Workforce Software VP: Out in force - Marc Moschetto

As workplaces move away from traditional human resource management techniques, what can companies do to be more adaptive to the needs of their employees and HR managers? Workforce Software VP for global marketing Marc Moschetto discusses how his company's software is keeping up with the rapidly changing world of work.

How has workforce management and the need for solutions in that area evolved over the past few years?

Marc Moschetto: I think the overarching theme is one of transformation. Workforce management has been regarded as a somewhat transactional practice; capturing employee 'punch-in/punch-out' data, feeding that data into payroll and making sure that whole process works smoothly.

Of course, that's still a critical task, but it is also just a foundation. Today's HR professionals are tasked with supporting the business on a much more strategic level, so there are many more items on the 'to-do' list.

Our company works with many organisations in the financial services and insurance sectors. These organisations have a high concentration of salaried employees who don't 'punch a clock', yet workforce management plays a central role in providing those professionals with a view into how much holiday time they have accrued; provides a streamlined way to request and approve time off, and to manage other types of absences such as more extensive leave cases; and to ensure all parties are on the same page throughout the process.

Another big step forward was the ability to untether workforce management from the clock and take advantage of other technologies that were already in use throughout the enterprise. Empowering employees to perform key functions from their mobile devices makes interacting with the workforce-management system part of day-to-day activities. Lots of people enter time-off requests during the evening hours, so you can imagine the scene of sitting round the kitchen table and discussing family vacation plans, and logging on from a smartphone to reserve the time off.

From an employer standpoint, the system automates the tracking, routing and processing of time-off requests, and ensures all local, national and employee group policies are being followed. 'Enterprise-grade' workforce-management solutions are configurable at the field level, meaning whenever there is a policy change or a law is introduced or modified, it's as simple as changing the configuration settings, and doesn't require an expensive reworking of code and the associated consulting expenses.

Workforce Software is known for its cloud-based workforce-management solution, can you tell us a bit more about the company and how it started?

Three friends and co-workers believed there was a fundamentally better way to go about supporting an employer's workforce-management needs. They wanted to develop a system that was easy to deploy, easy to use and, most of all, flexible, to contend with the inevitable shifts in business strategies and corporate policies that all employers face. So they pulled together personal resources and began developing the product.

The company grew steadily over the first ten to 11 years of operation, but the dramatic and rapid growth really hit in the 2010-11 time frame, when cloud popularity and adoption really began to take off. Our software, EmpCenter, was originally designed to be hosted, but in 2008, the company launched an SaaS version. By the time acceptance of cloud deployments hit the mainstream adoption phase for large employers, Workforce Software already had a field-proven and mature offering, and our growth has been exponential.

Have you seen the attitudes of organisations shift when it comes to the importance placed upon absenteeism and sickness, especially when it comes to costs associated with them?

The emphasis on what facet is most prominent varies by geography. In the UK, the annual median cost of absence is roughly £595 per employee each year - with thousands of people, that really adds up. There's an interest in establishing policies and practices aimed at reducing the level and frequency of absenteeism within an organisation.

You will, of course, still have the traditional reasons for absence, such as illness, which are tough to control in any direct way, but many absences are taken so employees can attend to home and family responsibilities as well. We're increasingly seeing employers develop new work practices - such as establishing flexi-work policies - that help employees to better balance their lives inside and outside of the office.

Are there changes happening in the expectations of organisations when it comes to the software tools they use to automate and enforce their corporate workforce-management strategy?

There has definitely been some shift in this direction, the most notable of which is the preference for cloud-based solutions previously mentioned. From an employee perspective, however, I think there's a shift occurring as well, and it's rooted in technology.

When I was a child and my dad was the age I am now, I remember him coming home from work at 5:30pm and - for the most part - he was truly home. Today, however, things are different. I think many if not most of us are in a state of constant connectivity with our office. We check our e-mails while we're out with friends. We check our e-mails when we're at events with our children. Many check e-mail even when they're on holiday.

The introduction of mobile devices has served to extend the workday but, in many of the above scenarios, the employer has been the direct beneficiary. There's an evolving set of expectations, however, that employees should be able to leverage those same technologies in a way that is to their benefit as well, namely leveraging technology to have greater flexibility and, on occasion, attend to personal matters during work hours just as work hours have crept into personal matters.

How difficult can it be for multinationals to manage their workforce?

One of the biggest challenges is addressing all of the unique policies and employment agreements that come into play at each location, and doing so through a single system. We typically work with multinationals that have tried to address this issue through either home-grown systems that simply do not scale, or have employed a patchwork of local solutions at each location, which makes administering, maintaining and collecting data something of a nightmare. Again, that's why we created our solution to be configurable - so a multinational employer could leverage a single instance of EmpCenter across the entire enterprise, yet have the flexibility to tailor the system at each location without altering a single line of code. This eliminates the technical challenges of other, less holistic approaches, but more importantly, it provides a single, normalised pipe of data that can be used for analysis and reporting at the corporate level.

Could you explain a bit more about how your cloud Workforce Software solution is able to bring innovation into a corporate workforce strategy?

Having something that is based on open standards really can help an employer leverage a best-of-breed solution to address this critical area, yet seamlessly integrate with the rest of the enterprise HCM systems. Some of the HCM providers, for example, offer a full suite of solutions that also include a rudimentary time and schedule-management module. Simplistic approaches to workforce management simply will not achieve corporate goals and, even worse, can leave the employer exposed to continued inefficient processes, fines, litigation and other unpleasant outcomes. That's why we developed EmpCenter with so much flexibility to integrate with other systems; not just payroll providers, but with talent management and other full-suite HCM solutions as well.

How do you see the workforce-management space evolving in the years to come?

I think you're going to see a continued push of "consumerisation" into the space in a few different areas. On the data collection end, for example, we're already seeing more progressive employers look to replace the traditional clock with more multifunctional devices such as tablets and the like. Often, they're more cost-effective and can serve more functions than just capturing time, so choosing a workforce-management provider that can extend a 'hardware agnostic' approach will help ensure that trend can be addressed.

I expect workforce-management providers will keep pace with the evolving technology trends of the day. The consumer sector is driving entirely new ways to interact with technology - from the introduction of Apple Pay to the burgeoning wearable tech space - and, as these become part of the day-to-day lives of employees, workforce-management providers will need to monitor and adapt to these trends.

It's all about the employee, and it is incumbent on companies such as ours to ensure we're facilitating engagement, simplifying processes, and arming managers with the data and tools they need to more effectively manage their employees like the competitive assets they truly are.

Workforce Software VP for global marketing Marc Moschetto.