What WFM Day 2020 taught us about AI and optimization

We’re still catching our breath from a whirlwind WFM Day where ideas and inspiration came thick and fast. The second part of the first-ever virtual ..

We’re still catching our breath from a whirlwind WFM Day where ideas and inspiration came thick and fast.

The second part of the first-ever virtual WFM Day went deep into how tech continues to revolutionize the way we work with optimization, AI, and digitalization dominating proceedings on day two of WFM Day 2020.

Following hot on the heels of the incredible talks we had on the importance of culture and employee engagement, the second part of the first-ever virtual WFM Day went deep into how tech continues to revolutionize the way we work. From helping bust time-intensive admin through to driving productivity and empowering better decision making, tech is radically transforming all industries.

Over the past decade, the core processes that make up effective workforce management - scheduling, forecasting, communication, running payroll - have changed beyond recognition. And the events of 2020 have only served to rapidly accelerate digitalization in businesses, with companies swift to embrace technology which benefits their customers, employees, and their underlying business operations.

Our line-up of incredible speakers showed us how tech is shaping business operations and they lifted the veil to give us a glimpse into what this might look like in the future.

Here’s what we learnt:

1. Optimization is all about balance

Sammy Walton, Product Director at Quinyx, showed us how WFM optimization goals can be one or many things. When creating schedules, you can optimize for happiness (to reduce employee churn), for cost (so you’re always operating within budget), or for performance (maximizing sales and customer service). The trick is to use WFM tools to bring to light where the areas to optimize are and to make it transparent so everyone in the organisation understands why certain decisions are being made and the role they play. It’s all about finding the right balance between costs, customer satisfaction, sales, and employee happiness in order to get the best possible output at any given time.

2. AI-powered scheduling & forecasting will reduce costs while increasing sales

AI and machine learning in WFM software are quickly becoming an absolute necessity. Maarten de Boo and Berend Berendsen, from Widget Brain, showed us how poor schedules (created from inaccurate forecasts) impact all sectors:

Retailers lose between 3-7% of sales due to poor forecasting and rigid schedules (in the US this accounted to $2.9 million in lost sales).
Hospitality schedules have, on average, 3-8 labor law violations every week (which resulted in a $1 million fine for one large restaurant chain) while hospitality branch managers spend between 3-5 hours a week on scheduling.
In logistics, one European airline had to cancel 20,000 flights because of poor schedules.

Across the board, the negative impact of bad scheduling and forecasting is huge. That’s where AI, machine learning, and demand forecasting come in. The best scheduling and forecasting algorithms find patterns in historical data and combine different data sources to predict the future giving you a more accurate view of what you can expect demand to be. Your local managers will always try to do the right thing but there are endless possibilities with scheduling patterns and shift types - especially when they are trying to factor in employee preferences, customer demand, and balancing costs. It’s nearly impossible for a human to get right on their own. With machine learning and AI, forecasts and schedules become much more accurate and effective.

3. This is just the beginning

From healthcare through to HR, running payroll or keeping employees engaged when the office is empty, tech is your friend. Health technology leader, Sam Shah, showed us what the new type of healthcare workforce looks like and how tech can help us meet the future global need of healthcare. Eva Törnqvist, VP of Consulting at CatalystOne, gave away great tips for keeping employee engagement high even if offices remain empty, Olav Abel Lindberg
CSO at Azets, took us on a journey of the digitalization of the payroll process, and Ben Kiziltug, Head of International for Personio, explained how to free ourselves from the admin monster. What’s clear, is this is just the start and the events we’ve seen in 2020 have sparked the need for businesses around the world to get serious about using tech both as a force for good and to make their businesses better.

These are just a snapshot of the knowledge shared on day two of WFM Day 2020. The good news for you is all these talks are available on demand.

You can access all of the WFM 2020 sessions for free below.

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