Workforce management: The next cloud resource for businesses
The distributed enterprise was set to become a reality during the 2020s, yet it was last year that forced the distributed enterprise into reality for nearly every organisation. Now, everywhere, businesses are planning to embark on digital transformation programs, and this is due to new technology-led behaviours from their customer base.
It is a trend that has grown significantly throughout 2021 and it has remained competitive. In a digital economy, organisations must change their business operating models, that not only deliver on the digital demands of the customer but also embrace new methods of working and measuring their business performance.
A survey at the tail end of 2020 by employer rating business Glassdoor found that 70% of employees expected a combination of working from home and the office as part of their career following the global pandemic. A mere 4% of the employees surveyed wanted a full-time return to the office - the distributed enterprise had become a reality.
CIOs and COOs now require a workforce and a workforce management (WFM) platform to be as scalable and flexible as productivity applications such as data analytics, storage, and the infrastructure tools they deploy.
Why cloud computing?
Beyond the underlying technology, such essential tools like the cloud represents a mindset of IT being "anything, anywhere." It is an adopted mindset that has increased in an organisation's approach to its people in recent months. It is because employers and employees desire greater freedom from the bottom-line, that pressures of employing a large workforce or being tied to a daily commute or employment contract, continue to grow.
Cloud computing is distributed in nature, using computing power, applications, and network resources from various locations according to need. Organisations have found that cloud computing provides freedom - they no longer need to own data centres, for example. Most importantly, the cloud can be instantly scaled in response to a demand or issue. Perhaps the question asked by businesses is not so much why, but when?
Your workforce as a cloud
What has this meant for the workforce and how has the idea of freedom been defined? We have witnessed the rise of the 'gig economy' which has seen C-suite executives become freelance consultants choosing to work during school hours as delivery drivers. Hiring or commissioning project teams when there is a peak in demand reduces business costs and ensures the right calibre of talent for a particular project or outcome and this has been beneficial for finance-conscious organisations. In short, the workforce is fast becoming a 'cloud' in its own right – flexible, available anywhere, and scalable to suit the need of the business.
Trust is the future
Yet, it’s no different with the 'workforce cloud' – organisations must trust that their people won't abuse the flexibility they're being given, acting responsibly to protect their wellbeing and the company's wellbeing.
Just as with the IT cloud, organisations moving towards a 'cloud-based approach to people management teams will require tools to effectively forecast, plan, and optimise that talent, whether employees or contractors. Any enterprise needs to ensure that resource is deployed in the right areas, at the right time, and quickly identify and mitigate issues that affect performance. By so doing, organisations can leverage the flexibility of the 'workforce cloud' to ensure that business performance and wellbeing are protected. Balance this with the tools and data necessary to analyse and optimise performance, and they stand a better chance of surviving the road ahead.
About the author: Richard Jeffrey is CEO of ActiveOps, a management process automation company. He specialises in operations management in service and transactional businesses, design and operation of complex and distributed delivery chains in service industries and 'Just in Time' resourcing.