The balance between being ‘always on’ and ‘over-worked’ is a hard balance to find. “Systems need to be simple and useful, but also healthy,” says Hughes. “We are all in danger of data overload.”
Used effectively, streamlining the information that people receive in frontline roles can be a key tool for engagement, he adds. According to Gallup, just 8% of the UK workforce is engaged at work but our productivity gap with our competitors is well-known. Research from the Social Market Foundation states that happy and engaged employees are up to 20% more productive, and further research from Gallup reveals that engaged employees can increase sales by up to 20%.
“So imagine that instead of all the company information issued by a service provider, the colleague on the ground is receiving tailored and useful news and updates about their site, their role and their immediate environment,” says Hughes, citing the fact that many in frontline roles feel more loyalty to the end-user organisation than they do to their outsourced employer, especially after multiple contract changes and TUPE moves. “But,” he notes, “providing distilled information that can really assist a colleague to help the client’s organisational goals, drives engagement and better performance.”
So, a colleague can be “always on” but in a way that makes sense to them and engages them. “The journey of workforce management software started off as policing and compliance – making sure the right people were in the right place at the right time particularly in regulated sectors, but now organisations are increasingly understanding that it is not just the ‘stick’ of rules and regulations – software also helps provide the ‘carrot’,” Hughes argues.
“Our clients increasingly look to us to help provide them with more interaction, particularly where colleagues are working out of hours or in dispersed locations. What is the company doing and why is it doing it? How do we interact with our night workers? They put technology into the hands of the colleague, so that they have more control.”
This in turn leads to better employee engagement ‘trust’ scores, built on the well-understood theory that those with more certainty in their ‘locus of control’ experience less stress.
“It also helps with retention,” Hughes says. “Our research shows that it takes 12 man-hours to replace a security guard. We see our role as reducing stress as we enhance productivity for the back office staff who manage resourcing, too.”