Tech Vendors Create New Return-to-Work Resources

By Dave Zielinski August 28, 2020
working in the office with masks

​Human resources technology vendors have created new resources designed to help companies manage the evolving challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic: ride services for employees worried about using public transportation, knowledge databases on pandemic-related compliance, and touchless time and attendance tracking tools.

We compiled a sample of these resources offered by top technology vendors. Some are stand-alone products or services, and others are offered as part of vendors' existing HR platforms or applications.

Compliance, Business Continuity and Employee Wellness

ADP, the Roseland, N.J.-based provider of payroll and human capital management systems, developed resources to help HR leaders with compliance, business continuity and employee wellness. ADP's Return to Workplace dashboard helps organizations more easily monitor trends and metrics such as workers' availability to return to the office, employees' attestations to their COVID-19 status and results of employee sentiment surveys.

"The dashboard incorporates all of a company's relevant data around COVID-19 and lets employers see in one place employees who are inclined to come back [and] those who would rather not, and helps manage the overall workforce," said Linda Mougalian, a senior division vice president with ADP. "There are a lot of scheduling and communication challenges around deciding who will work in the office when."

Employee wellness is another key metric on the dashboard. "It's not as easy as saying, 'Our doors are open again. Come on in,' " Mougalian said. "Employees have challenges that might include transportation issues and child care, or they may need to stay home to take care of family members or could even be sick themselves."

ADP introduced a new touchless kiosk that enables safe time and attendance tracking. The kiosk uses optional face recognition to log workers in, Mougalian said, as well as voice activation to start or end a work shift or meal breaks. The kiosk is offered as part of ADP's Workforce Now core time and attendance platforms.

The vendor also developed the Compliance on Demand knowledge base that tracks the latest developments in regulations on, for instance, leave laws, time-tracking requirements and tax deferments related to COVID-19 legislation. The knowledge base gives HR leaders such information as how to determine employee retention tax credit eligibility or interpret new federal safety requirements for those returning to the workplace.

"The biggest challenge for many organizations now is navigating workforce management, which includes scheduling around bringing people back to the workplace," Mougalian said. "The knowledge base provides up-to-date compliance advice and solutions specific to that challenge."

Mougalian added that ADP redeployed and retrained employees to support these new pandemic-related service areas. "We trained sales associates and asked them to sit on the service lines so they could take calls about our COVID-19 resources and get people answers as quickly as possible."

Safe Workplace Suite of Apps

ServiceNow, a company that creates digital workflows for HR functions, also built new resources designed to help companies manage their COVID-19 challenges. The company recently partnered with Uber and introduced Uber for Business, which gives employees who don't have the option of driving their own car to work or aren't comfortable using public transportation a way to travel to their jobs as workplaces reopen. The mobile app allows employees to schedule workplace arrival times, reserve workspaces in the office and manage health screenings, according to ServiceNow.

The company's previously released Safe Workplace suite includes apps for workplace safety management, employee readiness feedback, employee health screening and contact tracing, said Blake McConnell, senior vice president of workflow products at ServiceNow. The suite's health verification capabilities, for example, allow employees to respond to health screening questions via mobile self-service and receive authorization to enter the workplace or not based on responses and other tests. The suite is available to anyone using the ServiceNow platform.

"There are dashboard capabilities built into the suite, as well," McConnell said. "It gives leaders the ability to drill down into a workplace location and see how the workforce there is trending across the four apps in the suite, such as readiness to return to the workplace, health screening reports or how the group compares to overall COVID-19 infection rates for its particular geography."

Deepak Bharadwaj, vice president and general manager of legal and workplace business units for ServiceNow, said the suite's contact tracing app uses workplace data to help identify potentially exposed employees and execute follow-up steps. The app can leverage data sources such as employees at the same location, attendees in the same meeting room, employees' self-reporting logs and badge scans.

"The contact tracing app has a three-step process," Bharadwaj said. "It identifies all of the people who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, [and] has a robust case management tool for the tracing element and an assessment of the risk itself. For example, the assessment helps leaders weigh whether the business should shut down, scale back or whether it's OK to stay open based on the identified workforce exposure risk."

Return-to-Workplace Guidance for CHROs

Some tech vendors also have put out guidance for HR leaders to help in their return-to-the-workplace planning. IBM created The CHRO's Guide to Workplace Re-Entry report to help aid in the challenging decisions—many of them technology- and data-related—to consider when moving people back to the office and supporting remote workers. Here are four recommendations from that guide:

1. CHROs should augment their traditional focus on people with equal attention to technology necessary to accelerate re-entry and enable long-term success, the report suggests. CHROs have never been more essential. HR leaders should rethink roles, workflow, teams, and new requirements to enable agility and flexibility for a different normal.

2. CHROs should create real-time data for more informed decision-making. CHROs and other leaders should bring robust and detailed information to executive discussions on returning to the workplace. IBM suggests that traditional data sources are no longer good enough in the COVID-19 planning scenario. Leaders should tap newer technologies and tools that enable real-time data collection and reporting.

3. They should properly protect data for insight on reopening. CHROs should be alert to any new ways in which employee personal and health data is being collected, tracked and used during the pandemic. HR leaders should be able to provide satisfying answers to natural employee questions such as what personal information is being gathered from their increased online activity, facility smart sensors, mobile devices, monitoring software or other programs introduced during the pandemic.

4. CHROs should plan for a re-entry that enables agility and flexibility. As the voice for the workforce, HR should be instrumental in defining what types of work and roles are needed in an office location and what can be performed virtually. By using productivity and engagement data collected via technology platforms before or during the recent work-from-home period necessitated by the pandemic, HR can help decide who really needs to work in an office location and who doesn't.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.


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