Want to Improve Organizational Performance? Empower Your People with Actionable Data

woman in manufacturing

The past 18 months have created massive disruption for manufacturers, and many had to quickly pivot operational and HR procedures, processes, and policies to address new complexities introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic. When forced to accommodate dramatic and unforeseeable demand fluctuations, manufacturers quickly learned why workforce agility is so important.

A study by Ankura Consulting Group and Workforce Insight finds that workforce agility is achieved through an appropriate balance of access to information and decision-making authority for employees, and this is what results in stronger people performance. However, the study — which surveyed a mix of senior leaders, directors, and managers across functional areas — found that many within the manufacturing sector have room to improve in the field of agility. 

Cultivating a culture where all team members across the enterprise have access to information they need to make informed decisions in the moment, as well as decision-making authority to make changes or take action, is an ongoing process — and organizational success demands cross-functional collaboration and investment in dynamic digital ecosystems and employee-facing platforms. But the benefits are clear: By improving the way teams can access information and autonomously make decisions that drive change, manufacturers will indeed drive stronger organizational performance.

Making data consumable and actionable 

New complexities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced what some manufacturers had already begun to realize: The ability to adapt requires access to consumable and actionable data, as well as digital tools that empower employees at all levels to make faster, more impactful decisions.

That means in order for data to be truly consumable it must be accessible from anywhere, easily viewable, and quickly understandable. And in order for it to be actionable, data must be delivered in real time and offer insights that clearly identify where action needs to be taken. However, most manufacturers surveyed do not feel their data is either. 

Legacy systems and technologies are among the most common barriers preventing manufacturing employees from easily accessing data from a centralized source or consuming information in a way that is as familiar and easy as checking a bank balance online or ordering food via a delivery app. However, modern, mobile-first technology and digital platforms driven by cloud architecture and artificial intelligence enable workforce agility by improving the way teams access information and make decisions that drive change.

These tools are designed with the explicit goal of helping to drive quick and efficient action. They can provide managers with real-time insights into workforce and operational data such as available labor capacity and absenteeism status, benchmarking metrics, and key performance indicators like productivity, efficiency, and utilization. Mobile-first workforce management tools in particular can deliver information to managers and supervisors quickly, and even serve as a digital personal assistant by helping to guide them to a data-backed decision or resolution.

Imagine this scenario: A frontline supervisor is automatically alerted on her mobile phone or tablet that one of her lead technicians didn’t clock in as scheduled. This real-time alert, delivered via a highly consumable platform and combined with easy-to-use labor management tools, enables her to quickly find a qualified replacement or redeploy other team members to minimize downtime. 

With the right balance of access to information and decision-making authority, management teams are in a far better position to respond quickly to changing business demands, adjust staffing models in real time, and keep production on track. The reality, however, is that 43% of the manufacturers surveyed believe their organization lacks the enterprise-wide data visibility needed to do this effectively today.

Manufacturing a culture of trust and empowerment 

Workforce agility thrives on trust: When employees are trusted by their employer, they feel safe and empowered to pursue new innovations and challenge the status quo. According to the Ankura and Workforce Insight study, manufacturers actually have less difficulty talking to employees about empowerment and making them feel enabled than they have ensuring access to tools and information. But that doesn’t mean that building employee-employer trust is without its own set of challenges.

“Trust can take years to develop, but with it comes a vital advantage to attract and engage top talent,” says John Frehse, senior managing director at Ankura Consulting Group. Frehse is also a longtime advisory board member with The Workforce Institute at UKG, which surveyed 4,000 employees and business leaders globally in 2020 and found that employees who do not feel trusted are less productive: 68% say the perception of low trust hurts their daily effort

“Fail to prioritize trust, to model trust, or to engrain trust in your processes and policies and you risk hampering the performance of your most valuable resources — your people,” says Frehse. 

Acknowledging the critical importance of workforce agility — today, and in planning for the future 

Despite a year of unrelenting uncertainty that temporarily devastated the frontline working economy, more than half of manufacturing shifts lost in the spring of 2020 have been recovered and digital transformation is surging. In short, manufacturing’s ability to rebound from a global pandemic and massive supply chain disruption is truly inspiring.

But change, as we know, is constant and the world is becoming increasingly unpredictable. To thrive in the future of work, it is essential that manufacturers prioritize workforce agility and make it easier for all team members to access and utilize existing data. Manufacturing companies that create and sustain a culture of innovation and empowerment will be more prepared to react to unexpected hurdles and withstand the changes that come their way. 


Putting Practice into Action: Post Holdings reimagines data access for its business units

Do your employees have access to the information they need in a useful format so they can make better decisions faster? For Post Holdings and its operating companies, the short answer is ‘yes.’ 

The consumer packaged goods holding company witnessed strong internal demand for access to people analytics, and dedicated several months to standing up an environment where HR departments across each of its six business units can access workforce data from a centralized source. Today, a number of comprehensive analytics dashboards powered by UKG, Informatica, Snowflake, and Tableau bring that data to life for Post Holdings. 

Michael Chen, senior manager of people analytics at Post Holdings, says these tools make processes faster, more efficient, and provide better data. “All of our business units are now getting the same data and are calculating and measuring that data in a consistent and repeatable way.” 

Looking ahead, Post Holdings intends to leverage people analytics to create a better onboarding process — one that will help human resources employees become more data driven, knowledgeable, and productive in their roles, across business units. 

Post Holdings’ business units are already unlocking increased analytics and engagement, even if it’s too soon to directly correlate success to the analytics dashboards. “Everyone is gaining fresh insights into HR data and metrics and are able to benchmark against peers,” adds Chen.

Having invested in modern digital platforms to improve access to information and decision-making ability, Post Holdings has struck a successful balance between access and enablement, which the Ankura and Workforce Insight study concludes is the key to promoting workforce agility.
“We like to stay ahead of curve with technology. We pay attention to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant and invest in the technologies that we are confident will enable high performance within our organization,” adds Chen. In this way, the company is setting an example for others within the industry to transform people performance through technology.