Prepare for Post-Pandemic Future Via Retail Workforce Management
With COVID-19 effects still pressuring the industry, many retailers continue to contend with labor management challenges. Retailers risk a decline in sales during the upcoming holiday season because they can’t maintain the proper front-line coverage.
For instance, many chains struggle to hire and retain workers. Additionally, many associates, dissatisfied with pay or quality of life, are just walking off the job. Meanwhile, thousands of retail workers laid off when COVID-19 initially struck never returned to their jobs. Given the staffing shortages and unpredictability in coverage and operations, some retailers are risking the quality of the customer experience.
A lack of reliable labor resources can affect daily store operations at any point. For instance, the inability to support key operations, such as shelf replenishment, can lead to stockouts. Given uncertainties in the supply chain, a missed opportunity to sell shoppers what they want, when they want it, is potentially an irrevocable situation. It can mean not just lost sales in the near term, but also a lost customer.
To add to the pressure, the pandemic accelerated the migration of customers to online purchasing. So, in addition to greeting customers, replenishing shelves, and cross-selling, associates must also fulfill curbside pickup orders, and handle both returns and deliveries from within traditional stores.
To try to fix these problems, retailers must attract the best and most highly skilled workers–who want flexibility in their shifts and control over their hours. They also demand schedules that are fair, and based on current and accurate data.
Traditional paper- or Excel-based workforce management processes and systems are inadequate in this environment. They are error prone, clumsy to use and can’t be edited and updated quickly. Modern enterprise-scale workforce management applications are the only tools that will work. You can even advertise that you have deployed these systems, which will help you recruit the best associates.
We’ll review some of the features successful labor planning and management solutions offer:
It’s key to have an integrated set of applications and processes that optimize employees’ productivity and efficiency. Such a solution automatically matches associate/employee availability to customer demand, on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis. A full workforce management solution will also enable managers to accurately forecast labor requirements, and create and manage staff schedules. The schedule can be shared and updated quickly, as needed, without manual intervention from management. The goal is to cut costs, improve execution, and delight the customer with the minimum of effort and expense.
Steps Involved in Workforce Management
Proper workforce management demands labor budgeting, forecasting and scheduling capabilities to match customer demand with employee availability. Creating a budget requires harvesting historical data from corporate systems, and/or from individual regions or stores. Using input from management, analysts then create a forecast plan, subject to revision, of sales, and customer traffic. This eventually becomes a working schedule.
Workforce Scheduling Software
Scheduling is a key part of workforce management and involves matching the labor budget to employee resources and creating a project schedule. This schedule is then distributed to the associates and store managers for execution. Workforce scheduling apps can integrate with other key third-party enterprise solutions, such as finance and payroll, human resource management, and performance and training management applications. This enables connected and streamlined processes to save time and effort across the company.
AI and Workforce Management
Artificial intelligence capabilities offer far more robust data inclusion and analysis capabilities than regular workforce management system. With AI, the workforce management application can do such things as factor in total workload on-site, budget, and labor spend. It can also support self-learning capabilities that automatically consider employee preferences and habits when devising schedules. This results in the rapid creation of accurate schedules that would otherwise require extensive rewrites and dependence on multiple separate systems. Leveraging AI streamlines workforce management, and makes it more rapid, accurate and successful than traditional systems can.
Business Deployment of Workforce Management
Businesses improve their productivity and efficiency by buying and implementing a workforce management solution—preferably accessible via smartphone or other mobile devices. Relying on one modern familiar system and interface, managers can contact employees anytime, anywhere, to share proposed schedules, as far in advance as possible. This eliminates guesswork, paper- or spreadsheet-based processes, and enables a single integrated schedule that the associates can easily access 24/7.
Importance of Workforce Management
Without streamlining and automating workforce budgeting and scheduling processes, the store managers must devise their own schedules. They must make on-the-fly calculations for the budget, then create the schedule and share it with associates via phone, email or other means. Manually produced schedules are error-prone and static—and can require frequent edits and updates to be shared with staff. On the other hand, automated workforce management boosts productivity for managers and gives associates more flexible and equitable schedules.
Industries that Benefit from Workforce Management
Workforce management platforms can serve any industry committed to meeting customer demands. This particularly applies with a workforce that supports disparate locations, and that needs coordination and precise planning—along with the ability to react quickly and at a local level. Retail has already widely adopted workforce management solutions, with proven success. The medical, restaurant and hospitality industries also are among the top candidates for workforce management deployment and benefits.
Want to learn more about how workforce management, planning and scheduling can benefit you? Talk to us today.