Advances in technology are enabling the retail industry to more effectively forecast and schedule their workforce. Effective workforce management has never been more critical to the retail sector due to the competitive nature of the industry and the necessity to control operating costs. As the workforce is the single largest controllable expense for retail, labour is often a key driver to financial success or otherwise.
Today’s Integrated Workforce Management (WFM) Solutions give retailers the tools and processes they need to balance the high cost of labour, tight budgets, variable staffing needs, complex labour laws and union agreements without putting customer loyalty, compliance, employee satisfaction, or profitability at risk.
Workforce Challenges in Retail
Retailers face the following 5 challenges;
(1) Forecasting customer demand
(2) Determining employee supply based on this demand
(3) Employee scheduling
(4) Real-time adjustment of these schedules as required
(5) Satisfying budget requirements and constraints
Challenge 1 – Forecasting customer demand
Forecasting customer demand in retail has always been challenging due to the many external factors that affect footfall. Factors such as seasonal demand, promotional activity and competitor activity are just a few that springs to mind. However, in today’s economic environment it’s even more challenging - as customer spending continues to be restrained, retailers big and small are facing major challenges.
Challenge 2 – Determining employee supply based on this demand
The second challenge is calculating the number of employees that are required to meet the demand forecasted. Ensuring that you have the correct number of employees, with the right skills during a specific time period, is very challenging as both overstaffing and understaffing are costly mistakes.
Challenge 3 – Employee scheduling
The third challenge is to create the actual work schedule. For this you are trying the balance the needs of the business with the desires of the employees. It’s not good enough anymore to just copy last month’s schedule – not if you want to develop, motivate and retain your best employees. A happy workforce creates a shopping experience that is profitable for retailers and satisfying for customers.
Challenge 4 – Real-time adjustment of these schedules as required
The fourth challenge involves changing the schedule as needed in real-time due to actual demand, to ensure you have optimum customer service. Today’s most successful retailers are reacting to changes with speed and precision. Responding to variable customer demand remains a fundamental mission in the retail sector.
Challenge 5 - Satisfying budget requirements and constraints
The final challenge is to ensure the business is profitable. Managers making daily call-in decisions need to appreciate the effect their immediate actions will have on the performance of the overall budget.
How Workforce Management Solutions can meet these challenges
Modern Integrated WFM Solutions manage the complex balance of workforce supply and customer demand. Sustaining this fine balance requires precise daily operations. Agile employee scheduling, time and attendance and analytical insight empower retailers to optimise their workforce and make changes in response to internal and external changes.
They empower retailers to understand and react to revenue patterns in their business by managing labour costs. By automating workforce management processes you are eliminating error prone paper-based schedules and excel spread-sheets along with time consuming administrative tasks. With a WFM solution allocating resources where and when they are needed is easily achieved via innovative automated scheduling tools. This allows managers to work within predefined budget allocations and optimise schedules accordingly. It also means they can keep a close eye on overtime, absenteeism and other unplanned costs.
If retailers are to meet all five challenges they must eliminate inefficiencies and more accurately schedule employees. This transformation of workforce management will allow retailers to reduce unnecessary costs and payments, improve productivity and efficiency and ensure a consistent and superior customer experience. Armed with the latest Workforce Management technology, meeting these challenges is 100% attainable.