How Retailers Are Managing Stores During a Public Health Crisis
COVID-19 has placed an enormous burden on retailers today. Whether it’s figuring out how to implement new and important safety procedures, communicate information efficiently across their retail organization, or effectively care for employees, this public health emergency has put a massive strain on all retail organizations, especially those deemed essential to the public.
Over the last couple weeks, Reflexis has held roundtable discussions with a variety of retailers, all of which have modified their businesses in different ways to meet these new challenges. Here are how they’ve adapted to the pandemic within a number of functional areas:
1. Handling New Demands
With many retail verticals seeing dramatic shifts in customer traffic, retailers are changing strategies in order to manage new demands. Some have hired temp employees where demand is high, and have determined what departments are necessary to keep open and which ones can be temporarily closed down. Some retailers have modified store hours to allow time to thoroughly sanitize the store, or are using off hours to restock shelves.
2. Managing Labor Scheduling and Forecasting
Changing demands in stores means that retailers need to change labor forecasting and scheduling processes to adapt. Many retailers are creating schedules two weeks in advance, making weekly and daily changes as needs occur, and providing daily recaps of schedule changes to ensure schedules are communicated efficiently. They’re also reevaluating when work is coming through to determine what times are busiest, and are having district managers connect with store leaders to see if they need to cut hours or hire more personnel.
Retailers are also streamlining the hiring process, with corporate providing guidance on how many people should be hired and store managers expediting the process from interview to first shift, with only a week of turn around. Retailers are also partnering with HR departments from local companies that have furloughed employees, offering them in-store jobs. Some have allowed shift bidding and working at other locations, with precaution taken in areas heavily affected by the pandemic.
3. Implementing Social Distancing Procedures
With COVID-19 making it dangerous to gather in public, retailers have instituted a variety of safety measures to ensure that everyone remains safe. Many are supplying store associates with gloves, masks, and other cleaning supplies, and extra precautions are in place for those working at registers, with lines taped on the floor to indicate where customers should stand while in line and at the register. Retailers are also controlling the number of people allowed in the store at one time, with some only opening every other register to ensure six feet of distance between people at all times.
4. Dealing with Absenteeism
Retailers are finding it difficult to predict how many employees will be calling off, whether because they’re sick, they’re caring for elderly family members, or they have new child-care responsibilities because schools are closed. To manage this, retailers are having district managers track by store how many part time employees are calling off, and if a store hits a critical level of absent employees, they’re able to alert corporate, which will send that store more employees.
5. Communicating Effectively
Nimble and effective communication is key to ensuring that stores are able to execute tasks and projects effectively. To communicate effectively during the pandemic, retailers are having leaders send videos, letters, emails, and phone calls internally so employees are aware of all high-priority information. Retailers are also prioritizing tasks and projects that are essential to maintain business, such as new safety procedures, and are creating checklists so store associates understand what tasks are essential to complete.
6. Helping and Caring for Employees
With customer-facing retail employees at such a high risk during the pandemic, retailers are doing everything they can to reassure these employees and provide them with the compensation they deserve. Many are directly communicating with store managers and associates, with corporate sending daily messages to address issues and answer any questions, and calling stores directly to thank them for their work and talk to them about the issues they’re facing.
Some of the benefits they’ve offered to employees include:
- More sick time for part time associates
- Options for child care and elderly care
- Providing lunches for employees
- Increases in pay
- Gift cards for essentials
- Increase in employee discounts
- Thank you baskets sent to field leaders
- 14 days of continued pay for those who test positive for COVID-19
For more information on what retailers are doing today to manage the current public health crisis, please reach out to your Reflexis Customer Success Director. If you’re not sure who your CSD is or are not currently a Reflexis customer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll connect you with a knowledgeable member of our team.