“Imagine a world where your HR solution can predict the future; where it works with your managers to increase staff productivity and well-being; where it schedules and provides real-time ‘what if’ budgeting scenarios for staffing solutions in support of managing labour costs; where it provides information to support your supply chain decision-making… and, oh yes, also provides time and attendance.“That world is here – that world is now,” says Martin Blignaut, Workforce Management Practice Leader at Altron Systems Integration.One of the largest costs in any business is people – yet this is among the most difficult areas to manage because people, unlike other business assets, have wants, needs and emotions that makes them unpredictable.“To state the obvious, people are human. Get people management right and the rewards are considerable: morale and productivity rise, employees are engaged, top talent is attracted – and the business grows. Get it wrong, and the result is dissatisfied staff, less engagement, declining productivity and, potentially, a downward spiral into labour disputes, strikes – or even worse.“The world has changed. Management needs real-time information to manage the business effectively, and HR teams are under more pressure than ever to manage more staff with less people and to deliver reports that feed into and support the business strategy. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating socio-economic pressures, taking care of the company’s people has never been more important,” he adds.The good news is that there is technology that harnesses AI and machine learning to help businesses get the human aspects of their businesses right – while simultaneously providing the organisation with real-time data that can boost other critical business processes such as supply chain management and production scheduling.Developed by UKG, a global provider of HR, payroll and workforce management solutions, the Dimensions AI-powered workforce solution is designed to free HR practitioners from the traditional, humdrum “human resource” management tasks – from filling and statistics crunching – to focus more on managing “human relations”.Mark Jones, UKG’s Channel Sales Director, points out that while automation of conventional human resource functions such as payroll or time-and-attendance is not new, UKG Dimensions goes beyond this by enabling organisations to empower their employees and give them the flexibility recent UKG research has shown they want.Jones says this is essential if organisations want to attract and retain the very best people in an environment in which talent competition is one of the top HR and business challenges for 2023, according to Gartner in a survey of 800 HR leaders across 60 countries.According to Blignaut, the global talent shortage is further exacerbated in South Africa by the accelerating ‘brain drain’ of both young people and higher level staff.“While technology can assist HR, HR teams are not – and do not want – to be bothered with IT. For the past 25 years, Altron and UKG have partnered to deliver powerful HR solutions to organisation across South Africa, Africa and the Middle East. Now, this IT function is being automated, taking the IT out of HR. With our ‘Device as a Service” model, Altron is now able to offer its clients a full-service function – with access control hardware with SLA-driven break-fix support, services and the UKG Dimensions Cloud solution – all wrapped together in a pay-as-you-go (opex) licensing model,” Blignaut says.“The benefits of cloud technology in terms of opex vs capex, real-time reporting, security, not having to maintain an IT function in remote sites and so on are well documented. The solutions deliver even more: employee empowerment and the real-time, critical business information necessary to deal with many of today’s business challenges.”Blignaut dismisses concerns that cloud-based technology is not suitable for Africa with its unstable communications and electricity supply. “We have implemented appropriate and effective backup solutions and other workarounds across Africa to deal with these challenges,” he says. He goes on to discuss the concerns of clients working in remote Africa – where clients look to manage the transmission of diseases with biometric devices, mentioning that many of his customers are moving to touch-less and facial recognition solutions. On managing the workforce using cloud-based solutions across Africa: “It works – our clients use it,” he says.The four HR focal initiatives
Altron has developed a four-focus initiative model that accelerates the drive to business value using technology to complement HR.Focal 1: Basic automation – time and attendance; into payrollAutomating these basic human resource functions frees the HR team to focus on managing human relations. Additionally, this delivers more access control information on who is working when and where, providing basic information towards understanding health and safety in real-time and, with the software and information typically in the cloud, the information is instantly accessible and remotely available in the event of a disaster requiring evacuation. It also enables more control of access to potentially sensitive parts of the organisation, be those physical sites or data.“This technology has been around for a while, yet many organisations are either not using it or are not using it effectively,” Blignaut says.Focal 2: Optimisation of staff utilisationEffective automation and management of time and attendance makes it possible to quickly get the right staff member to the right job at the right time. For example, hospitals have to ensure they have appropriately qualified staff on duty in specific areas; yet this can be extremely difficult when staff call in sick or if there is some kind of emergency or disaster. Solutions offered include providing the manager real-time visibility of all qualified replacement staff available both within the hospital, or from other local hospitals in the broader group ecosystem or external labour suppliers. In addition, shifts can not only be offered to potential employees online through mobile applications – but can also be accepted with contracts executed online. To add to this, the manager can (in real-time) assess the impact on budgets of using, for example, external contracted versus internal full-time staff from remote locations.It’s also important that organisations have the right number of staff members at the right time to manage costs without negatively affecting customer experience. An example of this is a retailer that has quiet spells (such as Monday mornings) – and extremely busy periods such as Black Friday, when too few tellers would result in long queues and disgruntled customers. Predicting the staffing requirements and effectively scheduling staff to meet the requirements is critical to “delighting customers” while controlling cost.Focal 3: Staff empowerment – taking HR socialThis is about employee engagement and empowerment by making many basic HR functions accessible to employees on their smartphones or via a website. It’s about bringing HR, managers and staff closer to each other in real-time and online.For example, it’s Sunday night. While surfing the internet, an employee spots a special being offered by a travel company to the first 20 people who book. The employee uses his smartphone to quickly apply for leave – and obtain approval – for the dates of the special. He then books his dream holiday.Similarly, employees can use their phones or computers to obtain important documentation such as tax certificates, even if they have left the company, without bothering the HR team.Focal 4: AI – unleashing the business value of HRThe maturation of AI and machine learning in HR technology is key to predicting the future. “By embracing these technologies, organisations are not only be able to optimise staff utilisation (savings costs), but are able to draw on the real-time insights in staff optimisation and the running of their day-to-day business.Imagine a fast-food chicken franchise, using historical point-of-sales data being able to predict which menu items will be popular on which days at what time in the day and in what quantities. Then imagine linking this back to your staffing requirements and scheduling for the correct staff in the future. Now imagine using this to manage staff, scheduling and financially forecast… all on the cloud. The possibilities are endless. The data is there, the technology is there, the information obtained can be integrated into supply chain management, ensuring that the right quantities of the right foods are procured and delivered to each branch – reducing both stock outs (not enough chips) or food wastage (too many chicken drumsticks).And because all of this is in the cloud and the information is available in real-time, the business has a powerful source of business information that can help management identify trends as they happen.Over 25 years we have seen how technology in workforce management has evolved. From time and attendance – today it’s about information, it’s about solutions to empower business for growth. It’s about driving cross-functional real-time workforce management with business intelligence through the organisation for effective decision-making. It’s about managing costs – from automated scheduling to get the right people in the right place at the right time to managing overtime. All of this driving participation, collaboration across the organisation, empowering managers, human resources and, most importantly, the employees themselves.“The key to unlocking the value of your workforce, is to “engage experience”. Partnering with teams who understand this landscape and who are empowered with world leading hardware and software solutions and who have a track record in delivery, a track record will make this a reality,” concludes Blignaut.Altron is a valued and trusted partner of UKG, (formerly Kronos) with a history spanning 20 years in partnership.
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