Thanks to advances in technology, some employers are beginning to realize that successfully maintaining a productive workforce is now much more "science" than "art." 

Today's workforce management: More science than art...and all business

A conversation with Lisa Disselkamp, one of the nation's leading workforce management authorities.

lisa-disselkamp.jpgThanks to advances in technology, some employers are beginning to realize that successfully maintaining a productive workforce is now much more "science" than "art."

New time-and-attendance, workforce scheduling and labor analytics tools — tightly integrated with payroll — are now offering companies very predictable, reliable ways of reducing administrative time and errors, improving productivity, decreasing compliance risks and, of course, saving money.

"Automated, well-integrated workforce management has become a critical success factor for employers regardless of industry and size," said Lisa Disselkamp, a business consultant, author and nationally recognized thought leader in workforce management technology. However, she said, much more education is still needed to help employers — including their leadership and professionals — understand the capabilities of today's workforce management technology. The gap is often that the business needs are not adequately mapped to the technology solutions available.

Recognizing this need, Disselkamp co-founded the Workforce Educational Organization, a nonprofit organization that will offer training courses and formal certification. The organization shows employers how today's workforce management technology not only improves operational efficiency, but also supports strategic decision-making through real-time, actionable business information.

Payroll: the 'red-headed stepchild'

"When my phone rings and an employer asks me how they can save $3 million, the first question I ask them back is, 'What are your payroll leakage targets?'"

"Find me a CEO who worked their way up from payroll and has spent time working directly with workforce management solutions. It's not the typical career path to the executive level."


— Lisa Disselkamp

"Payroll leakage" is an aptly named term for excess payroll spending that Disselkamp uses a lot, but which often confuses employers. 

"I explain to them, 'You have other cost targets, right? Line-item financial targets? Well, how about targets for labor costs or overtime costs?' If they can't tell me they have a strategy in play for reducing excess payroll spend using their time and labor solution, we have a lot more to talk about," she said.

Disselkamp says the biggest problem she sees is that many employers have a very limited vision of how today's evolving time-and-attendance and payroll technology can help them meet larger business goals. In some ways, that's understandable, she said.

"Payroll is still the red-headed stepchild," she said. "It's not misunderstood; it's not well understood." The reason is simple, she said: "Find me a CEO who worked their way up from payroll and has spent time working directly with workforce management solutions. It's not the typical career path to the executive level. So that deep understanding and strategy for aligning workforce management with senior-level problems has often been overlooked."

Payroll has not traditionally been looked upon as a strategic business discipline, but Disselkamp said that's changing as faster, more intelligent, integrated and user-friendly technology comes to market.

"The early time and labor management systems were about processes — collecting and moving data and reports around," she said. "It's different today. Workforce management is where HR policy, IT tools, financial objectives and constraints, and operational demands converge and manifest themselves into real cost, productivity and revenue opportunity. And that's important because, as we know, nothing gets done without the workers."

'Continually advancing' technology

Some employers aren't exploring new technology because they've already invested heavily in a workforce management solution — sometimes quite recently.

"The one thing I tell employers is make sure you get information from the right sources and understand your own business needs first, before you look at products. Remember, you want the product to fit you, not the other way around."


— Lisa Disselkamp

"It's not always a question of whether your solution is new or outdated," Disselkamp said. "The real question is whether your current system is designed to do something better for your organization."

Today's industry leaders provide flexible workforce management solutions that automate manual processes and can be configured to a company's business workflows. Exciting new features include embedded day-to-day analytics and timesaving employee self-service, along with seamlessly integrated mobile apps.

"The technology is continually advancing," she said. "When you look at time-and-attendance systems, they're rich with business information." As a result, companies are upgrading to newer, more powerful technology even if their current solution is not very old. But they're choosing carefully.

"Businesses are looking at the total cost of ownership," Disselkamp said. "When they're considering solutions, they're asking themselves how many people and what specific skill sets will I need to support this system? How many people does it take to run this?"

Implementation and usability are huge factors when it comes to choosing a workforce management system, as are ongoing costs. Employers are now looking at Web-based rather than on-premise solutions to eliminate the expense of upgrades and maintenance, and to capitalize on quicker implementation and greater usability.

"The key to successful workforce management is education," she said. "The one thing I tell employers is make sure you get information from the right sources and understand your own business needs first, before you look at products. Remember, you want the product to fit you, not the other way around."

Does your organization see workforce management as a science? Comment below. 

For more information:

  • Visit the Workforce Educational Organization website
  • Learn about Ceridian Dayforce Workforce Management
  • Download the recent Nucleus WFM Technology Value Matrix