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How technology enables businesses to attract and retain an engaged frontline or flexible workforce

Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically highlight the vital role frontline workers play in our economy, but it also underscored how complex managing a flexible workforce is for customer-facing businesses.

Humanforce CEO Clayton Pyne sat down with Dynamic Business to discuss how the company’s enhanced Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions are helping businesses attract, retain and develop their frontline and flexible workers.

An investment strategy committed to supporting frontline workers

It has been a busy year for Humanforce. With the backing of the private equity fund Accel-KKR, the company has completed three acquisitions in just twelve months.

Humanforce has been helping clients better manage compliance, costs and productivity for over 20 years. The acquisition of Ento, Wagestream, and intelliHR now allows it to deliver a comprehensive suite of HCM solutions built around the specific requirements of frontline workers. 

“Our first acquisition, Ento, increased our reach and scale,” explained Mr Pyne. “We were lucky enough to acquire 100,000 workers through the Ento platform, which takes us to having nearly 700,000 workers under management in Humanforce. That’s a very significant percentage of the casual and hourly paid workforce in this country.”

The other two acquisitions fuelled the development of technology solutions designed to make work better and life easier for shift-based and rostered workers, solutions that address their unique challenges.

The second target was Wagestream Australia, previously Earnd. “We’ve rebranded Wagestream as Humanforce Thrive, an app which allows companies to improve their employee value proposition by bringing a wellbeing and benefits proposition to frontline shift and rostered workers.” 

Mr Pyne said Thrive’s functionality gives individual workers more control over their day-to-day lives, one example being the on-demand access to pay feature that allows frontline workers to be paid once a shift has been completed and authorised by a manager. 

“This is really powerful because it frees up cash to help workers meet their obligations and avoid high-cost debt or credit. It liberates cash flow in ways that can make a meaningful difference to their lives.”

“When you are paid by the hour, and your shifts change week-to-week, tracking your earnings and having discipline around [meeting] your obligations is really important. Budgeting, tracking earnings and translating them into a savings goal and having access to earned wages is a central part of it.”

Another popular feature is Thrive Perks. “Workers simply link their existing debit or credit card and enjoy cashback and discounts at thousands of vendors, retailers, and hospitality vendors across the country.  

“We typically serve lower-income workers from very high churn workforces, so getting cashback and discounts from their daily spending is a very, very powerful proposition.”

The feedback on Thrive speaks for itself: employees who use the app are willing to work 11% more hours because they can plan their savings, track their earnings and increase their financial literacy. This increased utilisation of their current workforce results in companies saving anywhere between 10 – 30% on emergency labour hire costs. 

The final acquisition, intelliHR, gives Humanforce a robust compliance-forward Human Resources Information System (HRIS) offering, along with globally differentiated capabilities around employee engagement, performance management and people intelligence.

The intelligence capability is compelling because it allows a company to move from reactive decision-making to predictive business planning when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. 

“We now have AI machine learning techniques and algorithmic mathematical models built to be predictive about things like employee attrition, employee churn, and the correlations between how someone is feeling and showing up day-to-day and the opportunities to intervene around development or performance management. This really improves the lives of workers and their pathway, but also the outcomes for the businesses.”

Mr Pyne said Humanforce’s software has always generated interesting workforce management data about shifts and employee behaviour. Now, it can combine this with people-centric data about the employee experience, which allows companies to make better workforce planning decisions. 

A balanced vision

Mr Pyne’s vision for Humanforce is one of balance.  As well as delivering a broader HCM capability, the company will continue to help clients improve their compliance, cost reduction and productivity.  Mr Pyne observed that the compliance burden facing companies continues to grow, with a raft of new regulatory, legislative and industry reforms afoot. These reforms impact the entire employee journey, encompassing functions as diverse as payroll and HR issues like occupational health and safety.

“Our customers are facing a complexity crisis, and as a software vendor, we are trying to simplify and automate that complexity so customers can be confident in their compliance posture.”

The expansion of Humanforce’s portfolio means the company must also balance the needs of its customers with the challenges facing its customers’ employees.

“Throughout our history, focusing on the needs of our customers has been deeply embedded in the DNA of our people and products, and this is still critical. But now we also need to provide solutions that focus on individual needs and personalise the work-life experience at the worker level. Our customers must understand their employees, making sure they feel valued and heard.”

Delivering meaningful benefits like easy access to shifts and timely and accurate pay is vital if companies are to overcome the most intractable problems of having a frontline or flexible workforce.

“These are transient workforces,” Mr Pyne explained. “Our customers see employee churn of somewhere between 30-40% and sometimes as high as 80%. Hiring somewhere around half of your organisation every year comes with a high burden and a high cost. We want to drive that employee churn down so our customers can attract and retain the best people and, more than that, develop them into the leaders they need to take their business forward. 

“In aggregate, we see a reduction in employee turnover of about 16% across our customer base when they enable these capabilities.”

Controlled growth towards a global presence

When it comes to further expansion, Mr Pyne reflected, “We are not relenting just yet: we won’t slow down.” He predicts Humanforce will continue to extend its reach in Australia and New Zealand and beyond. 

“We have had a great business in the UK and Europe since 2015, and one of our primary focuses is to accelerate this, both through established strategic partnerships that are already driving significant growth and M&A opportunities. And further down the track, perhaps there is North America as well. 

“But for now, we want to execute really well on the acquisitions we have made this year. We are lucky to be backed by Accel-KKR, which has a lot of conviction about our strategy, our team, our people and the impact we are having on our customers.

“We feel that globally, no one is marking out an HCM suite for the frontline workforce the way we are doing at Humanforce. You need to know who you are and who you aren’t, and we have always been an advocate [for] and believer in the frontline worker. We are incredibly excited about the future, the great work we can do, and frankly, the impact we can have on the world. It is a privilege.”

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