Making Your Labor Initiative Succeed at the Front Lines

Rahkeem Morris
April 22, 2019

In our last blog post, we explained the three reasons why corporate labor initiatives often fail. To quickly summarize:

Problem #1: Failure to diagnose root causes. Many companies address the symptoms (overtime, compliance issues, etc.) with a less-than-rich understanding of the variety of causes.

Problem #2: Blanket targets, blanket (or no) action plans. Relatedly, targets and action plans (if action plans are even created) are too broad and not sufficiently honed to the unique problems each site faces.

Problem #3: Adding to already overburdened managers. Corporate initiatives always seem to require managers and supervisors to do a little more (we have yet to see an initiative that tells supervisors to do less). Faced with competing priorities and initiatives, even the best laid plans die quiet deaths at the front lines.

So how do you overcome these significant barriers and increase the likelihood that your initiative succeeds?

As management consultants will tell you, good ideas are always structured in three buckets - so here are our three solutions to your labor initiative implementation issues:

Solution #1: Rich, data-based diagnosis that covers your problem’s complexity.

Let’s say you’re trying to reduce overtime. How many different causes of overtime could there possibly be?

We’ve identified over 10 different causes of overtime - and two sites with the same overtime percentage could be suffering from very different overtime-causing problems.

Today, executives are bombarded with sales pitches from software companies promising simple solutions for your biggest challenges. (“The only real cause of overtime is a schedule that doesn’t match employee availability,” for example.) Executives, facing pressure both internally and from investors to get results now, end up making quick decisions. After all, those corporate logos, innovative marketing materials, and compelling white papers can’t be wrong… can they?

It’s hard to press pause when the procurement system's in full gear - but necessary. If you don’t understand the ten different reasons why overtime is rampant, you’re almost certainly jumping to solutions that won’t accomplish your goals. Worse, you’re at risk of making the matter worse.

So, time to build a dataset that helps you diagnose the many causes of your problem. Does that mean it’s time to call in the consultants?

Not necessarily - especially for companies that employ hourly workers who are focused on driving front-line change. Most of the data you need is already available in your timekeeping system; all that’s needed is a technology and a partner to help you turn your existing data into insights.

And with today’s technology and a partner like SYRG, you can start making the most out of your timekeeping system’s data - without massive consulting teams and fees. Whether you’re looking for opportunities to cut costs, improve compliance, or increase employee satisfaction, SYRG can make your data actionable, and help you get to the root of your problems before jumping to solutions.

Solution #2: Targeted action recommendations for each part of the problem.

Let’s imagine you do have a robust dataset and clear understanding of the drivers of your corporate problem. Again, let’s use overtime as an example.

First, just understanding why overtime is happening is useful: Knowing which of the ten different overtime causes are relevant at different sites and in different regions helps you avoid otherwise-compelling marketing pitches.

Knowledge is power - but it isn’t action. We’ve heard executives ask questions like: “Great, now do I need to create a custom action plan for all 300 of our sites?” or “Oh no... does this mean I need to go out and buy 10 different solutions to address each of our problems?”

Driving change is difficult when there’s one blanket solution for the entire company. It’s overwhelming - calcifying, even - when many solutions are needed. And then comes tracking progress when every site has its own unique roadmap… sounds like you need to hire a new team for this, right?

Fortunately, this is where SYRG’s magic comes in. What once took multiple solutions, new hires, and extensive change-management programs can now all be handled automatically:

When SYRG identifies the causes of overtime, our system identifies triggers: “The fourth cause of overtime usually happens when a manager marks someone as sick less than two hours prior to that person’s shift starting.” When we identify triggers, we can introduce nudges: “When a manager marks someone as sick less than two hours prior to that person’s shift starting, SYRG will recommend that the manager does X.”

SYRG works with each of its customers to set the initial recommendation list, with recommendations for each underlying cause our system has identified. This means there’s one solution - not 10 - and that solution is a manager nudge at the right time. It’s as if you’re able to clone your executives to coach and assist your front-line managers at the exact moment they’re facing the company’s biggest challenges.

In addition, our system learns which recommendations are most successful, refining recommendations over time. This means your front-line managers continue to improve as time passes, and progress is always made towards your most important goals.

Solution #3: Make it impossibly easy for your front-line managers to do the right thing, every time.

Even if you have the perfect solutions for your company’s problems, if they’re not simple for front-line decision-makers to implement, you’re in trouble.

We’ve seen this with many technology implementations: Supposedly “self-service” tools that help front-line managers accomplish corporate goals are never used because they’re too much work. Even those that should theoretically reduce manager workload aren’t used.

One example here is open shift functionality. Most timekeeping and scheduling software systems have some way for managers to broadcast that there’s an open shift available to eligible employees.

So why are open shift features are rarely used? Speaking with managers we’ve found a few reasons.

  • More work required: Yes, it’s easy to send out a message blast to a bunch of employees and see who has volunteered. But there’s a bunch of work that’s required later
  • Mistakes: Other times, open shifts are filled as first-come, first-served. When this is the case, managers often give out overtime accidentally. Or, employees who aren’t qualified accept the shift, which causes operational havoc if it’s not caught (and more work if it is).

Change is hard. And most new processes and technologies implemented create more work for the front-line; for you, this creates unintended consequences, including a failure to meet HQ’s goals.

That’s why SYRG’s just-in-time nudges and recommendations are so powerful.

SYRG doesn’t throw a difficult-to-use technology or a 20-page PowerPoint deck (“New Procedures for Continuous Improvement in Operations at Our Company”) at your managers.

Instead, we know the exact moment at which your managers are facing a difficult decision - and that’s when we introduce “best practice” recommendations. We simplify the work it takes to get to a solution, so that one action that used to take 30 minutes of manager time can now be done in a click.

Imagine it’s the start of a shift, and someone hasn’t clocked in yet. Your manager gets a notification both on his phone and in his timekeeping system. The notification gives him the option to call the employee to see if she’s late, find a replacement, or do nothing. If he chooses the “find a replacement” option, the system narrows down who’s eligible for the shift. It can even make the calls and fill the shift for the manager, all in one click.

Imagine a nudge for everything that pops up in your supervisors’ typical days:

  • Something seems off in next week’s schedule - someone’s scheduled for a “clopening”
  • Someone’s called out sick
  • Someone hasn’t shown up for work yet
  • Someone’s headed into overtime in 10 minutes

With an AI system that makes high-value recommendations tied to your schedule and time clock, your managers able to focus on managing.

Your operations are able to continuously improve, in part because you’re able to add new nudges along the way.

And new managers are able to come aboard and get up to speed without the typical dip in site performance; when they have SYRG as a support system, they're efficient and compliant from day one.

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