Benefits of Optimizing Labor

By: Gabrielle Urick
Industrial Engineer

Accurately determining labor demand and having the ability to accurately staff it to customer traffic is challenging. However, optimizing labor can improve some of the most valuable factors of grocery retail – worker safety, food safety and customer service. The boost in customer service scores, worker safety, food safety and sales growth, is well worth it.

Having the right people, in the right place, at the right time, is the starting point for proper worker safety, food safety and customer service to take place. Preferred methods, the most efficient, safest way to perform a process, must first be defined. These are crucial guidelines for how processes should be performed to ensure employees are working efficiently and safely to get their job done. This establishes a realistic standard for how the work should be completed. Adequate labor must be provided to follow these preferred methods. Additionally, these preferred methods must be communicated to the workforce, as well as any training or coaching that may be needed. A preferred method may exist, but it is of no value if it is not understood and being followed by the workforce. Once the proper labor is allotted, employees can get their jobs done the right way.

By having the proper time and guidelines, employees can complete their work following all safety regulations. When not pressured by time, employees can ensure they are following all safety precautions, using the correct equipment or tools, and not rushing to complete the task.

Along with worker safety, having the proper time and guidelines allows for employees to follow all food safety rules and regulations. In grocery retail, this is key in ensuring top product quality. By having the right people staffed, the right guidelines in place and effectively communicated, food safety rules and regulations can be followed accordingly. This includes necessary cleaning activities, sanitization, correct storage for temperature sensitive products and products that cannot be stored together. As well as proper culling and conditioning of products on the sales floor to ensure customers have the best quality to choose from.

Determining the right labor demand and accurately staffing it to customer traffic will result in improved customer service. Having the right amount of people, in the right place, at the right time, will allow employees to provide customers with the expected customer service. For example, a deli typically has spikes in customer traffic around lunch time, and after 5 p.m. when customers are out of work or school. Similarly, weekends or days around holidays are much busier. When a deli is properly staffed, the employees can attend to the customers during busy times to keep queues down and customers satisfied. Employees are also allotted sufficient time throughout their shift to get tasks completed outside of servicing customers, such as preparing and packaging products for sale, stocking them to the sales floor or service case, and cleaning in between all tasks. Accurate staffing also allows for the right number of employees and time to be designated to certain times of the day when time specific tasks must occur. For the deli, certain tasks must happen in the morning to open the department, preparing products, stocking the salad bar, setting up the service cases, turning on all the equipment used for the day, setting up the 3-compartment wash sink, and so on.

Optimizing labor has various benefits beyond increasing operational efficiency and decreasing labor costs. For businesses to have the ability to accurately staff labor based on the demand and customer traffic, preferred methods must be in place to set a realistic standard. Once this is accomplished, employees can safely and efficiently complete their work, while providing top quality products to customers with adequate customer service.