Frank Reynolds, Sales, UK
Steve Bevan, Business Development, UK
Highly proficient workforce management (WFM) software remains the cornerstone of efficient and effective retail organizations. Modern businesses cannot function without flexible and integrated technology that intelligently helps manage the complexities of planning, modeling and optimizing your workforce.
Simplify your present, secure your future
Choosing the right solution partner is imperative to your commercial success, and building a relationship with the right provider is pivotal in ensuring your sustained competitive advantage.
A wide functional range of fully integrated modules removes the burden of having to rely upon multiple vendors. This provides you with the ability to manage processes, reporting and analysis in one system and enables you to make strategic decisions quickly and confidently, improving your ability to react to the challenges of the modern retail environment.
This article examines key considerations in one platform for workload planning, workforce management and store execution. Highlights include the benefits of effective labor planning, WFM lifecycle touchpoints, AI and machine learning forecasting to continually and automatically improve accuracy, and ultimately building a far more successful customer/provider relationship.
10 factors that help optimize performance:
- Accurate standards and processes
- Automated and intuitive forecasting
- Machine learning and AI to optimize business outcomes
- Working plans that match requirements
- Task management
- Comprehensive employee and management engagement tools
- Integrated time and attendance
- Performance analysis
- Integration with third parties and working alongside existing systems
- Customer/provider relationship
Accurate standards and processes
Industrial engineering standards and operational excellence play a critical role in a retailer’s success. In an industry characterized by intricate supply chains, diverse product assortments and evolving consumer demands, adhering to and maintaining precise industrial engineering standards ensures that resources are optimally allocated, processes are efficient, and costs are minimized. This, in turn, enables retailers to provide better value to their customers through competitive pricing and superior product availability.
While every effort is made to manage and adapt standards in line with the current environment, the systems available and the in-built complexity can mean that the engineering standards that underpin a retail business can be out of date and subsequently have a significant impact on the downstream accuracy of your processes.
For streamlined performance and synergistic results, partner with a provider that 1) can deliver the necessary WFM software to improve your business processes and address evolving industry challenges and 2) has the in-house engineering standards expertise and experience to ensure that all aspects of the labor management process can be modeled and optimized.
Automated and intuitive forecasting
All too often, the solutions and processes relied upon by retailers to understand and forecast their future labor requirements are focused on back-office functionality and requirements and do not reflect the day-to-day issues faced by frontline managers and the flexibility they require.
While labor forecasts generated by core teams strive for highest-possible accuracy, external factors continue to place pressure on the ability to produce correct and reliable predictions. Ongoing and understood issues such as seasonality, employee turnover and data quality can be reasonably factored in, but other less predictable events, employee availability, changing customer behavior, competition etc. can cause major issues when trying to accurately predict labor demand.
Using a proven solution that automates the creation of labor plans using state-of-the-art AI and machine learning and that delivers impeccable accuracy at the day level means that your business can focus on delivering other value-added operations.
Machine learning and AI to optimize business outcomes
AI and machine learning have revolutionized schedule creation by providing data-driven and efficient solutions. These technologies analyze historical sales data, footfall patterns, employee performance metrics and more to generate optimized work schedules.
This automation not only saves time but also enhances overall workforce management and productivity in the dynamic world of retail. However, the way AI is utilized is different for every system.
Different technology providers vary in their approaches to the use of AI. The more robust vendors not only use open-source AI algorithms but additionally develop their own. These algorithms are then used to optimize labor forecasts as well as schedules. Based on real data, the solution automatically selects the most appropriate algorithm to match the demand required by a specific business. This not only improves accuracy – with systems capable of 97% forecast accuracy at the day level – but also reduces workload and cost.
Working plans that match requirements
One of the most difficult things to manage in any business is balancing the availability of your workforce with the specific demands that need to be managed on a day-to-day basis.
A retailer’s focus on creating and managing schedules purely based on the requirements of the business can have a significant impact on their workforce. Indeed, a recent McKinsey & Company study illustrated how employees placed a higher importance on flexibility and control over their working patterns than how much they were paid.
The outcomes and impacts of a scheduling process that manages the business requirements but does not incorporate ample consideration for the employee can be quite significant and far-reaching:
- Work-life balance: When employees are unable to balance their work responsibilities with their personal lives, it can lead to stress, burnout and feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Predictability: Ad hoc schedules or frequent changes in working hours can make it difficult for employees to plan their lives outside of work.
- Job security: Employees who have irregular or inconsistent working patterns and schedules may feel insecure about their jobs.
- Health and well-being: Inflexible schedules may prevent employees from taking adequate breaks, getting enough sleep or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Teamwork and collaboration: When employees have varying working hours, it can be challenging to coordinate teamwork and collaboration.
- Professional development: Changing schedules can also impede employees’ ability to participate in training, workshops or educational opportunities that could enhance their skills and career prospects.
- Work engagement: Employees who feel their working schedules are inflexible or disorganized may become disengaged from their work. This can lead to absenteeism and turnover.
- Retention and turnover: Inflexible and ad hoc working patterns can result in higher turnover rates as employees seek more accommodating opportunities elsewhere.
- Communication and feedback: Inconsistent working hours can make it difficult for managers to provide timely feedback and support to their employees.
- Perceived fairness: If employees perceive that working schedules are assigned unfairly or that some employees receive preferential treatment, it can erode trust within the organization.
Leveraging an automated, intelligent scheduling solution that enables you to create employee working patterns and schedules that are flexible to reflect both employee and business needs while also being accurate, prompt, compliant and reliable can have significant positive outcomes on employee satisfaction, decreased churn and overall reduced costs.
In a highly competitive market, retailers that prioritize task management gain a significant advantage in delivering a seamless and satisfying shopping experience to their customers.
From a workforce management perspective, retailers can sometimes focus too much of their effort on labor planning and scheduling, with the systems and processes that manage the “what and when” being somewhat neglected. Solutions that are used to deliver this functionality can be unintuitive and difficult for employees and managers to interact with, leading to a lack of adoption and employee engagement.
The other significant failing of systems that manage tasks is their standalone nature. Their inability to provide complete integration with a scheduling solution means that corners can be cut, and processes are not managed with as much detail as required.
Benefit from a complete and integrated workforce management platform that extends to delivering comprehensive, user-friendly task management. This integrated facility means that your managers access both scheduling and task-based requirements in one system, giving you real-time control of day-to-day issues, improved adoption and ultimately reduced cost.
Comprehensive employee and management engagement tools
Every day, people around the globe are accustomed to using technology to gain immediate access to information on any subject quickly and easily. It is therefore sometimes frustrating that this same level of accessibility is not available when it comes to information and resources that are needed as part of an employee’s work life.
A recent study conducted by Retail Week in conjunction with Logile highlighted a number of common issues faced by retail employees in the UK. The feedback from this survey identified that 29% of employees found that communication from the business was ineffective, 14% found it difficult to keep up with the digital transformations taking place in their business, and 19% felt anxiety about these changes.
While technology alone cannot alleviate 100% of the issues faced by retailers, it is imperative to empower the connected worker and provide both your business and your employees with the right tools as well as access to information, guidance and resources that make their daily work lives easier. A proper communication and rollout strategy combined with real-time, mobile, transparent solutions to view and manage work messages, schedules, availability and tasks, make requests, consult resources and more, set an essential foundation to operational success, employee engagement and retention.
Integrated time and attendance
One of the most everyday yet under-managed issues faced by businesses of all shapes and sizes is payroll accuracy. All too often the systems and processes used to manage employee working hours create exceptions that must be managed by both front- and back-office users and have a significant and negative impact on the working morale of your employees. Indeed, the frustrations that employees have with the accuracy of their pay packet is one of the main reasons that they look for alternative employment.
This impact is felt even more acutely in the retail sector with a higher turnover of employees in general, much more complex working patterns and numerous contractual agreements.
For this reason, integrated workforce management systems are more important than ever. While a retailer can have the most well managed and accurate schedules, this will not eliminate the requirement for an accurate and functional time and attendance system. Incorporate an integrated time and attendance solution which links seamlessly with your automated scheduling module and links with third-party payroll systems to give you the control, confidence and accuracy that modern forward-thinking retailers demand.
In the retail industry, access to key performance indicators (KPIs), dashboards and visual representations of data is paramount. These tools provide invaluable insights into sales trends, inventory management, customer behavior and overall business performance. With real-time access to KPIs and intuitive dashboards, retail businesses can make informed decisions swiftly, adapt to market fluctuations and optimize their operations. Visual representations of data simplify complex information, making it easier for teams at all levels to quickly grasp critical insights.
This data-driven approach not only enhances strategic planning but also enables retailers to deliver a more tailored and satisfying customer experience. In today’s competitive retail landscape, leveraging KPIs and data visualization is not just advantageous – it’s a necessity for staying agile, responsive and successful.
Industry-leading reporting capabilities within an integrated system allow you to analyze forecasting, scheduling and their execution quickly, easily and visually, and reinvest that data in the planning/modeling and WFM optimization process. Integrated modules eliminate the requirement for data to be exported to other systems for modeling purposes. Providing access to this integrated information allows retailers to identify problems, respond quickly and ultimately mitigate issues which impact profitability.
Integration with third parties and working alongside existing systems
In the modern retail world, a multitude of specialized tools and software systems are used for various functions like inventory management, point of sale, e-commerce, customer relationship management and analytics. Integrating these disparate systems with any new workforce management solution is essential for creating a seamless and efficient retail ecosystem.
Successful integration delivers operational efficiency, enhances the customer experience, and empowers retailers to make data-driven decisions, making it a critical component of any retail software implementation strategy.
For the best implementation experience, flexibility and versatility, look for a provider whose modules have all been designed to work in conjunction with any existing tools you might have in place.
The number one reason that customers look to change solution providers is in some way, shape or form related to a breakdown in the customer/provider relationship. This can be for numerous reasons but usually relates back to how effective the provider performs in ensuring that the software used by their customer is optimized continually through the lifetime of the product.
This boils down to either issues with solution support or the functionality of the software itself. Effective customer relationship management mitigates both issues by 1) focusing efforts on dealing with support issues quickly and efficiently, and 2) ongoing communication with the customer to understand their changing requirements and how that affects the development cycle for new functionality (standard or bespoke).
While it is commonly known that a happy customer is likely to extend and expand their relationship with their supplier, it is not necessarily something that all solution providers make a priority.
A solution provider led and staffed by individuals who have worked directly for major retailers will be intimately aware of the potential customer relationship failings of software suppliers and can channel that experience into going above and beyond when dealing with customer support issues. They can also identify from firsthand experience functional improvements that can reduce costs and generally make retail life easier for their customers.
In conclusion, optimal performance will depend upon all of the above 10 factors working together in synchronicity as a start. If your organization is encountering WFM challenges, a good solution provider can help in identifying where the weaknesses lie and help you address them. The best experts can help define the best processes required – bespoke to your wider vision and aspirations – to ensure they help strengthen and solidify your future organizational success.