Brick and mortar retail stores are notorious for having volatile schedules. Balancing customer footfall, part-time and full-time workers, and holiday rushes, all while competing with the ever-growing online retail industry is a herculean task for managers to overcome. This blog will investigate the effects that strategic scheduling can have on these businesses and how companies can rethink their scheduling strategies.
Unpredictable Schedules May Cause Employees to Leave
From speaking with customers about their data, we have learned that constant turnover of employees is to be expected. Many workers are brought on seasonally or as part-time help, but even amongst the full-time staff, there are few employees having consistent hours. This unpredictable scheduling can lead to employees feeling that they have less control over their time, losing the ability to balance their personal lives with their unstable work lives. On top of the unpredictability, many workers will be scheduled for “clopening” shifts, leading to a lowered quality of sleep in what little time they have between working hours.
A more stable schedule allows for employees to plan their personal time around their work hours, which in turn results in a workforce that shows up ready to help customers and focus on their workplace responsibilities.
The increased productivity that the stable schedule brings, of course, results in better customer experiences and boosts in sales. Studies show that the millennial generation values in-person interactions at brick and mortar stores, meaning scheduling your people to be on top of their game is more crucial than ever.
Think about this issue from your perspective. If you were at home right now and you received a text that said, “We need you to come into work in an hour”, would you be able to drop what you’re doing and begin your commute? Potentially. However, if this was a typical occurrence in your day-to-day life, there would undoubtedly be times when you got stuck in traffic, had something else to take care of, or showed up to work tired and mentally unprepared for your shift. A customer may approach you and ask for assistance, but your mind is still on other things, like the plans you had to cancel to make it into work on time. This is when the customer experience suffers AND you as an employee become aggravated. Nobody would blame you for looking elsewhere for work, while the company you’re leaving has lost a valuable, fully-trained contributor. This is actually a very common scenario, with 1 in 4 retail workers reporting that they work on-call hours.
Here is an example of what we generally see for turnover amongst full-time retail workers. You can see that the newest employees are at a very high risk for turnover, but as tenure increases, they are less likely to leave. Having a schedule that is given to employees ahead of time and fits in with their personal lives can directly drive turnover down, saving you the cost of losing employees, searching for replacements, and training those new hires, all while scheduling without the headcount shortage.
Is There an Easier Way?
Some retailers may feel that they have no way to improve upon their scheduling practices. In many cases, managers have also come to accept that the extra time they spend perfecting an ad-hoc schedule is a necessity rather than an inconvenience. We have often found that managers will not only edit a schedule right up until a shift begins, but even continue editing it during the shift itself.
Here we can see that in the hours leading up to the “0 hour” when a shift starts, the managers are making more and more edits. After the shift has begun, they are most likely changing the scheduled shift to when they expect the employee to be able to leave that day. This means that the employees often have no idea when a shift will start or end, and the managers are fumbling to figure this out at the last possible minute.
The reality is that many of these manager actions can be automated or driven by recommendations based on employees’ availability and skills. They can quickly swap shifts and get the schedules to their workforce ahead of time, making the entire process easier for both managers and workers. Data can be collected in real-time to gain insight into how the schedule is panning out and whether improvements could be made in the future. This frees up time for managers to be active with employees and customers, ensuring that operations run smoothly and that everyone is content and positioned for success. This type of engagement can directly affect employee AND customer satisfaction.