Tackling Today’s Retail Staffing Challenges with AI-Powered WFM
2021 has brought with it a number of challenges for the retail industry, but few are more pressing than the current labor shortage. In March 2021, there were around 878,000 retail openings, up from approximately 675,000 in September 2020. Experts have attributed this difficulty finding front-line employees to a variety of factors, such as child-care responsibilities, a desire for increased wages and benefits, and concern about new COVID-19 variants.
Many retailers are approaching these challenges from multiple angles: they’re working to provide employees with labor schedules that work for them, while optimizing the labor they do have on hand. But these aren’t easy fixes. Store managers are already overburdened with tasks to complete, whether it’s coaching front-line employees or manually creating labor schedules. And the stakes are high: retailers are also competing with others in the industry who are also looking for the best solutions to these issues.
However, there are tools that retailers can use to ensure that they’re properly optimizing labor while allocating employees in a way that works for their diverse responsibilities at home. AI-powered workforce optimization solutions can give retailers a way to automate scheduling while also managing employee preferences and reducing staffing gaps.
Here are a couple ways these solutions accomplish these goals:
1. Optimize Labor and Maximize Productivity
It can be difficult to manage all of the variables that come with labor scheduling:
- Are there coverage gaps that you’re missing?
- Are employees’ skills misaligned with the work that needs to be completed in the store?
- Are there shifts that are at a higher risk of absenteeism?
And these questions are even harder to answer when retailers are working with a shallower pool of employees.
AI-enabled workforce management solutions place the power of machine learning into the hands of store managers by automating the scheduling process and making it easier to strategically plan for disruptive events like peak sales periods and labor shortages. AI capabilities give store managers the capability to run staffing simulations, defining efficiency targets, generating forecasts for a variety of staffing scenarios, and receiving specific staffing recommendations to make informed scheduling decisions.
These solutions ensure that you’re able to not only reduce the burden of scheduling on your store managers, but can also continually improve your labor schedules with AI-driven insights.
2. Provide Employees With Flexible Schedules
Today’s retail employees have new responsibilities, whether it’s caring for children or elderly relatives, as well as new expectations for how they want to be treated by their employers. They’re asking whether:
- Schedules are providing equity for all employees
- Schedules are accurately accounting for employee preferences and outside responsibilities
- Schedules aren’t being changed at the last minute
These questions are even more critical today, and retailers are working on ways to be more receptive to them so they can attract the best that today’s talent pool has to offer.
With AI-powered workforce management, intelligent algorithms automatically account for all of these important variables, such as schedule equity, employee preferences, in-store workload, and customer traffic. These solutions also ensure compliance with federal, state, and local labor laws. In doing so, schedules are far more accurate and lead to fewer last-minute changes that disrupt employees’ busy home lives and schedules. Schedules are more consistent and equitable, boosting employee retention rates and decreasing absenteeism.
The current labor shortage may be a difficult challenge to manage, but it doesn’t have to break your labor operations. With AI-powered workforce management solutions, you can create optimized labor schedules that work for your employees, giving them the ability to provide customers with an excellent retail experience.
For more information on how to optimize labor during today’s staffing challenges, check out our latest white paper, “3 Ways to Utilize Artificial Intelligence in Your Store Operations Strategy.”