Workforce Management creates a basis for good management

Interview with Professor MSc Econ Henrik Holt Larsen from Institute for Organisation at Copenhagen Business School.

Professor Henrik Holt Larsen (MSc Econ) of the Institute for Organisation at Copenhagen Business School (CBS) is one of the heavyweights within Human Resource Management. In particular, he has been engaged in strategic and international HRM with special emphasis on talent and skills development and management.

In this interview he points out why Workforce Management can create greater trust between employees and managers, particularly because it increases the quality of the decisions taken in everyday work, but also because it ensures that the right employees are employed in the right job at the right price.

How can Workforce Management assist in boosting the productivity of a company?

Good management decisions require a good information base, and for this you need data. “What gets measured gets managed”. There is an increasing requirement, not least on the part of executive management, for the supply of data, measurements and evidence, a requirement other professional disciplines have been living with for decades. Think only of medical science and its huge focus on data- based evidence.

Can Workforce Management result in management tasks being taken out of the hands of managers and instead being replaced by “systems”?

No, absolutely not! There is a difference between generating data and controlling data production and taking the managerial decisions which are based on this data. However, hopefully, management decisions will become more rational as a result.

What is the best aspect of Workforce Management for employees – and for managers?

Taking a broad approach one could state that it is in the interests of employees for decisions about the workforce (i.e. human resources) to be taken on an enlightened base. It is always more difficult to explain why a certain initiative is good for the employees than it is to show that it is good for the company and its management.

What about trust between managers and the employees; can this be affected by Workforce Management?

If handled well and presented in an empathetic and respectful manner, Workforce Management can create trust between managers and employees. But if instead, management is not able to explain, defend and involve the employees, it can drive a wedge between the two parties.

How do you as one of the leading experts HRM experts in Europe view Workforce Management?

Workforce Management is one of the several answers or solutions to the ever increasing requirement for “appreciating one’s employees”, not just figuratively but also literality. Personnel-related costs may constitute as much as 80 percent of overall costs, and therefore it would not be responsible or rational NOT to take an interest in optimising data.

On the other hand, one should not be dazzled by data and swallow it whole. Should this be the case, the quality of decisions would be considerably undermined. As Einstein said: Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. Balance is important – also in companies.

Henrik Holt Larsen has contributed more than 40 books and over 300 journal articles. He is often employed as a trainer both in Denmark and abroad. Moreover, he participates in development projects in both private and public companies. The Professor is coordinator for the Danish part of Cranet, which is devoted to HRM strategy and practice in 50 countries.