Why Invest in Mobile Workforce Management: A Labor Director’s Perspective
Vice President, Product Management
If you are running the Labor Management program for a retail organization, and if you haven’t been disheartened by your workforce management (WFM) provider’s system limitations in its current desktop form, then it is time for you to champion mobile WFM capabilities to your organization.
You know the strengths and shortcomings of your existing WFM suite and how well your operations team is committed to use the tools to driver service improvements and effective labor management in your organization. You may be at a basic level of deployment in some areas and a more detailed status in others. Perhaps you have integrated task and communications management, but know there is still more opportunity there. Perhaps you have solid dynamic scheduling (not copy forward imitation scheduling or anything of that sort) in front end and more basic approaches in your other departments. Maybe your reporting is good, but maybe it seems to be delivered too late to make critical adjustments. Whatever your specifics are, there are some thing that you should find very compelling in giving your WFM toolset an upgrade by making it all functional on a mobile platform.
And that includes giving your people tools that operate in real time, focused on priorities and addressing those exception-based priorities requiring management attention. Here’s are the top 10 reasons why your Labor Director may want mobile WFM solutions:
- Simplicity Reigns: The best tools only work if they are simple to use in stores. Managers have limited time off the floor and you need to keep them on the floor, in front of your customers, leading your employees, and making good things happen to fulfill service and brand expectations while meeting your financial goals. Mobile puts all the tools they have available for quick and easy reference on any device or in any place you want it. It keeps your people better connected to the tools that can help them while not being tied to a desktop computer in a backroom or office.
- Associates Must Be Engaged: Associate engagement is critical, and managers and associates don’t expect to do business with tools that seem 15 years behind the capabilities of the apps they use to stay connected, communicate with friends, navigate to locations, shop online, view media, reference data, or otherwise manage their lives efficiently. And what employee wants to call in to find out when they got scheduled or to hunt down a manager to request for time off that they need for life reasons important to them? With mobile you’ll give your managers a sense of having the right tools to do their job and your associates a new connectivity to the business that you can’t get in a non-mobile environment.
- Mobile Infrastructure: If your company hasn’t made your stores accessible to mobile, your project should no longer to be the one to pay for that infrastructure. Basic customer support and customer-facing apps have probably put that infrastructure in place or are ready to share that initial investment.
- Employee Self-Service is a Win-Win: Employee engagement is not only about the tools but about better, faster and closer communication and collaboration including managing more complex skills and availabilities of your associates while scheduling to the needs of your business and, ultimately, your customers. Employee self-service (ESS) functionality via mobile offers associates the ability to collaborate with managers to update availability, time off requests, requests for shift swaps, bids on open shifts available, even the ability to surrender shifts in advance to prevent no shows that really derail service. Mobile ESS will be a popular win with associates and managers and it helps refocus associates on the basic opportunity of skill development and availability management as the basis of scheduled hours.
- Accessible Training and Guidance Materials: You are probably the champion of Best Practices in your organization.: Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to support business processes, Best Methods to perform key work operations that are documented in Visual Method Sheets or training videos that form the basis of your engineered labor standards, the importance of new associate training, effective coaching, etc. But you know much of this material, good as it is, goes unutilized? And in the absence of a clearly understood best method, your productivity erodes while safety, food safety, service and other quality compromises get made as people deviate from that best method. Mobile makes all that material accessible for a new life – even on the sales floor – where it can make a real difference.
- Real-Time Business Reaction: It’s no secret that effective workforce management requires effective planning, forecasting, and smart scheduling to business requirements. But you know better than anyone in your organization that your WFM tools aren’t finished with the job when you post the schedule. It’s about how your organization works that schedule, makes smart adjustments in real time, navigates changes in the business volumes and in the workforce and narrows the delta between the plan and the actual through continuous process improvement. All these needs require the active use of the WFM toolbox beyond a once-a-week schedule writing task. Real time accessibility to the tools on any device, wherever it is needed, is a big step forward to those tools being used in stores as intended.
- Effective Execution Management: Operational efficiency is about more than the quantity of the work being done, you know it’s also about the quality of the work performed and the achievement of your brand’s standards of service and operations excellence. Compliance management is greatly enhanced by task management. But if you have task management and it isn’t mobile, it can’t be nearly as effective as it needs to be with real-time rollup of compliance reporting along with the ability to capture pictures, data or supporting evidence that your task isn’t being pencil whipped from a desktop.
- Streamlined Communications: Good decisions, especially real-time adjustments to labor plans, requires good internal store communications. Mobile allows for new breakthroughs in communications. Multi-channel communication can put quick, text-based, thread-organized communications into use for better communication between management team members or between department associates as they transition from shift to shift or from a strong close tonight to a strong opening tomorrow morning.
- Collaboration: The engagement and support of District Managers and department specialists has always been clear to you. Without them, your labor guidance gets confused and diluted with separate direction coming from field merchandisers or from DM’s who aren’t fully on board. You understand their needs to stay connected to the business, to provide good guidance, and to meet business goals. Mobile is the toolset to keep them engaged, support their impact overall their stores, keep best practices visible, and to work everyone toward signing out of the same hymn book.
- Staying Ahead of the Competition: You know from what you read and what you hear from your labor peers across the industry that mobile isn’t a question of “if” it is more a question of “when.” You also know that new tools will build on the mobile capability including automated assistants that will be far more useful than Siri and Alexa. But you also know your organization needs to start walking before competition demands that you run.
All in all, the reasons for mobile seem clear. Your WFM should be ready to guide your journey and help frame your project cost-benefit plan. If that company can’t, it’s time to find a strategic partner that can.