As retailers continue to work to cut costs without sacrificing customer service, workforce management systems have come under new scrutiny. Chains across all categories are analyzing existing solutions, and many have found opportunities for improvement in terms of managing labor, maximizing compliance and improving workforce productivity.
Senior editor Katherine Field talked with Liz Moughan, senior manager of retail marketing for Kronos Inc., about workforce management trends and solutions and how retailers can shore up this key area of their business.
What do retailers most need to address with regard to workforce management technology?
In order to provide superior customer satisfaction, retailers need to control labor costs, minimize compliance risks and improve workforce productivity.
Labor costs are any retailer’s largest variable and most controllable expense. Long operating hours, complex scheduling issues, disjointed budgeting processes and employee turnover can erode service quality and ultimately profitability. Managers are continuously juggling budgets and priorities to ensure the right mix of staff, availability and skills to consistently deliver the best possible customer experience.
Retailers are able to use workforce management technology to help control labor costs by matching labor to customer demand. They are able to increase the accuracy of corporate sales and labor planning, eliminate payroll inflation, reduce employee turnover and improve overall organizational visibility and control.
With regard to compliance, although the actions of individual managers can figure prominently, the common denominator across most labor-law compliance cases is poor record-keeping. A holistic workforce management process can automate and document error-prone administrative processes including timekeeping, work-rule enforcement, attendance tracking and leave management.
Under normal conditions, the combination of sales growth and cost reduction is a magic bullet. When costs decrease as a percentage of sales, profitability increases and provides fuel for further investment. But what cannot be seen cannot be measured or improved, especially in a difficult economic climate. A standardized approach to workforce management improves organizational visibility and control of managing labor costs to sales.
What do you see as most lacking, in general, in retailers’ workforce management solutions?
The top two areas where many workforce management solutions are lacking are integration and ease of use.
While all retailers know that superior customer service is the key to reaching their objectives, many are falling short. Controlling labor costs, minimizing compliance risks and improving workforce productivity too often are seen as separate, difficult projects. While many workforce management solutions rely on third parties for some crucial piece of implementation, feature set or an entire product, today’s most successful retailers know to rely on one vendor for all of their workforce management needs.
In addition, an integrated workforce management solution allows for a single source of truth. As information about the workforce is needed to fuel processes and decisions across the organization, keeping this information centralized and synchronized is critical. And finally, integration allows for a fast, low-cost and predictable implementation that saves time and money.
How will new technologies impact retailers?
Based on the fundamental belief that workforce management doesn’t have to be so hard — in that retailers don’t need to sacrifice ease of use for functionality — the next generation of workforce management from Kronos for Retail is designed around three unique capabilities: instant engagement, guided decisions and complete control.
For example, one of Kronos’ next-generation features, the revolutionary new user interface, engages users by providing them with the tools they need in one dashboard. By leveraging Kronos’ rich set of work rules, it identifies workforce-related issues and guides frontline managers to appropriate resolutions.
Another example is the Mobile Scheduler, which enables managers to broadcast a text message to the mobile devices of employees who are qualified to fill an open shift. Once an employee accepts the shift, it is automatically assigned, and a second message notifies employees that the shift has been filled. Meanwhile, the work schedule is automatically updated in the Kronos scheduling application.