Right now doesn’t feel like the right time to invest in anything. With the UK economy formally in recession and the cost-of-living crisis damaging consumer confidence, many service businesses are in survival mode, looking at what they can cut to make it through the next few months.
But today, thanks to powerful apps that can be delivered over the cloud, small investments can make a big difference. In fact, they can bring about precisely the kind of changes that will help employers to weather the current economic storm, and emerge fitter on the other side.
Here’s how workforce productivity apps can help service businesses to deal with three top challenges they are facing.
1. Managing costs
This is the big one. Fortunately, it’s a challenge that productivity apps can solve quickly and with minimal investment.
For example, if your business is still scheduling shifts and managing payroll manually today, it’s throwing away money when it needs it most. “Smart scheduling” apps, where employers and shift workers create and manage rotas on tablets and smartphones, can stop this waste. Because the apps automatically know who’s available and what their rates and qualifications are, they make it much quicker and easier for employers to create schedules in the first place. And they also empower shift workers to manage and swap shifts themselves. The results can be startling: CitizenM Hotels, for example, was able to cut scheduling time from 4 hours a week to just 15 minutes. Gazette Brasserie cut the time taken to create rotas by 75%. That’s time that can now be used for more valuable work.
Smart scheduling can also directly cut wage costs. When shift workers clock in and out using an app, timesheets become genuinely accurate, saving employers between 5% and 10% on their wage bill.
Then there’s payroll, and the hugely time-consuming process of translating timesheets into accurate pay that reflects nuances of the shift workforce like overtime rates or seniority. Today, this is another process that can be totally automated by a low-cost, cloud-based app that links directly into accounting software such as Xero. Curry Leaf Café now spends just 45 minutes a month sorting out payroll instead of the 2 days it used to take before automation.
However, no matter how efficient your schedules, timesheets or payroll, if you’re overstaffed in a quiet period or struggling during busy times, costs and revenues both go in the wrong direction. Cloud-based technology can tackle this problem, too, by using data about your past trends or even upcoming weather forecasts to match staffing costs with expected revenues.
2. Attracting and keeping staff in a tight labour market
One of the paradoxes of today’s economic crunch is that businesses are struggling to find and retain staff, even in a downturn. The UK hospitality industry, for example, recently had a record 174,000 vacancies, with nearly half of pubs cutting opening hours to cope. With plenty of jobs to go around, shift workers will move on if they don’t like the workplace or feel undervalued.
Not everyone can afford to pay more, so employers need other ways to make themselves attractive to scarce workers. Cloud-based workforce software can help them to do this right away. By empowering workers to choose the shift they want, swap shifts with a colleague or request leave – all from a mobile app – they instantly offer the flexible working that recent research showed 51% of shift workers wanted.
This app-based convenience is more and more important now because it’s available in so many areas of life. Today’s workforce expects and wants to be able to manage everything on their phone. So if their employer insists that they go back to pen and paper, it’s not going to be an incentive for them to join or stay. Hotel chain CitizenM gets a high net promoter score from its employees because the app makes teams feel more empowered and in control at work.
3. Delivering better service
We all know how it feels to be served by harassed and overworked staff. If shift workers feel empowered and equipped to get the job done, they give a better service – which means happy customers who spend more and are more likely to come back for more. This is a serendipitous side-effect of productivity apps that’s very valuable in the current climate.
Fit for the future
Cloud technology means that investing in workforce productivity is more affordable than it has ever been. With modern app-based solutions, businesses can make the leap from old-school, manual ways of working to state-of-the-art systems, for minimal investment.
As well as helping you to cut costs, keep staff and improve service, they make your business more agile and responsive, so it’s in good shape for today’s challenges – and for when the good times return.
To see what’s possible, take a look at Deputy’s scheduling software, which is already helping 330,000 workplaces around the world to work smarter. Find our more and set up a free trial.