“When is automation the right idea?”
“How should I go about automating my workforce initiatives?”
If you’ve been shouting these questions into the void, shout no longer—we have answers.
In the first part of this series, we defined what workforce automation is and explored the first sign a business should consider automating: people problems. Specifically, if your employees seem disengaged or unmotivated, it might be time to automate a few things. And if your organization is seeing high rates of turnover, it’s definitely time to automate.
But although your people are the first and perhaps best indicator of a compliance gap, they’re not the only factor in deciding if, when, and how to automate. The next sign it’s time to automate has to do with factors that may seem largely outside of your workforce’s control, and it can pose challenges for even the most brilliant and knowledgeable employees.
I’m referring to policy problems.
What Are Policy Problems?
Policies are the rules and standards your organization lives by. Policies may arise internally or in response to external laws and regulations. Dress codes and website restrictions are examples of internal policies. By contrast, measures related to matters such as employee health and safety, consumer loans, and workplace harassment are mandated and enforced by external regulators.
Regardless, the more rules and standards your workforce needs to abide by, the higher your chances of encountering policy problems. Policies become problematic when they undercut the organization’s mission, conflict with each other, only exist in writing, or are understood differently by different people—all of which may lead to someone, somewhere, not following a policy.
As with people problems, change is a critical factor in policy problems. Changing policies may result from changing regulations (or shifting regulatory attitudes) or from workforce changes. If you’ve just hired a dozen people, laid off a dozen more, opened a location in another state, and moved half of your employees to the new office, you’re bound to have policy problems as long as you don’t have a smart workforce management solution in place.
What Are Your Policy Problems Telling You?
Unlike people problems, policy problems aren’t always immediately evident. Frequently, in fact, they only seem to show up when it’s too late. You may not know an employee hasn’t been following a policy until you’re met with an investigation or lawsuit.
To find out if there are serious issues hidden in your policies, ask yourself a couple yes-or-no questions:
- Have all of your employees signed off on their employee handbooks, indicating they understand and have agreed to follow all the rules and standards in your workplace?
- Have your managers completed all their required training (such as sexual harassment prevention)?
Now here comes the most important question. If you answered “yes” or “no” to the above, how do you know?
If you don’t know how you know, your organization is in trouble. Your compliance program is only as good as your ability to confirm it. As we’ve written before: if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen. In this case, your policy problems are telling you that you need detailed, aggregated reporting.
How Does Automation Solve Policy Problems?
The greatest advantage of an automated compliance management system may be its reporting capabilities. Automated reports confirm that each and every employee has read, understood, and—if necessary—undergone training for a given policy.
This is particularly useful for organizations with highly fluid workforces, where employees may be coming and going across multiple locations in multiple states. An automated compliance platform ensures that…
A. Every employee receives appropriate policies and training in line with current laws in the jurisdiction in which they operate; and
B. you’re maintaining your company culture throughout the process.
Beyond reporting, organizations with automated compliance platforms can distribute location-based policy updates and changes, and provide employees with a living database of regulations. Given the evolving nature of issues such as harassment prevention, automation is the only way for organizations to keep up with the dynamic patchwork of state-by-state laws.
Third, an automated system provides defensible proof of compliance. An organization can respond quickly and thoroughly to legal claims and investigations with documents demonstrating that employees knew and followed through on policies related to matters such as termination and safety procedures. Otherwise, the company may face long delays in collecting and coordinating piecemeal information from a number of different and potentially incomplete and inaccurate sources: binders, spreadsheets, papers lodged in filing cabinets, and so forth.
Any employer could benefit from better control over their people and policies. But there’s yet another “P” to keep in mind when considering automation. In the next installment in this series, we’ll explore the third sign it’s time to automate: process problems.