AWinning Proposition


Today’s shoppers are more demanding than ever, putting new pressure on retailers to make the best use of labor hours and the talent of store-level employees. As a result, more and more retailers are using workforce management solutions. Such tools can not only help chains increase the productivity and efficiency of their workforce, but also position themselves for future growth.

This was the message delivered in “Enterprise Workforce Management: Redefining the Boundaries of Customer-Centric Retailing,” a study released by Retail Systems Research, Miami, and sponsored by RedPrairie.

The study makes clear that the most successful retailers understand that unproductive work practices do not help employees satisfy customer needs. As a result, they have shifted their priorities. Rather than optimizing technology to improve labor productivity and reduce labor costs to match economic conditions, smart retailers are using WFM modules to empower store-level staff and provide an exceptional shopping experience, even in a recession. The only way to accomplish this task is to take into account an entire staff’s talent and become more flexible when deploying labor.

WFM solutions have expanded beyond basic time and attendance and now include scheduling, budgeting, forecasting, task management, workload planning and even engineered labor standards in warehouses. Yet, there is a clear divide when it comes to the modules that are being utilized by successful retailers compared with those who are struggling to match workforces and customer service, according to the study.

By having a more optimized deployment of labor, or using solutions to place the right associates in the right positions and having their expertise available on the sales floor at the optimal times, 81% of chains reported they have achieved operational cost improvements.

According to the report, effective retailers understand that WFM must be used to drive revenue. “Successful retailers have already taken the risk and invested in this concept. As the economy improves, more chains will also make the move,” the report said.

Knowing the value of a solution’s functionality is half the battle. The key is to create a budget for it. For example, 64% of retailers consider forecasting to be a valuable component within WFM solutions, and 64% of chains also have it installed. Yet, the study revealed that only 14% of other chains have a budget for the technology.

Similarly, 49% of chains know how valuable task management is, yet 46% use the solution. Worse, a mere 15% plan to allocate IT funds to add the solution. As more chains learn about the potential opportunities task management provides, these statistics will change for the better.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • The technology matters. Given the reach of WFM solutions over the broadest number of employees, interfaces must be easy and intuitive and conform closely to commonly used tools such as a common browser. In other words: The chosen solution must be easier to use than to avoid.

  • An integrated view of the WFM portfolio is a must.

“While time and attendance, time-keeping hardware, budgeting and forecasting may be the most adopted technologies today, decision-makers need to consider today’s needs as well as tomorrow’s,” the report noted. “WFM should have a broad set of capabilities, and it’s important to have an integrated view of all of the suite’s functionality.”

The multifaceted relationship between these workforce-related capabilities underlines the reality that retail itself is a complex collection of people, products and services that work together to address consumer needs.

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