Posted tagged ‘workforce planning’

HRO Staffing – A Balancing Act

March 30, 2011

Fast and flexible scaling is one of the major benefits of HRO. Scaling up is a lot more fun than scaling down, but both are important, take time, and consume resources. One of the toughest challenges in HRO is maintaining staffing and margins at the same time through the ups and downs of client demand and the overall economy.

Recent times required painful and expensive downscaling as HRO client demand and employment levels dropped, reducing volumes and overall spend. Significant expenses were allocated for staff severance and consolidation of real estate. Even in periods of growth, merger and acquisition “savings” targets are based largely on staff downsizing to reduce overlap, followed by real estate consolidation. Whether a service provider is growing organically or via acquisition, or responding to reduced demand, maintaining appropriate staffing capability, capacity, and expense is critical.

HRO is slowly recovering with RPO leading the way while some areas are still waiting for their upturn including learning and MPHRO. New deals are occurring, renewals are going well, and existing clients are once again increasing scale and scope, at least at a modest level. All good and welcome news!

HRO service providers are confident enough to prepare for a return to growth and make select expansions. At the same time, they know they need to add client load with a minimum of new hiring as pricing pressure is still intense. And this is not even mentioning the need for maintaining an experienced and qualified staff to satisfy client employees and other end-users in the ever changing world of HR.

On the upside, clients are growing in sophistication and understanding of HR outsourcing options. While onshore delivery still leads, especially for voice, acceptance of offshoring has reached the expectation that HRO vendors should offer multi-shore delivery options. Nearshore options and the use of non-voice channels like chat allow leveraging more work to selected centers, increasing the need for and the value of a truly global service delivery network.

Recent HRO service provider expansions include:

  • TriNet – Added three new U.S. offices
  • CPH – Opened a new office in Sydney
  • Futurestep – Added a global recruitment operations center in Houston
  • NorthgateArinso – Invested in a new global HR delivery center in Hyderabad, India; opened offices in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Istanbul; partnering with ICAP Group in Greece
  • Edvantage Group – New e-learning production center in Denmark.

Expanding the coverage of service locations helps avoid the war for talent and damaging attrition rates in the hottest spots as well as providing increased options for clients.

Buyers, do more than look for an SLA on turnover. Ask about the vendor’s current and future plans for managing staffing and service flexible coverage. Does your service provider show that they are at least as, or more, sophisticated as you are in workforce planning and management? They should be.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

Top Topics at Last Week’s HRO Europe Summit

November 22, 2010

Although a working trip for me – as a learning session co-presenter with Raytheon, and on two panels, one on learning and one on RPO – I can easily say last week’s HRO Summit Europe got great marks in my book. About 40 percent of participants were buyers – a rare occurrence at conferences these days – with the balance being presenters, providers, analysts, press, researchers, staff and others. Discussions were lively and engaging, and…need I say anything about the beauty of Amsterdam, especially its architecture and canals?

My co-presentation with Raytheon, a learning outsourcing session called, “Bridging the Customer-Provider Divide,” was immediately followed by the learning panel, and witnessed buyer questions including: 1) What role does the retained HR learning organization play, including the role of the retained learning director, HR business partners and governance team?; 2) What lessons learned should a buyer that has just implemented a learning BPO contract incorporate?; 3) Why we are seeing more selective LBPO contracts and less full LBPO contracts?; and 4) What role does LBPO play in retaining knowledge as more employees will inevitably begin to retire? 

While tracks and presentations covered the HRO gamut, two of the major focuses were talent issues and RPO. Dr. Peter Cappelli, Director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of Business, opened the conference with a keynote entitled, “A Question of Talent.” He began by discussing that, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, 24 years of service with just one company was the average tenure per employee. At the time, companies invested heavily in continuous training, and believed in lateral and upward mobility. He then moved to the sobering stats of today’s workforce. Companies of course still want loyal employees, yet very few do little to give their employees in-turn loyalty, and only one in four of succession plans are utilized. The result is organizations spending thousands of dollars in employee development, only to lose them to competitors.

It almost feels as if organizations accept this as a looming cloud norm in today’s workforce environment. But I vehemently oppose that viewpoint. If you look at the pure financials alone, conservative estimates are that it costs one and a half times as much of an employee’s salary to replace that individual due to the cost of recruitment, development, learning curve, etc. How can that possibly be perceived as good business? I am feeling like an evangelist as I’ve written about it so many times in my blogs, but employee satisfaction and robust initiatives focused on talent retention are vital to competitive advantage and business growth.

One of the largest and most well attended tracks at the conference was on RPO. I was also a member of an RPO panel discussion entitled, “Deep Dive: Driving the Future State of RPO,” along with Alexander Mann Solutions, SourceRight Solutions and a professor from Lancaster University. One question posed by a buyer member in the audience was how RPO has evolved. Each panelist, of course, had its own answer. Mine, not surprisingly as an industry analyst, is that by providing what I call “value-added services” or what I consider to be the “richer RPO services,” you are a true end-to-end RPO provider. This means: 1) services on the front end in workforce planning, talent strategy and employment branding to ensure the right employees with staying power are hired; 2) services in the middle to manage internal recruiting/mobility; and 3) services on the back end, including robust onboarding and ongoing, bi-directional employee engagement.

There are other shifts occurring, including interest in global RPO, and I will cover more on that and learning outsourcing issues discussed at the conference in upcoming blogs!

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall

HR Business Intelligence – How does it tie into HRO?

October 28, 2010

HR organizations are largely on the path to improve the use of technology in managing administration, and service delivery and even workforce and talent management are coming along, according to the CedarCrestone 2010-2011 HR Systems Survey. The highest penetration rate is for administration technologies like core HR recordkeeping, payroll and benefits administration, at 90 percent. These are also top areas for HRO. Service delivery (47 percent), workforce management (45 percent) and talent management (43 percent) are not yet quite at the half-way point.

Business intelligence tools like data warehouse and reporting and presentation applications have reached 37 percent. Workforce optimization is lagging at 17 percent for tools that enhance and enable the use of talent analytics, and dynamic workforce planning that helps prepare for and align a workforce with changing business needs and strategies.

Workforce management addresses the here and now, and how many people, where and at what expense has been a big focus throughout the economic downturn. Sadly, the information was largely used (and needed) to determine where to cut costs and ensure the reductions were achieved. But in  normal times, workforce data is needed to meet and maintain current and near-term staffing levels.

With workforce management tools and data improving, some organizations are not sure where to go next with the tools or how to fully leverage them. With a vague plan, even at 37 percent penetration rate, business intelligence packages can end up being a pretty, expensive, underutilized investment.

As I wrote about in last week’s blog on building an integrated HR ecosystem, it is the connectivity of a comprehensive set of tools and technologies that can unleash the true strategic power of HR in enabling business growth. The ability to use the system to understand, discover and advise is also needed.

As HR uses greater levels of technology for administration and self-service, HR’s workforce needs are generally reduced. In the case of workforce optimization, leading practice indicates that specialized staffing for workforce reporting and workforce planning increases slightly. Large organizations in the study averaged 5.8 people in workforce planning and 4.8 in reporting, while leading users for workforce optimization tools averaged 7.8 and 5.3, respectively.  Oh, and in the leading practice companies HR was viewed as strategic (66 percent), more than in other large organizations (41 percent)!

This is such an important area for HR to truly achieve transformation. It is also important for HRO service providers to be able to move up the value chain and not be relegated to only being useful in building and running the back office administrative systems at lower operating cost – although that will always be a cornerstone of HRO.

Buyers, be sure the vendor you select can not only meet today’s needs but can continue to be your partner as you build out an integrated HR ecosystem. Providers, be ready to demonstrate that you are the partner that can help clients bridge the gap in building and using workforce optimization tools to create business results, including by making them easier to use and understand, and simplifying reporting and providing basic analytical services.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

HRO SaaS Uptake – What, How Much and Where?

August 19, 2010

As a follow-on to my July 7 blog titled, “SaaS More Than Just Catching On,” let’s today look at what types of HRO SaaS clients are buying, the size of awarded contracts and the industries in which HRO SaaS has had the greatest penetration to date.

The What

By rank order of the most commonly purchased software applications/modules:

• Payroll

• HR administration

• Benefits administration, including benefits planning, health and safety, claims submission, absence management and occupational health

• Employee and manager self-service

• Talent management, including recruiting and learning

• Workforce planning

• Compensation/salary administration

• Employee development for career pathing

• Travel  

The reasons behind the rankings, especially at the top of the list, are pretty self-evident. Payroll leads as it is the most visible and frequently used (and arguably, the most important) service. And HR administration really ties into employee and manager self-service, as one of the primary drivers of SaaS implementation is self-service for cost reduction and employee satisfaction.

The Size

As I noted in my July 7 blog, the mid-market is proving to be the ripest for HRO SaaS. Using Netherlands-based HRO provider Raet as an example – and a good one at that, as it in the past six weeks inked seven new SaaS contracts and one renewal – client company size is ranging from 250 to 12,000 employees. This uptake in the mid-market makes perfect sense, particularly on the lower end, as companies in this space need access to HR technology to enhance their operational efficiency but frequently lack the budget to invest their own capital in purchasing it. In terms of contract sizes, we’re seeing a length range from four to seven years, with an average of five years.

The Industries

In looking across all HRO SaaS contracts awarded thus far in 2010, education is the top industry, followed equally by local government and retail. I don’t necessarily believe there’s any secret sauce as to why these are the top three ranking industries, as organizations in virtually all – including healthcare, media, manufacturing and financial services – may be challenged with a preponderance of multiple divisions and locations, and often have several disparate systems for HR and payroll that do not communicate with each other, causing extra administrative work and duplication of effort, etc. Thus, the driver for most existing and upcoming HRO SaaS contracts is the ability to have one singular system for HR and payroll in order to achieve standardization, data accuracy, cost savings, self-service, timely processing and data, and employee satisfaction.

Due to all the inherent advantages, I believe we will continue to see a growing number of HRO SaaS contracts in the mid-market, across all industries. In addition, but to a lesser extent, I believe we will continue to see combined SaaS and outsourcing contracts such as the one announced on August 10 between MidlandHR and Swan Housing Group. Under this contract, Swan Housing will internally host MidlandHR’s iTrent software – which provides a single platform for HR, payroll, talent management and workforce planning. Swan Housing will simply provide the payroll data via iTrent, and MidlandHR will do everything else, from the structuring of pay and deduction calculations, through to payslip printing and distribution. The advantage of these hybrid-type contracts? Economies of SaaS scale coupled with outsourcing of processes for which internal resources and/or knowledge may be lacking.

Gary Bragar, Senior HR Outsourcing Analyst, NelsonHall

How to Get There From Here – A Roadmap for HR Analytics

March 16, 2010

HR service providers have reporting and analytics capabilities including software, consulting and outsourcing. But getting beyond providing support for basic reporting capabilities has been a slow and rocky road. To move further down the path, we need a roadmap for HR analytics.

NelsonHall’s 2009 report, “HRO Analytics: Utilizing Analytics to Improve Outsourcing Experiences”, found that 85 percent of vendors have an advanced analytics offering, but only 22 percent of clients have implemented such services. Gaining agreement that workforce data is important is easy, but finding funding to build or buy the capability is considerably harder. One of the reasons for the slow adoption rate in HR analytics is how hard it can be to demonstrate ROI. 

I see signs of current buyer interest that can be leveraged, although the signs may not look like a direct request for HR analytics:

•  Behind the drive for multi-country payroll during a recession was not a bizarre interest in payroll systems, but rather a senior leadership demand for better workforce and financial data in order to understand what is happening in every operating geography.

•  Growth in leave of absence, absence management and dependent audits all support tighter workforce management in lean times.

•  Can anything sound more non-urgent than consolidating time reporting systems? But how about when they are linked to razor-thin staffing levels and controlling the use of overtime while still meeting sales and customer service objectives?

•  With an expected modest rise in recruiting, improved workforce planning and forecasting is vital to ensuring the most critical areas are targeted.

Each of these opportunities require timely and accurate data from across the enterprise, and each impacts the total cost of labor – in other words, an ROI signpost and a roadway to direct bottom line impact.

Sometimes HR wants to start at the end – the fun and strategic stuff. But to get credible workforce data that drives decisions and impacts business results, the data infrastructure must be in place first. Perhaps boring to some, but data definitions, data warehousing, establishing a system of record, reporting applications, data security, etc., are all important, as is having a framework for what data needs to be pulled into the system: employee, workforce, individual and business performance and financial data.

If you’re a buyer, do you have a roadmap to get there from here? Are current HR systems adequate, or can you get there with add-ons at the edge or in the cloud? If you go for separate point solutions for each issue, will you be able to pull in all the data from the various vendors? Where will you connect to the enterprise business performance and financial systems? How many interfaces are manageable, and who will manage them? Which analytical capabilities should you build in-house, and should some be outsourced?

A word to vendors – R analytic sales opportunities may be disguised, but they are there.  The time is right for you to drive your shiny offerings down prospect road.

And advice to buyers – call your friendly HR portfolio manager to ensure you build an integrated set of systems and capabilities at the lowest operational cost level while raising the bar on HR’s ability to increase business results.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall