Jim Wegeleben, Senior Manager of Logile Academy
Kathleen O’Reilly, Academy Specialist
Gig scheduling. Crowdsourcing. Those terms are being heard by retailers everywhere nowadays. So what are they, really? And what do they mean? In this series of three posts, we will be discussing just that. First, we will describe “open shift bidding” and what benefit it could have for your business. We will continue with additional posts that will describe what gig employees are and what crowdsource workers are. We want to introduce you to a largely untouched resource that is available for consideration, especially amongst the ever-changing environment employers and employees are faced with today.
Working in grocery retail in particular, you learn how to maneuver around the challenges of staffing your location to take care of customers. Looking back at our own experience in retail over the past 10-20 years, maintaining the appropriate staffing level was one of the biggest challenges. Sometimes we reached out to relatives of employees to get people to fill positions. In the smaller communities, it was not uncommon for a husband, wife and child, or an aunt and uncle to all work in the same location. But this usually isn’t a good solution in most areas. Still, the challenge remains all the same.
The other example worth mentioning is the roller-coaster ride most retailers (not just grocery retailers) experience when staffing their stores. This “Warm Body Syndrome” has been happening as long as we can remember. You probably know what Warm Body Syndrome is—if a pool of applicants for a position is scarce, an applicant gets a job offer just because they came in for the interview.
Consider this grocery retail example. You are the store manager and have approved the following 4 postings to prepare for increased business:
- One deli clerk to work closing shifts
- One bakery clerk to work opening shifts
- One front-end bagger to work after school
- One grocery stocker to work overnights
You begin your search, set up interviews, and you find one application for the deli, two applications for the front-end bagger, and no applicants for the bakery or grocery positions. The first reaction you have is “Great we have a couple people we can hire.” The second thought you have is how you are going to manage without staffing the bakery and grocery for the business. Sound familiar?
Today, staffing your location remains as challenging as ever. Recent events have only emphasized the challenge of finding qualified employees. The pandemic served as a catalyst for a mass exodus of workers from their jobs by providing a pause from the hectic pace of day-to-day survival and constantly being on the run. A bigger question we are hearing is: “The impact these events have triggered, will they actually go away or improve when the pandemic recedes?” We don’t think so.
Lockdowns forced many retailers to allow specific employee roles to stay home and work remotely. Employers found it to be a more effective work model for their business. Employees liked not getting dressed for work, getting in the car, and driving to work in traffic. It was easier working from home wearing comfy, casual attire. Employees were able to decide when and, sometimes, for how long to work. It certainly gave them an opportunity to compare one style of work against another, and some ended up deciding to change employment permanently. Others seem to have chosen just not to work. The causes are complex. Certainly in the beginning assistance for workers being displaced or reduced in their job made it an easier choice for many to stay at home and care for their families. However, even after specific pandemic assistance ended, many did not return to prior jobs. Have they chosen to stay home and care for family who continue to be displaced? Have they found other employment?
The applicant field for many businesses to select qualified employees from has been reduced. No matter the reason, more employees are working from home, many employees have decided to change where they work or made a choice not to work. So, as a retailer, where does this leave you and what do you do?
“Reality” is that you have shifts to fill. You have work that needs to get done. You don’t have enough employees to do it.
Being occasionally short-staffed is a solvable challenge, but too much overtime leads to burnout, which is coupled with a huge impact on the bottom line. Being perpetually short-staffed requires a sustainable solution.
What if the traditional way of selecting additional applicants to work in your organization could be flipped? What if, instead of you assigning extra shifts, your existing employees could choose where and when they wanted to work additional shifts using the mobile app technology they are already familiar with? Let’s explain with a few questions and probable answers.
Question #1: With the traditional schedule created by the employer, what happens to any open or unfilled shift(s) that cannot be filled by the current employee availability?
Answer: The manager seeks support from current employees who pick up the slack in overtime if there is no one to fill the open shift(s). This causes the employer to seek additional applicants to work to fill the shifts.
Question #2: What if all employees could be made aware of any available open shift(s)?
Answer: Employees could make their own decisions to work more hours.
Question #3: What if employees could bid on open shift(s) in other departments or sister stores to work?
Answer: Employees could make decisions about where and when, and how many additional hours they want to work.
Question #4: What if employees could bid on open shift(s) using a company app on their phone?
Answer: Employees could manage their own schedules as they want, with only approval from the manager.
These scenarios provide an employee with greater control of where and when, and how many additional hours they want to work. Managers know which employees are available and want to work, because the employee is telling them so. The process empowers employees to fit their work schedule to their circumstances, priorities and lifestyle. The use of a mobile app places more of the control with the employee.
That overall solution provides a win-win:
- Employees bid on shifts that work around their life rather than life around their work
- Employers gain access to a larger staffing pool
It’s all possible and worth the time, energy and conversations to define what it would require for your organization to implement open shift bidding. It’s an elegant solution to a timeless—and timely—retail problem.
We talked about open shift bidding for your company. This brings to light some facets of scheduling and additional applicants you may not have considered but should consider. Think about this: What if a store manager could consider their employees and the employees of sister stores—or even employees of other companies—as the Gig and Crowdsource Employee workforce for shift bidding?
We will explore those topics in further posts of the Gig Scheduling and Crowdsourcing series. Be on the lookout for “What Are Gig Employees?” Stay tuned…