Food and Beverage Industry News speaks to Gideon Joseph, practice director and Nick Crawford, practice manager at Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG) about how purpose-built workforce management solutions can help food manufacturers to engage their employees, reduce labour costs, boost productivity and minimise compliance risk.
According to Gideon Joseph, practice director at Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), the organisation’s goal is to empower workforces and, in doing so, empower companies.
“We believe an organisation’s people are their most competitive asset,” he said.
Gideon says it’s important to start with the basics of “putting people first.”
“From an absolute base level, the key thing is to make sure you’re actually paying people correctly so that you’re building trust, engagement, and retaining employees,” said Gideon.
“Then you have to ensure that when you’re rostering people, you’re not just meeting compliance obligations under the Industry Award, but also complying with all relevant health and safety requirements.”
Those can include obligations around number of days worked in a row, proper enforcement of breaks during the day, proper training, and licensing, he says.
UKG offers comprehensive solutions in the fields of human capital management (HCM), payroll, and workforce management. Gideon says an organisation must get the fundamentals right and set the foundation before it considers anything else.
“From there, we can start to think about initiatives that engage and empower employees,” he said.
“For example, instituting an accessible employee self-service solution, so that employees can update their availability and apply for annual leave on their mobile devices anytime that suits them, and be assured that the system is in place to assess and approve changes immediately.”
Such smooth-running processes can make the difference in retaining talent, an especially important concern right now for food manufacturers and growers.
A SINGLE SOLUTION
Nick Crawford, practice manager at UKG, says that their offering – incorporating workforce management, HCM, and payroll into a single solution – offers great benefits to organisations in our modern, heavily regulated environment.
“Scalability is critical as businesses expand and grow,” he said.
“Recently, we’ve seen our food manufacturing clients ramp up production significantly to keep up with escalating demand. Being able to scale up a single solution, to hire and manage employee demographics, is tremendously useful. To have the unified solution work seamlessly with the employee-end experience is just vital.
“It eliminates potential discrepancies such that payroll can be relied on as the authoritative source of truth. It also provides visibility and insight into a holistic picture of how an employee works, as well as greater efficiencies.”
The need for integrated people management is particularly acute in the Australian context, adds Gideon. He said that in the past few years – and accelerated by the headaches of COVID-19 – there has been a shift in perspective in assessing the resilience of Australia’s food manufacturing sector, including the resilience of labour supply.
“Australia has one of the most complex employee relations systems in the world with our Award requirements and the various other overlays,” said Gideon.
“That’s why UKG invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year in R&D to ensure that our product is compliant and efficient from a legislative and regulatory perspective. If businesses want to scale, they still have to scale in the Australian context – and that’s where I think that products like what UKG offers are crucial in alleviating the manual workload that comes with complex compliance arrangements.”
He notes that Australia’s employee relations system is not only complex, but also prone to sudden and dramatic developments. This includes the introduction in the past two years of an annualised salary requirement that puts the burden on organisations to track and document salaried employees to ensure they are receiving at least as much compensation as they would receive for actual hours worked under the relevant Award.
“That’s not something organisations ever had to do before,” said Gideon.
“We’ve had a lot of contact in the past 18 months from manufacturing businesses preparing to implement solutions to track and report on compliance from an annualised perspective. UKG’s single solution offers flexibility and adaptability to changing circumstances that is key in such an environment.”
THE NEED TO ACT NOW
Nick Crawford says that the game has changed post-COVID, with pandemic labour restrictions creating friction with an already complex and expensive Australian labour environment.
As food and beverage manufacturing booms in the wake of COVID, Crawford said manufacturing organisations are being increasingly driven to optimise their businesses to remain efficient.
“With the recent growth we’ve seen, amid the intense cost of labour, there’s now a real need to shave costs as much as possible, while improving productivity across the board,” he said.
Organisations need to act now to make their workforces sustainable, especially in today’s competitive job market where everyone is vying for the same people and employee types.
This aligns with the push to keep employees safe in their workplace, Gideon notes, as UKG rolls out smart facial recognition technology that enables employees to record their shift’s start and finish times without needing to touch the same machine as their peers.
“A number of our customers are also implementing mobile solutions that allow their employees to punch in and out on their own mobile device,” he added.
The demands put on food manufacturing companies over the past 18 months have also underscored the need to act proactively, said Gideon. Lockdowns, border closures, and fluctuating workforce availability all during a time of massively increased demand, have put tremendous pressure on food manufacturers to increase productivity with limited means.
Putting a workforce management system in place to take time-consuming administrative tasks off employees and allow them to focus on their output, can be pivotal in meeting demand, he said.
THE INDUSTRY 4.0 WORKFORCE
The possibilities for automation and machine learning in HCM and workforce management are extremely exciting, said Gideon, both in terms of employee engagement and business optimisation.
“Once upon a time if you were sitting at home and saw last minute tickets to go on some fantastic holiday, you’d have to wait until you got to work the next day, fill out a form, wait for it to be assessed, and so on,” he said.
“The power of artificial intelligence and machine learning now allows you to actually configure a system so it knows how many people are needed, what conditions must be met, the number of people that can go on leave at one time – so that you can have automatic approval of that holiday.
“That’s better for employers and employees in terms of efficiency and satisfaction.”