For any retailer, labor management is a fundamental part of daily store operations and should be treated as an important business strategy that requires creativity and insight. But overworked store managers and a lack of data can mean employee scheduling is treated as a cookie-cutter task, rather than a key piece of the operation requiring thought, strategy, and effective planning to produce the highest ROI. Standardizing the scheduling process creates a shocking number of labor hours clocked by employees that result in zero sales . This fact is particularly galling in a time when the retail sector is suffering severe employee shortages.
Analysis of historical sales data, compared with workforce schedules bears this out. One metric that is helpful to look at is unproductive hours. On average, companies began using the Shiftlab offering in 2020 had more than 50% of labor hours clocked during times with zero sales volume. Results from these clients ranged from 70% of labor hours being unproductive downtime to 30% for some companies that were super optimized.
Here are five solutions for maximizing staff scheduling efficiency:
Generic nine-to-five shift types are not built for retail, where stores are open into the evening and there is a post-work-day customer rush. If your employees are just placing eight-hour shifts where they want to work , that won’t result optimally for the retailer. Instead of churning out the same workforce scheduling patterns, take a fresh look at what will work best for your store. The way to think about scheduling is to look at the data to understand your busy days and times and maximize coverage when you need it. For example, we see our best managers place shorter shifts on slow days — like from 9am to 3pm on a Tuesday, for example. This means that the manager can extend that employee’s coverage on a busy Friday or Saturday, from 10am to 8pm, where the sales volume is likely to be higher.
Optimizing store hours
As data people, we love analyzing detailed sales and traffic metrics and providing our customers with a calculated decision on their store hours. Looking at this information is essential, as it not only affects your labor’s productivity but also is the foundation for the staff shifts that you’re creating. For example, a store that is open from 9am to 8pm often has staff shifts that are 9am to 5pm. But when you examine most stores’ sales patterns, you might see that 9am isn’t productive, and an associate leaving at 5pm is the worst time, as you are about to see a post-work-day rush of customers. A simple switch to opening at 10am would scoot those employee shifts, providing you better coverage while likely reducing labor costs.
Using the right employees
It’s not just about having coverage at the right times, but also have the right coverage. In the hospitality business, for example, switching out one bartender’s shift with another might not make a difference to drink sales. But in commission-based retail sectors, such as telecom, the sales associate who is on shift during high-sales hours can make a big difference. Especially when shortages of staff members can result in having inexperienced associates on staff, it is crucial to have your top performers working when you really need them. A powerful workforce management solution will enable you to schedule your top sales performer at the strategic times when they will make the biggest impact, so that you can get the best experience and the times the matter the most.
Leveraging employee breaks
Break percentages are hard to calculate. Are your team members taking their allotted breaks, or are they just slipping out of the store an hour earlier each day? The retailers we work with typically have between 10% and 75% of shifts where breaks are being taken — a wide range. 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. There’s so much downtime in the middle of the day, if you can schedule your associate to take a lunch break at a strategic time instead of leaving early, then you don’t negatively affect customer service and you get to keep that person in the store for longer, which is important for a lean retailer. Consider this: the difference between 10% and 75% is nearly $10,000 of labor per store per year that could be eliminated or redistributed to busier times.
Using an intelligent, flexible, data-driven scheduling tool
Too often, retail operators are compromising their workforce scheduling based on using a cumbersome tool that is not designed to be adaptable. It’s important to use a flexible system that’s highly configurable, so that you can use the strategy that works for your specific store locations, and the tool simply executes this for you. This tool also needs to allow you to scale for the size of your retail operations without losing its adaptability, so even if you are a cruise-ship-sized retail organization, you can make strategic moves like a jet ski. The right workforce management tool relies on data to thrive. Now that Shiftlab has been acquired by iQmetrix, which offers advanced data and reporting in its market-leading retail management system, we can build integrations that will create even more intelligent workforce scheduling and a seamless client experience.
Especially in retail, the management of store operations and scheduling creates a major difference in your guest experience and your profit optimization. A couple of tweaks in any of the categories above naturally eliminates unproductive hours and ultimately gives your customers a much better experience.
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