How retailers stay competitive with Workforce Management

Your guide to building a productive workforce

By Fourth|Feb 28, 2023|4:00 am CST

Customers have a wealth of choices on where and how to spend their money, so what makes a consumer choose one retailer over another?

The key differentiator is the customer shopping experience which is impacted by:

Before stock reaches the shelves, retail staff operate day and night receiving, packing, pricing and displaying goods as well as replenishing shelves, rotating stock, removing spoiled goods, and maintaining the store premises.

Inefficiencies and disruption in performing these tasks can greatly impact sales volumes by causing a poor customer shopping experience. Today retailers must effectively drive online shoppers back in-store and increase basket value, by delivering a better shopping experience that meets customer demands. This means having the right number of staff, at the right time, to perform all store operations efficiently and to a high standard.

Traditional methods of scheduling no longer work

In this climate, labor scheduling and budgeting for multiple stores can be challenging due to the unpredictable nature of consumer shopping habits. The traditional methods of annual planning and fixed labor budgeting fails to provide accurate and near real-time forecasting for store managers to deploy staff efficiently, risking understaffing at peak times and increasing staff turnover.

Retailers need to control costs by reducing instances of over-staffing and keeping labor productivity high by avoiding understaffing to increase sales — this involves scheduling staff members efficiently.

Fourth’s automated labor rules, pre-configured to a retailer’s unique operations, calculates the time needed for staff to complete sell and non-sell activities so managers can deploy the optimal number of staff. For sell activities, Fourth’s demand forecasting averages 98% accuracy by analyzing data from POS sales, year-on-year trends, weather, and local events, customized for a retailer’s operations. These capabilities equip store managers with insights to schedule the appropriate number of staff according to where and when they are needed while providing visibility of spare labor capacity that can be deployed to improve labor efficiency across the store.

To analyze labor performance, retail managers have easy access to weekly reports within the scheduling tool. This details labor management indicators, such as actual and forecasted hours across each day, total sales for each day, and performance percentage against the annual fixed labor budget, as well as wage cost calculations for all staff employed throughout the week. This allows store managers to track instances of under or over-staffing and identify opportunities for improvement.

The uncertainty and unpredictability of consumer shopping habits

Competition for the consumer is fierce and even loyal customers can be swayed by competitors offering a better experience. Fluctuating levels of consumer demand could lead to difficulties in staffing stores and controlling labor costs.

While annual labor planning with periodic updates provides a rough guide to recruitment and adequate labor coverage across all stores, it fails to provide agile and accurate forecasting that considers the future variability of customer demand. Equipping local store managers with robust forecasting tools, shaped by near real-time data taken from demand-generating systems, allows managers to schedule their workforce effectively against unexpected changes in customer demand.

Fourth’s AI Forecasting uses machine learning AI-driven algorithms to inform when and where a store should increase or decrease staffing levels. The system detects trends and patterns in customer demand, using historical POS data, and analyses local events that can influence consumer shopping behavior, to predict reliable levels of future customer demand down to 15 minutes for an individual store.

The destabilization of schedules

The retail workforce is largely made up of part-time workers whose schedules vary, with changes often communicated at very little notice. As a result, retailers managing labor budgets stretch staffing levels thinly across stores and control overstaffing by changing staff schedules at short notice.

This widely adopted labor model increases the risk of retailers being understaffed at peak times, causes frustration for staff members, who are unable to plan their work around external commitments, and can lead to higher staff turnover, increasing recruitment costs and reducing productivity.

Fourth’s online scheduling tool equips store managers with an efficient and easy way to build weekly schedules, with a dashboard displaying forecasted hours that the available staff members can take to meet the demand. Store managers can assign staff to cover the required hours across the day, and gain visibility into spare labor capacity that can be redeployed. Keeping track of the labor budget at the point of building schedules is made simple with the wage costs for individual staff calculated instantly within the tool, giving the store manager visibility and control over time.

To communicate schedules effectively and in real-time with staff members, store managers utilize Fourth’s HotSchedules app. Once a schedule is published, the app instantly notifies all employees. Within the app, employees can easily pick-up, release, or swap shifts with their colleagues, pending manager approval. Managers and employees can also easily communicate with one another in the app via private or group messages.

To guarantee ongoing profitability and drive the recovery of the sector, retailers need to master the perfect balance between scheduling staff to accommodate busy and quiet periods and forecasting labor demand to avoid affecting the bottom line. With Fourth’s Workforce Management Solution, avoiding under and overstaffing, and creating smart schedules become effortless.

Our workforce management solutions in a snapshot

Challenge Our Solution
Forecasting labor amid unpredictable levels of customer demand Fourth’s AI Forecasting uses machine learning AI-driven algorithms to inform when and where a store should increase or decrease staffing levels, down to 15-minute increments, to avoid costly instances of over and under-staffing.
Eliminating instances of under and overstaffing Based off forecasting data and a retailer’s pre-set, customized labor rules, Fourth’s scheduling solution will recommend the optimal number of shifts or hours needed for staff to perform daily tasks and meet in-store demand, ensuring your store is always properly staffed and creating exceptional employee and guest experiences every day.
Offering reliable, part-time shift patterns Fourth’s online scheduling tool allows store managers to build weekly schedules efficiently, with an intuitive dashboard that shows the forecasted labor hours for each day of the week and the staff available to meet the demand, as well as the wage cost for each staff member, giving instant visibility and control of labor spending.

The modern online scheduling tool integrates seamlessly with Fourth’s digital Time & Attendance and WebClock. This allows store managers to track labor coverage for time-sensitive operations and adjust in real time, ensuring activities are consistently performed at a high standard throughout the day.

Fourth allows store managers to publish schedules immediately and edit them after the fact, as needed, while staff can easily request shift swaps with colleagues for an improved work-life balance while ensuring high productivity and retention.

Tracking time and attendance Fourth’s integrated time-tracking and attendance solution helps frontline managers reduce payroll errors, stay in compliance, and maintain control of the labor budget with features like enforced punctuality and real-time managerial alerts for overtime and missed meal breaks.
Increasing labor efficiency through labor pooling Retailers with multiple stores can share employees across locations, giving managers greater flexibility.

Labor pooling is supported by Fourth’s scheduling tool and the mobile app, allowing a store manager to publish open shifts to available staff from other stores.

Optimizing labor planning and budgeting Within the scheduling tool store managers have easy access to weekly reports that detail key labor performance indicators, such as actual and forecasted hours across each day, sales total for each day, performance percentage against the annual fixed labor budget, and wage cost calculations for all staff employed throughout the week. This allows store managers to keep track of labor performance and identify opportunities for improvement.

To thrive in a fiercely competitive industry, ridden with labor shortage issues, and affected by unpredictable consumer shopping habits, retailers must focus on efficiently deploying labor to cater to modern shoppers’ preferences, while controlling costs to guarantee ongoing profitability. To achieve this, floor managers must be equipped with modern and easy-to-use tools that make daily operations smooth and enhance the efforts of providing a competitive and attractive shopping experience to customers.

Retaining top talent and reducing employee turnover costs with earned wage access Fuego by Fourth is an on-demand payment app that allows employees to draw a portion of their earned pay and tips before payday.

Fuego can help workers meet their financial goals and develops solutions to help employers develop a more optimistic, more engaged, and more productive workforce. Learn more about earned wage access here.

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