Mary Field, Implementation Advisor (US)
Julie Monaco, Director of Product Management, Scheduling and Staffing (US)
Andrew Drozinski, Senior Customer Program Manager (US)
When talking with retailers today, it is common to hear about staffing shortages. Staffing shortages are not new. They may not have been national or global challenges, but they can and have impacted different geographies and business sectors and for a variety of reasons. Many retailers attribute the current shortages to the pandemic and resulting drastic shifts in the workers’ attitudes toward work-life balance. Whether wholly attributable to the pandemic or not, the workforce is changing. If you have avoided staffing shortages up to this point, chances are you will encounter them at some point in the future. So, how do you attract and retain employees who no longer can or will commit to a set availability? No longer can or want to work regularly outside the home? Who want extra income but not a recurring scheduling commitment?
In the past, retailers have approached the challenge of worker shortages in a variety of ways. These may have included offering flexible shifts, offering incentives such as a free meal or employee discount, cross-utilization throughout the store, more overtime or increasing maximum hours for part-time employees.
One option that is gaining ground with both retailers and workers is flexible scheduling or, more specifically, “gig” scheduling.
Gig scheduling is the practice of creating open shifts eligible for bidding by pre-approved gig workers in your organization, thereby effectively expanding the associate pool for shift coverage. This kind of shift bidding is not an entirely new concept but has seen a surge of interest in recent years as mobile apps make it easier for employees to interact with the scheduling process. Managers post a shift for bid, and eligible employees can bid on the shift. This expands the retailer’s access to an associate pool across their business, improving utilization and costs and increasing the potential to cover all hours needed to deliver their differentiating service and offerings.
But who exactly is a potential gig worker? It’s a parent that would like to pick up shifts when they have a babysitter. It’s the retired employee who no longer needs or wants a set schedule but would like to stay busy and make some money from time to time. It’s the college student who, when they are not studying or at a school event, would like to earn some extra money at a store nearby. And it’s the trained employee who wants to pick up shifts at their own availability and preference.
Gig scheduling is a win-win for both employee and retailer. With gig scheduling, unscheduled shifts due to labor shortages are posted for all trained employees to view and bid on. By including gig workers when posting shifts, the retailer can expand the pool of labor beyond their current in-house employees who are often already scheduled at max availability.
Just as the workforce has changed, the retail environment continues to evolve. With the rise of e-commerce through ship-to-store, store pick-up, and various delivery services, customer demand has changed. Shift bidding and gig scheduling are beneficial tools that can assist businesses combat unpredictable and fluctuating demand. The power of being able to post a shift on short notice and know there are gig workers waiting to pick up shifts is a reassuring feeling.
So, what does the future hold for this new retail environment?
Just as gig scheduling is an extension of shift bidding, crowdsourcing is the next step for gig scheduling. In crowdsourcing, the pool of labor is expanded even further to a labor pool that may sit entirely outside of your organization. While gig workers as we have discussed are already your employees preapproved by you to bid on shifts outside their primary store and departments, crowdsource workers are not your employees. They are workers vetted and preapproved by you to bid on shifts for specific roles, departments and stores. With appropriate training, these resources could be given access to bid on shifts not schedulable due to current labor shortages within your store. The flexibility of bidding designs and workflows is endless.
With a workforce looking for flexibility and labor demands constantly changing, scheduling systems need to offer options that meet these demands. Gig and flexible scheduling seem like a sure thing.