Pam Colangelo, Retail Labor Manager
Maria Camila Ruiz, Retail Labor Manager
In current times, constant change is the norm for any business. Adapting to it is the key to thrive. Your labor or workforce management (WFM) solution must be agile enough to quickly integrate those business changes into modifications in the forecasting, planning, scheduling, and time and attendance of your workforce.
Solving workforce management challenges, including selecting and implementing a WFM solution, is a journey. For a journey to be valuable, you need to know where you want to go. Your expectations for your WFM solution, as well as how well you use the chosen solution, will determine the magnitude of the impact it will make on your organization. It is vital to have a vision of the future of your organization and to keep referring to that vision at every step of the way. Some things to review as you establish your vision include:
- What is or should be your labor approach?
- Top down: The user defines the output, and the system provides the solutions to work.
- Bottom up: The user specifies the work content, and the system provides an output.
- Hybrid: Engineered labor standards with the ability to tie in financial budgeting.
- What are your current labor and scheduling challenges?
- How quickly must you adapt to change, and does your current system meet that?
- Are you leveraging your data most efficiently to produce optimal forecasts?
- Is your organization ready to explore new functionalities such as production planning, task management, scheduling, and time and attendance?
- Is your organization ready to embrace change?
And one final question, perhaps the most important: Are your executive and labor management teams prepared to lead the change?
Finding the right WFM solution: Destination and guide
Realizing that you need a new WFM management solution is the first step toward finding the right one. Some companies use spreadsheets to manage all the moving elements required to manage labor properly. Others may have software in place but have realized it is only a partial solution. Your WFM solution should be able to adapt your business to everchanging customer expectations and demands. In the past few years, we have seen how quickly processes and requirements can change back and forth, especially during a pandemic or a financial recession. The next step is to look inside your organization and its goals by considering the questions posed above. If you have thoughtfully approached these two steps, you are on the way to choosing a WFM tool that will ensure you fully reap the rewards and achieve the goals—the destination—you initially set out to accomplish: A true solution to current pain points.
It also helps to have an experienced guide on your journey. The right WFM solution partner should offer a full solution: Software that addresses your challenges coupled with the knowledge to advise and guide you through the various challenges you will encounter along the way. You are more likely to achieve your vision if your solution partner provides:
- A true partnership in working together to determine your roadmap to success by helping you understand the needs of today and the vision of the future.
- A robust labor model that can accommodate changes to the business as they occur.
- Assistance with the development of the initial labor model.
- The ability and willingness to design and implement enhancements as the business requires.
- Training the labor team and store trainers—software users, industrial engineers and retail operations leaders that understand the business needs and can provide guidance on how to get the most out of your new software solution.
- 24/7 Open Support with personnel that will give trouble-shooting results beyond “system is down.”
- Continuous improvements and innovative solutions to maintain customer satisfaction.
Once you select a WFM solution, the real work begins. Often organizations forget the reasons they sought out a change in the first place. They update their WFM software but do not have a good plan in place to make it successful. Even more often, companies know what their goals are but find themselves falling back into old habits—asking the new software solution to mimic their existing software and reporting because that is what they are comfortable with. To truly make significant strides in transitioning to a new labor model, a committed team, strong communication, and buy-in from all areas of the business are required. Consider these common missteps and strategies to avoid them:
- Building a labor model based on the new approach, but later overriding the hours generated by that model with the hours previously allocated to stores. The labor management and executive leadership teams should agree upon a timeline for the organization to transition to the new labor model earned hours and be diligent in meeting that deadline. A timeline will keep the team engaged in the work needed to get to the end goal.
- Using reporting metrics that do not relate to each other or to the new solution because it is what the operations team is used to looking at (for example, reverting to labor percent after implementing a new earned hour solution.) The labor management and executive leadership teams should work with the solutions partner to determine what reporting metrics are relevant to the new labor model approach. Don’t allow operations teams to compare Sales Per Labor Hour if the new solution is based on an earned hours approach. Coach the store and supervision teams by explaining the benefits of earning labor based on work content instead of sales dollars.
- Attempting to force the new software solution to create reports “like we used to have” instead of reports that support the new approach to labor management. The labor management team should work with the solutions partner to understand what reports and dashboards support the new method. Store and operations teams should be properly trained regarding how and why these reports support the company’s new labor model as well as how to utilize them. These same change leaders should discourage creating reports that mimic old ones simply because operations teams are comfortable with them.
- Managers and schedule writers continue scheduling employees based on pre-fixed shifts instead of allowing the system to use the hours derived from the labor model to drive the schedules. Identify any poor scheduling practices. Have trainers and supervisors coach store teams early in the transition process by reviewing schedules and using available reporting tools within the solution. Trainers and supervisors must understand why it is important to follow forecasted demand and how it is calculated.
- Selecting the wrong pilot stores, determined based on location or convenience, can be damaging to the long-term project success. The success of a new WFM program is dependent on the people and their willingness to try and adapt to the new challenge and to be able to provide valuable and constructive feedback. Getting the buy-in from the store teams is crucial, and having a trusted resource communicate the change, will lead to a higher success rate.
Choosing the drivers
Change leaders from all business areas should be engaged through every step—from the initial design meetings to planning, training, pilot, implementation/rollout and maintenance of the new solution. The labor team must identify or create those change leaders because they will be the drivers of success. In addition to the labor team, other critical roles in ensuring you get the most out of your new WFM solution include:
- Executive leadership: Give an overall vision of the future state and drive engagement.
- Operations leadership: Provide input on needs/current opportunities.
- Training teams: Explain benefits and provide technical instructions.
- Operations/department subject matter experts: Give feedback and additional information about processes and techniques.
- Store manager and change champions: Drive the change through demonstration and encouragement.
- Store-level experts: The final users who provide further feedback.
Everyone on this list has a different role through the change management process, so everyone is equally important and responsible for driving buy-in and helping prevent reversion to old habits. The participation and involvement of executive leadership greatly impacts the success of any implementation. Hands-on training sessions will also play a significant role in keeping your internal “customers” engaged with the new process. The key to any training is to ensure that the material addresses the appropriate audience. Listen to feedback. It will guide you and your team through what is working and what is not and will show others that you value their input.
Selecting and implementing any new solution is a journey. Going through that process with a WFM solution in particular requires patience and commitment. To realize the full extent of the benefits, it is vital to have a vision of where you see your organization in the future and keep referring to that vision so as not to stray from that goal. The solution chosen will determine the necessary implementation work, how much training will be needed, and the extent of the benefits. But to achieve the vision, your business must be ready to embrace the change that will come with the new solution. Why invest capital, training resources and effort in implementing a new WFM solution if you aren’t going to trust it and embrace the results? But if you have thoughtfully chosen a solution, a WFM partner and engaged your team fully, your journey is likely to be a success.
This post, originally published April 1, 2021, was updated May 9, 2023 for currency of content.
For more considerations when your legacy software is sunsetting or up for renewal, see WFM Technology Transformation: Five Steps to Keep Retailers in the Know.