Your Best Year Ever: How to schedule strategically during the holidays

This is a guest blog written by Shiftlab, a workforce management solutions provider that is a part of the iQmetrix company of ecosystems.

2021 U.S. holiday retail sales are expected to surpass last year’s total, potentially growing by double digits. The National Retail Federation (NRF) projects November and December retail sales of $843.4 billion to $859 billion, up 8.5% to 10.5% from 2020 results. 

What’s more, in 2021, as vaccination campaigns accelerate in the U.S. and worldwide, consumers are much more likely to shop in person. A third of U.S. adults will make a holiday purchase in person in 2021—for those who are 55 and older, that share rises to 54%, according to Imobi.

As a wireless retailer, this is all great news for your business! But with all the expected increased in-store traffic, a key initiative to maximizing your profits this holiday season should be scheduling your staff strategically. Not only will this mean your customers are always supported, but effective schedule planning ensures your staff’s skills are being put to good use.

Shiftlab isn’t just experts in scheduling, we’re passionate about helping telecom retailers improve staffing to see increased success. That’s why our team wrote this blog! To help you make strategic scheduling decisions, here are our 5 top tips for upping your scheduling game during the holidays.

1. Be proactive and collaborative

An unpredictable work schedule (especially over the holidays) can be challenging for retail staff. As employee retention is more important than ever, you want to ensure that you schedule post-holiday shift schedules as far in advance as possible.

 Make sure to include your district managers in the scheduling process, since they have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to unique staffing needs for their regions. Get them involved early to review schedules so they can identify any potential issues before they become real for in-store staff. Some of our clients find it helpful to use the Shiftlab schedule locking and approval features so that November and December are locked down, schedule-wise, and all changes need to flow through leadership so everyone stays in the loop. 

2. Schedule based on performance

To take full advantage of the increase in foot traffic and provide the best customer experience possible during the holidays, you want to ensure you have your best people working the busiest shifts.

There are a lot of moving pieces to consider when trying to produce a performance-based schedule, from sales data to traffic data to employee performance metrics. When using a tool like Shiftlab, all the analysis is done for you. This platform is integrated with RQ to pull POS and time and attendance data to schedule your staff at ideal times that maximize your ROI and increase profit per employee by up to 4%.

3. Use artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize your schedules

This year’s holiday season will likely differ from previous years in a number of ways, which could mean it is harder to predict demand for your stores. However, despite any uncertainty, forecasting remains a crucial piece to producing optimized schedules. Luckily, AI-backed solutions like Shiftlab are available to retailers to help ensure they get it right.

Devin Shrake, co-founder and CEO of Shiftlab, says that AI takes the guesswork out of forecasting. “Historic data can’t tell you everything you need to know about future demand fluctuations. Instead, accurate forecasts will come from AI-driven algorithms that can learn from other schedules and stores,” he says. “There is a ton of data you can use to calibrate your schedules for the holiday season. With the help of AI, you can draw actionable insights from that data much quicker than you’d be able to with traditional business intelligence techniques. Retailers need to use that to their advantage this holiday season. With Shiftlab’s predictive forecasting, our clients are achieving scheduling accuracy of 97% and greater.”

4. Set your staff up with the right tools

Retail has had famously high turnover rates even during non-pandemic times, but now the importance of employee retention is stronger than ever. Employers need to hold onto the staff they have to manage the sales floor during the holiday season. Anything you can do to help make things easier for your staff will act as a retention tactic and keeping employees satisfied and selling when your store is at peak capacity is a huge win. Using a tool like Shiftlab shows our staff that you’re willing to go above and beyond to make their time with your business a positive one. By equipping store associates with an easy-to-use mobile app, they can quickly have access to their schedules, who they’re working with, and how they’re performing. It’s just the thing to keep employees happily engaged and motivated to sell And between Shiftlab’s mobile app and RQmobile, sales staff have everything they need to stay organized and serve customers with ease.

And lastly, this is our top piece of advice when it comes to scheduling:
5. Treat the whole year like you treat the holiday season

If retailers gave scheduling this much attention year-round, it would have a major impact on cost optimization.

Whether you are looking to implement a scheduling solution before the holiday season or looking ahead to 2022, choosing a tool like Shiftlab can drastically improve employee engagement and store ROI. Shiftlab automates your scheduling so you can focus on other areas of the business. Make better schedules faster, auto-populate work schedules with just one click, and create millions of complex schedule combinations that consider your current labor strategy—all within seconds. Shiftlab places the right people, in the right role, at the right time, every time.

If you’re looking for even more ways to improve scheduling to boost revenue this holiday season, be sure to read the complete holiday scheduling guide from Shiftlab. Their experts break down exactly what makes an efficient and effective holiday strategy that spurs staff to work their hardest through the season (and beyond).

Get the Holiday Scheduling Guide