Retailers’ margin pressures – whether competitive, economic, social, political, or legislative – don’t take a summer break.  As a result, retailers look to the stores to recapture those margins.  Historically, staff reductions have met the wage percentage, but we have all experienced the down-side impact on service quality and conversion.  While the reasons and approaches have evolved, workforce management (WFM) continues to play a major role in streamlining store operations, especially during back-to-school and other major seasonal peaks.

Keep up-to-date and sustainable

Implementing schedule, operational, and hour and wage policies is critical to reduce the risks of litigation and to ensure there are predictable and fair policies in place for an improved work-life balance for associates.

The ACA, Healthy Families Act, FMLA, the Retail Employee Bill of Rights, and the standard state hour and wage laws need to be properly interpreted and, of course, kept up-to-date.  Many older HCM solutions still have redundant hour and wage rules and settings that exist in one place for time & attendance, another place for scheduling, and yet another place for payroll –  a recipe for disaster and increased risk to the company and to the scheduled associate.

Most current-day solutions come with a comprehensive rules library already configured and compliant.  Combined with an automated update service that proactively provides the latest news and resources, best practices from HR professionals, and links to state and federal employment law, retailers are able to stay ahead of the legislation and comply.

Balance the culture with the science

A retailer’s culture impacts how they schedule and treat associates. Associate engagement leads to improved performance and profitability because associates that feel the provision of caring extend that care to their work and customer service.

Taking a pure science approach to scheduling doesn’t lead to ROI or close the traditional disconnect between bottoms-up engineering with fiscal governance. In addition, associates experience a down-grade in their position and feel that they are simply machines.  Leading retailers put a culture in place that upgrades the importance and work-life of the associate and support it with the appropriate systems and approach.

To be fair and predictable also means eliminating the old practices of “call-in/off” shifts which keep associates on edge and unable to properly plan outside of work.  Unpredictability and unfairness are a result of improper scheduling solutions and poor planning.  Better planning eliminates the need for call-ins, and better scheduling solutions are built with predictability and fairness at their core.  Planning, modeling distributing, covering, and assigning properly will alleviate many issues retailers and their associates experience today.

Prepare for the higher traffic times while remaining efficient and fair

For some retailers, the season that starts with Black Friday can account for 60-80% of their annual revenue, so it is important to be prepared.  If mall-based, the hours of operation may be dictated.  It is important to ensure that those operating hours are kept up-to-date as the HCM systems typically rely upon those settings in planning and scheduling.

Special days and periods are also critical to proper planning for predictability and fairness. Since the hours of operations are often different, volumes and shapes of traffic and business curves can vary drastically from the norm.  Again, proper planning eliminates the need for “Plan B – call in shifts.” Concentrating management and associates on peak periods/power hours and on the performance of the store in terms of sales, traffic, conversion, SPH, UPT, AUR, and other primary indicators helps keep the operation honest and associates focused on how to efficiently deliver to the targets and goals.

New and derived key performance indicators help associates see how well they are covering the floor, how well they are serving customer demands, how well they are managing the budgets, and to what degree they reinforce and consistently deliver on the brand promise and operational standards.  As a result, they are better prepared, more confident, and achieve a sense of higher purpose in what they do – which is extremely important.

Store associates drive revenue by delivering predictable service quality.  Associates want, need, and desire that same extension of predictability to their work schedules.  As Sam Walton once said, “Take care of the employees, the employees will take care of the customer, and the business will take care of itself.”  Using these three tips improves the associate experience and enables retailers to thrive during seasonal demands.