a NFC-enabled smartphone, to prove a job has been completed or checks have been undertaken. This provides added peace of mind that toilets and other public spaces are receiving the appropriate levels of service and any issues are quickly raised and responded to. Moving forward, a workforce management tool could even be used alongside emerging sensor technology to coordinate cleaning requirements not simply at fixed intervals but based on actual footfall.

Gaining insight

Measurement should be a key aspect of any workforce management solution, because it provides the ability for a cleaning company to access KPI reporting, performance management and business intelligence. The more data you capture, the more opportunity there is to gain valuable insight into all aspects of business to analyse performance and identify areas of improvement. If you want to calculate the profitability of contracts, understand staff utilisation, or pinpoint where unnecessary costs are occurring, then an reporting package is essential.

Effective dashboard reporting also provides an easy way of sharing relevant information with other areas of the business – HR, finance, health and safety – or offering complete transparency to customers. Real-time performance updates, backed up with accurate supporting data, can really enhance the client relationship by providing peace of mind and generating goodwill.

The latest developments in workforce management are providing the potential to enhance business performance and gain competitive advantage. It will be those companies that lag behind and are reluctant to embrace the latest innovations and working practices that will start finding it more difficult to compete as other more forward-thinking organisations reap the benefits the technology brings.