As country manager – India for UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), Sumeet is responsible for the vision and execution of UKG’s long-term strategy and growth in the Indian workforce management market. Sumeet joined UKG (earlier Kronos) in 2007 as a solution consulting and business development manager — and the third employee working in India — before bringing his business development expertise to his role as the head of marketing. There, he led the India marketing organisation to build a sustainable channel and alliance network in the region. In his most recent role, he headed sales for the India region.
Over the past year, the coronavirus outbreak has had a pronounced impact on the functioning of our world. The workplace and work itself continues to evolve month after month as small and large size businesses adapt alike to the new normal amidst social distancing measures and lockdowns. There is a push to introduce safety measures that are in the interests of both employee welfare and business continuity as the two aren’t mutually exclusive anymore.
The pandemic has had an impact across industries with many small sized business reeling under losses during the various lockdown. Sectors like manufacturing have been faced with challenges like adapting to remote working, operating with reduced work force and disrupted supply chains. According to the workforce management reset study by SHRM and UKG in 2020, employee health and safety and workplace sanitation and hygiene were amongst the top two challenges for manufacturers in India. In another global survey undertaken by UKG and The Workforce Institute it was found that 56% of Indian employees are concerned about issues like overall workplace sanitation and cleanliness, whereas 42% consider using shared workspaces a challenge that can lead to the contagion spreading and finding its way into their homes. With industrial output slipping into negative growth for the year, it becomes even more imperative for manufacturers to figure out new ways to ensure uninterrupted operations keeping in mind employee health and safety concerns.
Policy interventions, automation, optimal workforce deployment and technology for real time monitoring are certain areas that can vastly address safety concerns faced by manufacturing firms. The most important factor in ensuring the safety of the workforce is to have the appropriate levels of visibility into where and how the workforce is being deployed and to track information critical to their wellbeing. In today’s situation visibility must be real-time and allow the organization to take quick decisions depending on the situation.
Using technology enabled surveys to check in with employees as they come into work on key health indicators and identifying risk exposures due to travel and quarantine statuses is a quick way to address some of this. Based on the employee responses to the question, immediate action can be taken to flag the employee’s records and automatically update attendance or leave data, so that the employer is equipped to respond to a potential health crisis in a timely manner.
Even more so data needs to be robust enough to be able to analyze past trend and take proactive action. For example in the unfortunate event of having a COVID positive worker identified at the workplace, it becomes critical to ensure that every other employee who could have come in contact with the virus be identified, informed and isolated quickly in order to avoid spread of the virus across the rest of the workforce population. This is only possible with the right contact tracing systems to track and monitor employee movement across the unit as well as be able to analyze large volumes of data to come up with an accurate picture of what happened.
With physical contact becoming a major reason for the spread of infection, there is a definite need to incorporate contactless technology and automation to the Indian workplace today, to ensure employee wellbeing and business continuity in times of crisis. As a first step to employee safety, entry and exit points across workplaces seem like the biggest challenge and hot spot for virus spread. In order to manage crowds and avoid the chaos at these entry and exit points at factories, capturing punches for entry and exit can be done through proximity cards, smart cards, swipe cards, barcode scanning, as well as facial biometrics so that employees are not crowded together. Moreover, to ensure social distancing across a shop floor or an automotive manufacturing facility, employee movement across must be monitored. The most elaborate plans for social distancing will not be effective unless employee movement is aligned with schedules and unscheduled movement is avoided.
Also with the pandemic unabated, lockdowns have been continuing intermittently across the year in various parts of the country, as a result of which staffing norms have to be dynamically reset overnight. With guidelines oscillating between skeletal staffing and normal production levels due to the recent rising cases, it is even more imperative for organizations to firm up appropriate staffing plans and ensure that the right number of people are rostered for the job. This is where automated workforce planning solutions can help firms assess the number of people required in each job for a location ahead of time and accordingly schedule the right teams for the shift. Therefore, with the right staffing plan in place, ramping up or ramping down staff on a need basis, becomes a simple task.
Manpower intensive industries like automotive, pharma, FMCG, and electronics & consumer durables manufacturing, will especially benefit from this level of technological interaction, since it will unburden the managerial staff from manually creating schedules. Intelligent and intuitive automated scheduling can consider employee preferences while curating their schedules, and accordingly highlight resource availability for each job, identify shortages and find replacements with the right skills, so that overall work is not impacted. In fact while scheduling employees, technology can be used to leverage information around factors like whether the employee lives in a containment zone or is under quarantine to determine when and whether an employee needs to be scheduled for a particular duration. Ensuring the right policies are in place to take care of quarantine, illness, prolonged recovery, care for family members is also very important to provide employees with psychological safety at the workplace.
A critical aspect of industrial safety is around tracking and monitoring various incidents at the workplace as well as taking corrective action to resolve these. Workforce management technology can help identify and track patterns across a series of incidents right from employee policy violations to safety incidents so as to ensure the right proactive measures are in place. It is a well-known fact that inadequate rest, fatigue and stress are major contributors to workplace incidents and organizations will need to ensure adequate measure are in place to provide the right amount of rest and breaks and work is assigned based on realistic labor standards. Additionally, with the new labour codes coming into force, scheduling of the workforce will need to become compliant with the proposed work hours and leave and rest policies. Again organizations can automate scheduling rules to ensure compliance with working hours, overtime limits and rest hours.
Cost and productivity may seem to have taken a temporary back seat, having been overshadowed by the health impact of the pandemic. Nevertheless, they will continue to remain an underlying concern for organizations to focus on. Workforce management technology will be the key here for organizations to balance between costs, compliance and productivity and help in effective planning and scheduling of available workforce, while ensuring focus on operational efficiency as well as employee engagement & motivation.