If you are like most retailers, you have implemented a workforce management system to help forecast workload, automate schedule creation and track your associates’ time. And, if you’re like most retailers, you are less than satisfied with your workforce management system. The software works, just not as well as you hoped. Managers are spending more time rewriting and editing schedules than you expected. If you’re one of the lucky few that is satisfied with your WFM system, you are probably still wondering how you can get more out of it. What can be done?
The key to successful WFM is to think outside the box…the software box, that is. When we think about WFM as just software, we fall into two traps. The first trap is the Formula for Failure. Most retailers only automate their old process of creating schedules. Sure, they allow some of the software do the heavy lifting and complex calculations, but they try to force the software through customization or other trickery to create the same schedule they had before rather than let the system write a better schedule. The second trap occurs after the software is deployed. Once deployed, the business changes but the software’s configuration stays static. New products are introduced, new store formats are created; older stores are reset; new technologies and processes are introduced to stores, and customer behavior changes. All of this change effects both the work your associates do in the stores and their schedules. Still, while all this change is going on, the WFM system is left relatively untouched. As a result, the forecast and schedule that is produced by the system does not reflect today’s version of the business but how the business was when the software was deployed.
The key to avoiding these traps is to recognize that workforce management is more than a software solution. It is a retail discipline, just like merchandising or the supply chain. And that control consists of a collection of business practices intended to help organize the workforce to best serve customers through increased productivity, legal compliance and cost containment. In this context, there are four components to a complete workforce management model:
By thinking about WFM holistically, retailers are armed with a framework to operationalize the way that people work and the way that work is measured throughout a retail organization. However, the framework is just the first step. The second is to remember that WFM is as dynamic as your business. Your WFM strategy needs to flex with your corporate strategy and your customers. Your labor model needs to evolve as your stores change whether that is due to store resets, new processes or tasks, and new technology. The way you engage your people will evolve with your customer engagement and customer experience plans. All of this needs to be reflected and kept up to date in your WFM software’s configuration. The software itself will remain relatively static (you’ll upgrade it occasionally, but you will not replace it as your WFM strategy changes), but the software’s configuration will change with your business.
Adopting a holistic, dynamic model for WFM provides a solid foundation for successful long-term labor management. It avoids traps such as the Formula for Failure, unchains managers from their desks and bakes authenticity into the day-to-day interactions between associates and customers. In short, it enables retailers to embrace their workforce as their greatest brand advocates.