retail labor planning as nation reopens

Not Business as Usual: Retail Labor Planning as the Nation Reopens

Julie Bushee
Director of Retail Labor Support

The COVID-19 pandemic will forever change the way we think and live for the foreseeable future. As retail software solution partners, we are part of your community. We will continue to provide actionable items and insights to support the changes needed to navigate through the phases to come. We know that forecasting labor, scheduling and communication remain important focuses for grocery retailers. Shopping time of day, trends and average order sizes have shifted drastically, and will continue to shift as states look at “opening up” and relaxing stay-at-home orders.

Taking some time to consider the changes occurring at your grocery retail locations and fully utilizing the tools you have will help the new norm feel more normal.

Here are some considerations and suggestions.

Are you using forecast modules to project current trends?

Allow for manager edits as needed. Integrate forecast technology with demand scheduling, and utilize reforecasting metrics as a guide to visualize where additional staffing is needed throughout the store.

Plan for updating your labor model to account for new characteristics based on social distancing measures, increased sanitation, and shifts in curb-side pickup or online ordering. Items are moving fast, and truck schedules have changed. Consider making changes to occurrences of these stocking and cleaning operations that will integrate with scheduling.

Are you taking advantage of flexibility in scheduling?

Keep employee availabilities current. Even though schools closed, distance learning was still happening. Within the next month, virtual classes will be out for the summer. Other businesses that were closed may slowly begin reopening. As your employees’ lifestyles shift because of these changes, so may their availability.

If you start increasing store operating hours, make sure open and close times have been updated in your scheduling solution to ensure employees are scheduled during the appropriate time.

Give secondary assignments for all employees trained and able to work in different locations, even if they may not have been scheduled before. Consider allowing cross-utilization of labor between departments and even across stores.

Are you fully using your employee portal to communicate quickly and remotely?

Employee portals are the perfect way to communicate. Managers can send crucial information, such as changes to hours of operation and updated sanitation and safety rules; and employees will appreciate hearing directly from their managers in uncertain times where we have not yet landed on the new norm. Managers can quickly post shifts for employees to bid on, and employees can find available shifts and bid on them. Managers can request employees to extend scheduled shifts, and once approved by the employees, automatically update the schedule. Employees can request to replace or swap shifts with other employees, allowing managers to minimize replacement efforts and instead focus on other critical tasks.

We are all in this together, as one community, as we continue to move forward. Grocery retail is an essential part of everyone’s life, in more ways than one now. We will continue to look at ways to help you navigate your business through and beyond this crisis.