How to Navigate Labor Shortages in 2022 with Strategic Scheduling

There’s no question that the biggest challenge faced by retailers today is a shortage in labor. In wireless retail especially, where access to knowledgeable and talented sales associates is crucial to the success of the business, it’s more imperative than ever to find creative ways to operate leanly yet effectively.

Here are five initiatives to consider in 2022 to help optimize your workforce:

1. Embrace Automation

Scheduling employees for shifts is tedious and time-consuming and remains a major pain point for both employees and managers. Both matching staffing to demand and scheduling were among the top workforce management challenges identified in the Retail Touchpoints 2021 Store Operations Benchmark Survey at 43% and 42% respectively.

Moving to automated scheduling can go a long way to alleviate this pain. When you automate scheduling, you reduce labor costs and free up time to focus on tasks that improve the customer experience and grow the business. For example, let’s say you have 10 stores, and it takes your managers about three hours every week to plan the schedule for each store. If their average hourly wage is $20, your business could save more than $27,000 each year on labor spending just by automating the scheduling process. Moreover, that’s 120 hours freed up for your managers to spend on growth-related tasks such as training staff or being on the sales floor.

2. Adopt Demand-Driven AND Performance-Based Schedules

Moving to automated scheduling doesn’t mean that you leave your labor strategy at the door. Data-driven forecasting functionality enables you to schedule smarter than ever before. You’ll be able to match staffing needs against specific demand drivers, like sales or foot traffic projections, to ensure you produce the most optimized schedule every time. Shifts will be assigned considering employee availability, risk of overtime or overlapping shifts, and other custom rules like breaks.

To gain a competitive edge, choose a scheduling platform that also factors in employee performance data. With a performance-based scheduling system, you can identify your top-performing sales associates and put them on the schedule during peak hours. In many cases, these sales associates have the most experience and have a great deal of knowledge about your brand, services, and products and will be able to help customers most effectively.

3. Re-Focus on Enhancing the Employee Experience

While working in a retail store has never been a particularly easy job, the challenges have grown considerably over the past two years. COVID-19 has added an extra layer of stress and new responsibilities for retail associates.

Since scheduling has a direct impact on an employee’s job satisfaction, retailers should consider investing in a more advanced scheduling solution to help improve their employee’s work-life balance.

Workforce management solutions that enable employees to access their schedules and request changes remotely through a mobile app, and that use AI to create smart schedules that align with consumer demand and employee preferences go a long way in alleviating scheduling stressors for both retail associates and managers.

4. Leverage Breaks More Strategically

 Not only do breaks help optimize for slow times during the day, but they also stretch out your scheduling pattern to cover the hours that matter most. Take a step back and look at your break data and patterns.  Are your teams actually taking breaks or are they just rushing out of the store an hour earlier each day?

The companies that we onboard typically have a range of between 10% of shifts with breaks being taken to 75%. (The difference in one store between 10% and 75% is nearly $10k of labor per store per year that could be eliminated or re-distributed to better times for customers).

Enforcing that break be taken during slower times during the day (labor laws permitting) goes a long way in helping to ensure that you’ll have proper coverage when sales tend to pick up later in the day and that you won’t miss out on potential sales.

Interested in learning more about how Shiftlab’s strategic scheduling solution can help your business? Sign up for a demo today! You can also get a free, no-obligation, 30-day trial. Find out more.