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Empowering Retailers with Relevant Workforce Software, Services
In my previous post, I discussed how legacy workforce management software and the old-school consulting approach to its use, often did not take into account the added variable of diminishing customer service quality that often accompanies supposed increased efficiency. In this post, I’ll further discuss how overly engineered standards do not really improve retailer performance and start to discuss ways to improve.
There is no doubt that engineered work standards and time-task studies do offer benefit for retail store operations. All retailers need to have a level of work standards that allows them to gain insight into the right amounts of workload and store coverage they need, given the service quality levels they desire. This benefit comes from the insight that comes from the aggregate, average figures that engineered work standards yield, such as targets for Sales per Associate Hour (SPH) or Traffic per Associate Hour (TPH), to name a few. Yet, the marginal benefit diminishes and decreases with increased levels of granularity. As engineered standards move from aggregates that apply to entire retail departments or operations to discreet estimates for the length required to complete myriad individual daily tasks, information is lost due to unavoidable variability and rounding.
As a result, fewer factors can be considered, and information is less meaningful. Ironically, such increased granularity is synonymous with engineered work standards exercises, and is less valuable because it does not provide enough useful business information and approach to optimally deploy a human workforce.
As employees work more quickly, their stress levels can increase and they stop treating customers as well. Therefore, it is ineffective to base scheduling solely on point‐of‐sale data, as this ignores customer retention and conversion of traffic to sales.
Instead, the dated notion of bottoms-up, zero-based budgeting based on time-task standards, drivers, sophisticated forecasting gyrations, and reconciliation with top-down organizational goals remains misaligned and needlessly expensive. It ignores employee and customer needs, and therefore leaves potential sales and long-term customer retention on the table.
In theory, a retail organization could be most efficient if employees performed 15 minute shifts with mechanical precision and each shift had varying start and end times at all hours of the retail week. Yet, such an approach is clearly unrealistic, impractical, and fails to consider human needs for work-life balance and a rewarding, enjoyable work experience.
Employees have needs that must be met. Although the labor pool is the number one operational expense, employees are the scarcest resource and cannot be managed as though they are machines. The notion of basing scheduling solely according to the variables of shifts, workforce, and labor output is outdated. It does not take into account the deployment policies and skills that are required for the quality, consistent service that is necessary to convert traffic into sales and drive customer loyalty.
In my next post, I’ll show how improvements in workforce management software truly help retailers better manage their employees and increase business performance.