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January 16, 2009

Tools vital before trimming workforce

Optimisation is the key, survey finds

By Jason Stamper

Businesses lack the tools and processes they need to optimise their workforce to respond quickly and decisively to the economic downturn, a survey has revealed.

Most companies have been found to have different processes for different departments, or depend on managers to optimise the workforce on an ad hoc basis. As many as 70% of the sites polled do not follow a consistent optimisation process.

If workforce optimisation must be made in a downturn, the exercise has to be supported by real, objective data, SuccessFactors Inc has said.

One of the new breed suppliers of SaaS-based hosted talent management services, the company surveyed 227 businesses in the UK and Ireland to find out if organisations are ready and able to optimise their workforces in response to the weakening global demand.

It found that companies are scrambling to keep morale and employee performance up. Some 60% listed staff morale as the top area of performance affected by the downturn, with over a third noting that the performance of individual employees has been affected.

The SuccessFactors study on ‘Workforce Optimisation’ notes that optimisation isn’t just about cutting a workforce, but an opportunity to cultivate the best talent. “Building organisational capabilities is even more important in uncertain times, when businesses need every person contributing as effectively as possible to the top and bottom lines.”

“Now more than ever companies need a consistent way to look across their organisation and make the tough calls that will allow them to compete and exploit any opportunities that become available” Andy Leaver of SuccessFactors said.

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Vendors sell workforce optimisation software using a business case that the tools lead to improved workforce productivity and performance by helping firms cope with fluctuations in demand.

In some high-churn work areas, like call centres, they can also increase employee job satisfaction and reduce recruitment costs.

Workforce optimisation tools also support reviews of ways of working, and can drive and identify a shortlist of tasks that could be automated to free front-line staff to spend more time looking after the customer. In times of cut-backs customer service become even more of a priority.

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