New approach to technology needed to drive home IR reform

All companies have varying levels of workforce management procedures in place and nowadays technology is an essential part of that. Whether it relates to time and attendance, human resources, payroll or anything else under the human capital management (HCM) banner, you can bet there are a number of digital services at play, often leveraging the cloud.

However, agreements struck up between enterprises, unions and staff rarely, if ever, take these systems into account. The question of ‘will this agreement comply with the processes and technology in place?’ simply does not arise.

Agreements grow more complex and unique over time and vary across different organisations and staff, exacerbating the issue.

Jarrod McGrath is founder and CEO of Smart WFM and author of The Digital Workforce. 

I work with the primary software vendors for all things workforce management, and collectively they’ve spent millions of dollars trying to create a one-size-adapts-to-all solution for increasingly complex agreements.

Say a union decides to implement a change related to overtime payment. As it stands, there is no system in place to simplify or automate the delivery of that change across the organisations it concerns, and that has not factored into the union’s thought process.

HR, payroll and other HCM managers typically need to collaborate with their IT team or partner to get this done, which leaves room for error and inefficiency.

Another example often occurs after negotiations are completed, with changes agreed to be implemented immediately and often backdated. That urgency cannot always be met as the understanding between what was negotiated and what needs to be implemented in a technological sense requires clarification prior to being built into the software systems.

Sometimes software modifications are required, often still implemented via a manual workaround, which can be slow and interpreted differently across different departments and managers. The consequence is that rushed changes or conflicting interpretations can later be found to cause incorrect payments.

A perfect case and point of when this come back to bite us is the underpayment scandal that plagued Australian businesses and staff before the pandemic. The failure or inability to connect the dots between processes, technology and people has left staff under or over-paid and cost businesses millions.

As we go through this reform process, we need to use technology to our advantage – the Government and its IR consultation groups need to engage with workforce management technology vendors and partners on the ground that deliver them to ensure that whatever they decide, we can leverage it, automate it, and safeguard it from incredibly debilitating issues like underpayment creeping in.

Creating a hymn sheet that is going to work for government, businesses, unions and people is already a near-impossible task. But if there is ever a time for cooperation and unity from competing sides, it’s a crisis like the one we all want to emerge from.

The potential to take this reform beyond political rhetoric is there, but I believe it will ultimately fail if reform can’t be applied in the context of organisation’s people, processes and technology.

Jarrod McGrath is founder and CEO of Smart WFM and author of The Digital Workforce

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