Retailers’ top workforce management challenges
Labor management is a perennial retail challenge, and it’s become even trickier given the evolving nature of consumer and employee behavior today.
The ROI Impact of Intelligent Labor Management:
How Retailers Are Empowering Frontline Employees
Intelligent tools can provide retailers with clarity on how best to schedule workers and manage in-store workload, delivering granular insights to create cost savings, drive employee engagement and efficiency, and deliver an amazing customer experience.
Let’s explore six ways intelligent labor solutions can assist retailers in an ever-shifting landscape.
Boost Associate Performance
Workers on the sales floor spend much of their time on reactive duties, including:
These can be difficult to optimize individually. They’re also hard to complete efficiently for employees who are new to the task or those who do the task infrequently. Empowering associates with more real-time visibility into their workflows and providing them with the tools to improve their performance can have a profound effect.
Boosting productivity ultimately comes down to making sure employees
know where they need to be and when. A real-time task management solution on mobile devices can put that information at an employees’ fingertips, creating less waste and driving better results.
Retailers can also improve employee productivity with a behind-the-
scenes intelligent workforce management solution that accounts for all
the variables that matter most in stores, such as sales data, customer
traffic, weather events, supply chain adjustments and factors driven
by local COVID-19 health guidance. Using AI to automatically
blend these disparate — and often difficult-to-predict — elements
into your labor scheduling ensures you have the right number of
associates scheduled at the right time and avoid understaffing.
Align Store Labor With Changing Conditions And Demands
It’s table stakes for retailers to respond quickly to changing conditions. That includes optimizing store labor from a broad level all the way down to individual shifts. And when it comes to increasing efficiency and store-level scheduling, the impacts on in-store staff are significant.
For example, store managers historically spent up to 15 hours per week performing manual tasks related to labor scheduling.
By providing an intelligent automated scheduling solution, these store managers can now develop AI-driven schedules in minutes, optimizing workforce efficiency and stability.
Using AI, retailers can analyze staffing levels against store goals to improve schedules down to a per-shift view based on whether goals are being met and where or when specific skill sets are needed. The blend of past results and future forecasts — all analyzed and applied through automation — deliver the insight needed to optimize store labor as demand and other factors fluctuate.
The time store managers gain back by moving to an automated workforce scheduling platform enables them to focus on higher-value activities, such as:
An AI-driven scheduling solution also facilitates stronger connections between store managers and their employees, with both groups having a better understanding of how they can partner to achieve strong results and complete tasks according to best practices.
Manage Shifting Priorities And Optimize Workflows
In a highly fluid retail landscape, employee workflows vary daily. Retailers must balance fluctuations in curbside order levels against changing in-store foot traffic and waves of incoming calls about product availability. Amid all this, employees need a way to quickly identify and prioritize urgent tasks so they know what they must address now and what can wait until later.
of retailers placed a high value on mobile devices that
alerted employees of BOPIS/
Source: RSR Research, Benchmark report: What Contactless
shopping means for the store, Aug 2021
A real-time task management solution takes that prioritization
out of store associates’ hands, so they no longer spend time
deciding what to tackle next. A quick check of their mobile
device brings up a list of prioritized activities, enabling them
to immediately start the most important task. This reduces
associate frustration and makes them more productive
They get the right information when they need it, with tasks and priorities updated in real time from multiple data feeds:
Boost Employee Engagement With Enhanced Communications
Creating meaningful communication with employees means including frontline managers and store associates in important information-sharing loops. While quickly sharing information is vital to helping employees feel more confident in their roles, retail organizations should be mindful to keep noise to a minimum. An intelligent real-time communications solution can do just that, elevating the information each worker needs and delivering important messages without becoming background chatter.
Distribution lists and templates targeted at specific roles, such as associates and frontline managers, make it possible to direct communications to the relevant employee(s). This ensures that all workers, whether they’re warehouse employees, frontline employees or store managers, are able to get the right information at the right time. The ability to intelligently direct communications based on role and hierarchy allows staff members to remain highly productive and engaged, knowing they’re receiving the priority information they need.
As shoppers try to keep up with changes in their local store and navigate stockouts and other frustrations, retailers should empower their employees to elevate every aspect of the customer experience, including:
Make The In-store Customer Experience
A Competitive Differentiator
The right store-level staffing strategy ensures employees are available to help customers and accomplish priority tasks. Labor schedules created with a focus on efficiency — and with automation to intelligently forecast customer traffic and other factors — are critical to creating an in-store environment where customers can be confident they’ll find the right blend of skills, expertise and associate availability.
It’s also important to get information to associates when and where they need it.
After all, their evolving roles may now include:
• Curbside signage, hours and protocols
• In-store return processes for online purchases
• Mask recommendations
• Social distancing requirements
• Hygiene and sanitation expectations
From updating exterior signage to accommodating increased curbside traffic, a real-time task management solution provides all the information staff members need to complete these activities according to priority level. It also enables them to act quickly and have their work validated back to managers. These capabilities are core components of an engaged workforce, helping employees deliver an excellent customer experience.
EMPOWER EMPLOYEES TO BE YOUR BEST
Retail employees experienced some of the same upheaval in their work and personal lives during the pandemic.
Among their challenges:
Employee morale can suffer when workers’ personal challenges interfere with their focus on helping customers. Unpredictable work schedules
and requests to cover shifts in other store locations also contribute to workers’ stress and may reduce their productivity, too.
Retailers should prioritize supporting their workforce through troubled times so employees can continue being enthusiastic stewards of the
brand. Fortunately, intelligent workforce management and employee
self-service solutions provide a valuable opportunity for retailers
to alleviate the pressure from these difficult circumstances. These
solutions nurture employee engagement, enable productivity,
boost worker loyalty and drive customer satisfaction.
By using employee self-service technology to streamline the process for requesting shift swaps, logging sick time and submitting other information through their mobile devices, employees are less frustrated and can create the schedules that work best for them. Because employees can set their shift preferences through the applications, managers are also freed from manually tracking their specific needs, such as coordinating kids’ return to school or caring for family members. Employees get the schedules they want, and store supervisors get to focus more time on supporting the workforce and improving store metrics.
Send Employee Engagement Soaring
Intelligent labor management is at the heart of employee productivity and engagement, which in turn drives strong store performance. An AI-powered solution that brings together robust communication capabilities, automated task management and powerful workforce scheduling functionality helps to optimize labor scheduling, frees staff from time-consuming manual tools and empowers associates to focus on making the brand a success.
staff to demand
Source: Retail TouchPoints, 2019 Store Operations Benchmark Survey
Responding to shopper requests
Adjusting to demand for curbside services
Filling gaps in other departments
of frontline retail workers said they took on new tasks due to the pandemic… and just 48% reported receiving training for their new activities.
Source: Axonify, Global State of Frontline Employee Training Study, Sep 2020
Research showed that stores with more stable scheduling saw a 7% increase in sales and a 5% increase in labor productivity.
Source: University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School & others, Stable Scheduling Study, 2018
of U.S. retail managers believe poor employee engagement has a large impact on unplanned worker absence.
Source: The Workforce Institute & Kronos Inc., “What Came First: Retail Absenteeism or Low Engagement?” Dec 2018
see a direct correlation
between poor employee engagement
and increased staff turnover.
Fulfillment of a curbside order
Delivery to a customer’s home or business
Assisting shoppers with in-store appointments
of shoppers say the customer experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions.
Source: PwC, “Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right,” Dec 2018
of consumers say a positive brand experience is more influential than great advertising.
Source: PwC, “Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right,” Dec 2018
Helping children participate in distance learning from home
Caring for elderly relatives who are at high risk from COVID-19
Worrying about their health when working in
a public environment
Juggling changing work schedules to accommodate evolving store hours
About Zebra Reflexis
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Zebra (NASDAQ: ZBRA) empowers the front line in retail to achieve a performance edge, delivering industry-tailored, end-to-end solutions to enable every asset and worker to be visible, connected and fully optimized. Refexis Systems (now part of Zebra Technologies), is the leading provider of intelligent workforce management, execution and communication solutions for multi-site retail organizations.
About Zebra Reflexis
Retail TouchPoints and design:retail give all members of the retail world access to a vibrant community that combines insights, inspiration and opportunities to interact with their peers. We sit at theintersection of the art and science of retail strategy, providing granular data, high-value commentary, and aspirational success stories to help readers optimize customer experiences across all channels.Touching all facets of the retail ecosystem, including store experience and design, workforce management, digital marketing and engagement, and omnichannel optimization, our editorial content, multi-media resources and events take timely news and trends and transform them into tactical takeaways that meet the unique needs and priorities of our executive readers.
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