It’s no secret to retailers that the rush of holiday peak season shopping is steadily increasing. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales increased 5.5 percent in 2017, reaching an all-time high.
While this increasing shopper demand is good for the bottom line, it can spell labor management challenges for retailers. Unemployment is at a 17-year low, causing a shortage of qualified hourly workers and leading retailers to struggle with hiring and retention, specifically during the holiday season. Combined with longer store hours, peak season struggles can often have retailers in a tailspin.
That’s where advanced technology comes into play. Using workforce management technology can help make the holiday season smoother for you, your employees and, ultimately, your customers. Consider these tips for improving your workforce management during peak season:
1. Evaluate your current processes.
Before you can determine the best technology to help you manage your peak season workforce, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate where your workforce processes currently stand.
Take a look at your communications, scheduling processes and employee satisfaction. By determining your pain points up front, you can determine the workforce management software that will best aid your retail operations, especially during peak season.
Though low unemployment in the U.S. is a good problem to have, it does decrease the pool of individuals willing and able to work hourly, and potentially temporary, positions. To compete, many retailers are changing the way they work, adding perks and benefits to draw and retain the best and most competent employees.
Ensuring there's clear and open communication between management and employees is a good way to show current and potential workers that you're investing in them. Comprehensive workforce management software can help you do this, while also making the scheduling process easier and better for both employees and management.
Evolving laws can make communication and time management compliance a very real threat to the success of your operations. Technology can help you follow your state’s employee communications laws and maintain compliant interactions with your employees. It can also help you adequately manage overtime, overdue breaks, and scheduling restrictions for your employees — both long term and temporary.
2. Determine what technology is the right fit.
Now that you’ve identified what areas need to be addressed by workforce management technology, it’s time to determine the most important attributes to look for in software.
Many retailers recognize the necessity of workforce management software, though some struggle to fully adopt the technology needed to optimize processes. According to a study from RIS and Gartner, 39.2 percent of retailers have up-to-date technology in place for labor scheduling and optimization. However, 16.5 percent have started to implement this technology but have failed to finish implementation.
As the chaos of peak season approaches, you don’t want to implement technology that’s going to take months of training and implementation. Ease of use is a quality not to be overlooked. You may have a broad age range among your hourly employees, so it’s important to ensure that whatever technology you implement can be easily adopted and widely used by all employees, no matter their age or skill set.
3. Have a method to the madness.
Though the holiday shopping season means more business for retailers, it also means more challenges with finding, retaining and communicating with employees. Preparation in advance of peak season is key to keeping up with the chaos, and maintaining employee satisfaction to boot.
By identifying your pain points from the beginning, you can better evaluate technology options to help you optimize processes, communicate effectively and remain compliant. As peak season arrives, your retail operations will not only survive the madness, but thrive.
Eddie Starke is chief customer success officer at OpenSimSim, a free employee scheduling solution.
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