Don’t “Fall Back” Into Poor Workforce Planning Habits: Fall Forward Instead
Andy Drozinski, Customer Program Manager
Kyle Ferlic, Retail Analyst
Fall is one of the busiest times of year; school is in session, football is in full swing and fall festivals are bustling. For many retailers, there is little rest beyond the extra hour of sleep received on the Sunday morning of “fall back.” However, this does not mean that workforce planning habits need to slide with the hustle and bustle of autumn as we transition into winter—or indeed any season. Instead, what if retailers took systematic approaches to workforce planning upkeep all year round, setting them up for seamless success, season after season? It is possible! Let us take a look at three areas where this makes a huge difference: store organization, labor standards and forecasting/scheduling.
First, retailer leaders can focus on evaluating store organization, particularly because of its huge impact on labor standards and operational processes. One arena that tends to slip in store organization is ensuring that 5-S standards are maintained. Remember that a vibrant, healthy store is founded on effective organization; this leads to visibility in best practices; best practices predate effective standards; this subsequently drives labor hours and ultimately supports effective forecasting, staffing and scheduling. That is a big deal!
We have found that the most opportune mechanism for ensuring 5-S maintenance is through a Store Champion. Store Champions are voted by leadership to become gatekeepers for all things 5-S related in a particular store. The individual maintains a watchful eye and holds peers accountable to organizational expectations in service of continuous improvement. Store Champions make a huge difference in not only a store’s best practices, but also cultural development of excellence within the staff itself.
Back in February of this year, my colleague and Logile’s VP of Retail Service Brian Monaco wrote an excellent blog article called Notice to Update: The Labor Management Checklist. It was about things to consider while maintaining an organization’s labor model. This information fits aptly into today’s post. Retail engineers can regularly review operations to determine the appropriateness of labor standards. Like 5-S, great labor standards impact everything beyond it, including forecasting, staffing and scheduling.
This can be implemented in a myriad number of ways. One way is for store personnel to monthly or quarterly voice updates to equipment and processes that might impact their labor responsibilities. Engineers then review standards and contemplate expected changes; they can hypothesize financial effects using what-if scenarios around changing labor operations. If these types of checks are done regularly, retail leadership is given power to make operational decisions that benefit everyone in the organization.
Forecasting and scheduling
With organization and standards outlined, let us talk forecasting/scheduling. This begins with regular analyses and comparison around feeder variables in the scheduling system to identify opportunity areas. Store leaders can look at projection versus forecast versus actual versus earned values in a variety of ways. These metrics can be defined as follows:
- Projection: system-generated predictor variables, like sales, volume, etc.
- Forecast: projection variables plus edits by store/user
- Actual: real, measured values for each variable
- Earned: the amount of labor used in each area given actual values
Retail leaders can gain profitable data by comparing projection/forecast variables with actual values. For instance, if store projections are more accurate, why are stores making edits? Can they be better equipped to know when edits should be made? If forecasts are more accurate, what can be done to improve the projections? Are there enough tags for outliers? Is the best algorithm being chosen? These are only a few questions to consider.
In concluding, workforce management requires regular upkeep. Without question, the best retailers utilize systematic checks to keep their organization, standards and scheduling at peak performance. This blog post outlined some ideas on how to do that, but it is by no means exhaustive. For more information on how to make workforce optimization the norm, bring in external consultation for guidance. Regardless, keep tabs on your workforce systems so that they are working for you versus against you. That’s how we see falling forward, for year-round success!