Why Retailers Should Be Planning Their Tech Tools for 2017's Holiday Season
The holidays are in full-swing, and retailers are working through what is projected to be a highly profitable season. The National Retail Federation expects sales in November and December to increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, up from $632.8 billion last year. An improving economy spells good news for retailers – so long as they have the labor needed to take full advantage.
Making the most of the holiday rush depends on more than festive window displays; it requires having the right hands on deck at all times. For retailers, maintaining a group of engaged, available hourly associates can be the difference between generating revenue or giving customers reason to shop next door. But according to new research, the technology retailers currently use to manage shifts makes effective holiday scheduling nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
What Happens When Tools Can’t Accommodate the Holiday Craze
While the convenient allure of online shopping has many ordering gifts from the comfort of their homes, holiday madness continues to hit retail stores hard. The NRF expects retailers have hired up to 690,000 seasonal workers to handle this year’s holiday rush, leaving store managers with an influx of schedules to organize. Unfortunately, most retailers lack the resources to simplify shift management even during non-peak shopping months.
A new WorkJam study of retailer managers found 72 percent are not satisfied with their workforce management (WFM) systems’ ability to create schedules that meet both store labor needs and associates’ preferences. This imbalance quickly spirals into problems like over and understaffing, which evolve into low employee morale, lost sales and damaged brand reputation. Eighty-eight percent of managers deal with understaffing on a weekly basis, causing overworked employees to burn out or, worse, quit.
Without a sufficient WFM system, managers take on the brunt of reassigning shifts, swallowing up precious hours on administrative duties. Seventy percent of managers admit to logging additional time in order to make last-minute schedule changes, a reality that could eat into employers’ holiday profits. The U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime regulation (though currently in limbo) is set to raise the threshold for earning time-and-a-half to $47,476, adding compliance stress and margin pressure to an already hectic season.
Facilitate Employee Engagement with New Tech Tools
Many existing WFM tools generate schedules based on store traffic and other quantifiable inputs, failing to account for employees’ availability and preferences. Once schedules are posted, managers are left scrambling) to fill the gaps when employees don’t show or replacements can’t be arranged in time.
Going forward, retailers need to look for digital solutions or corporate-sanctioned apps that integrate hourly staff into the scheduling process, allowing associates and managers to communicate more easily. With tools that capture associates’ shift availability and let employees swap shifts directly with each other, maintaining staffing levels becomes less of a jigsaw puzzle. In turn, employees are more likely to receive schedules that fit their needs, boosting engagement and reducing the risk of them leaving in the heat of the holiday rush.
Given the palpable shortcomings of their existing WFM systems, retailers need new technology that extends their effectiveness. By embracing tools that increase frontline employees’ participation in scheduling, employers can mitigate the expensive cost of turnover, boost store productivity and capture more sales. Retailers can’t afford to wait until next holiday season—they must make better scheduling their most important New Year’s resolution.
About the Author
A tech entrepreneur at heart, Joshua is passionate about pushing forward new ideas and reshaping products and services to take on new global opportunities. In 1999, Joshua co-founded iCongo, a software provider for omni-channel retail and B2B commerce solutions, where he helped drive the business from start-up to becoming the leading provider of cross-channel retail and B2B e-commerce systems. The company merged with hybris Software in 2011 to become one of the largest providers of e-commerce solutions worldwide and was subsequently purchased by SAP (News - Alert) in 2013. As co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of WorkJam, Joshua is responsible for the management and day-to-day operations of the company. Joshua graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Commerce.
Edited by Alicia Young