An Agile Workforce Creates A Competitive Advantage As Retail Sector Recovers

Retail StaffNumbers of workers in the retail sector are increasing faster than at any time in the previous decade according to the latest trade survey from the CBI. The upturn, driven by the feel-good factors of Britain’s’ sporting successes, the royal birth and the great weather we have had in the UK this summer is a good indication that the UK Economy is heading in the right direction. The figures indicate that car dealerships, clothing retailers and grocers are benefitting most from the upturn; however with 22pc of retailers reporting a drop in sales – there is still a way to go.

With confidence gradually returning, and the influx of new employees in the retail sector, how can retailers remain competitive and deliver the customer service necessary to meet growing demand?

Great training is essential; however, being able to manage an agile, well-trained workforce is about more than training. When the workforce ceases to be seen as an expense or commodity, and becomes a flexible, agile asset it will drive revenue and a competitive advantage.

Retailers that view their workforce as a flexible asset will have a group of skilled associates with the tools they need to be consistently productive and have the ability to adapt to different tasks or roles in real-time. This agile workforce will understand and execute key tactics that have a direct impact on key operational measurements: revenue, service, quality, responsiveness, throughput, productivity.

Most retailers know that scheduling staff to demand helps to control costs and improve customer service, but when retailers utilise their best performing associates in a way that optimises their skills at times of peak demand, they increase revenue and customer satisfaction even further. By also incorporating labour analytics into their strategy, top performing retailers can transform their staff into a network of associates working together to achieve a desired result.

When workforce analytics is combined successfully with operational data, actionable information will lead to operational comparisons and adjustments. Initial tracking of metrics like absenteeism, turnover and overtime can evolve into industry-specific trends and analysis. Retail stores can see the impact in increased operating margins, profit per employee and a stronger brand reputation.

To find out more about managing an agile workforce, take a look at these two whitepapers:

Capitalise on Competitors’ Poor Service Through Superior Workforce Management

Increase Customer Satisfaction with Productivity-Based Scheduling

The Big Event!

It’s been a while since I posted as I have had a brief break on the boat (which was quite exciting as the weather was pretty awful on the south coast of England with rain and poor visibility making sailing quite challenging). I have then been busy preparing for our big customer event, KronosLive EMEA, which we are holding in London tomorrow. We are expecting over 200 delegates and it is our biggest event yet in the UK.

I really am very excited this year as I have been asked to chair a panel discussion which will comprise of customers from all industries including retail, manufacturing, hospitality, services and logistics.

The focus of the panel session will be around three key themes:

1) Labour related Analytics
2) The increasing need/expectations around Mobile data
3) Utilising the Cloud to offload the support and management of business applications from overstretched IT departments.

In addition I will be asking our customer panel questions related to opportunities for productivity improvement in their organisations from new functionality available in our Workforce Central Solution v7.0 such as Task Management.

Before the panel session Aron Ain the CEO of Kronos, Charlie Dewitt of Kronos and my good friend Mollie Lombardi from the Aberdeen Group will all be touching on the 3 key themes in varying degrees of detail and the way all of them can improve labour productivity within organisations.

Mollie will also be presenting at our Retail Executive Summit which we are also holding this week and I will be looking forward to hearing her views and opinions on; ‘The State of Workforce Management in Retail in Western Europe’.

I look forward to letting you know how the panellist discussions go and finding out more about how they are using their workforce management solution to meet the new challenges they are facing in each of their industries. Meanwhile if you have any thoughts on any of the topics we will be covering I would be very interested to hear them.

How Mature Are You? Part 4

There are many organisations that have evolved through the first three phases of the workforce management maturity curve*, from seeing their workforce as an expense they now see them as a resource and a flexible asset.

Best-in-class organisations that have moved into the fourth phase, The Innovate Phase now view their workforce as an absolute competitive advantage. For them, their employees are their most critical asset who, when given the right tools, training and support enable these organisations to achieve great results that their customers’ value and their peers and competitors envy.

Workforce Maturity Curve 4Organisations in the Innovate phase are embracing Big Data initiatives to identify triggers that influence growth, profitability, brand reputation, and operational excellence, as well as organisational transparency and accountability.

In the Innovate phase, organisations incorporate labour metrics into their Big Data strategies, to transform their workforce into a network of individuals all working together to achieve a desired result.

The correlation of workforce data with operational measurements of inputs & outcomes can yield powerful insight into the impact of your people on business growth, brand perception and ultimately shareholder value. Big Data strategy will enable business innovation and continuous improvement. Lack of understanding of how to use analytics to improve the business is the biggest obstacle in achieving success with big data. Organisations must move the analysis from an IT function to a business operations function – combining measurements, analytics and business intelligence tools with visibility and controls for business leaders to understand and act on.

When workforce analytics is combined successfully with operational data, actionable information will lead to operational comparisons and adjustments. Initial tracking of labour metrics like absenteeism, turnover and overtime can evolve into industry-specific trends and analysis. Retail stores can see the impact in increased operating margins, profit per employee and a stronger brand reputation. Manufacturing and Contract Services organisations can achieve operational excellence lean labour principles. The Supply chain can manage in the moment in warehouses and distribution channels and Healthcare providers provide better patient care and outcomes.

When your workforce evolves from a cost of doing business into a competitive advantage, your organisation can make that leap from good to great!

If you have any questions or comments please post them and I will be happy to respond.

The workforce management maturity curve was first discussed in detail in my US Kronos colleagues’ blog It’s About Time

How Mature Are You? Part 2

So, you have automated your workforce management processes and are capturing absence and employees’ time automatically, providing data to your managers and supervisors and feeding data into your payroll and/or HR systems. What’s next?

Maturity Curve Phase 2 - PlanningThe second phase of workforce management maturity curve* is The Planning Phase.This phase is about aligning your labour with business demand by understanding what in your business drives the need for labour and matching that need with the pool of employees you have.

Once you have automated many of the manual processes that are obstacles for your workforce, the focus should turn to deploying the right person, in the right place at the right time – or in other words providing structure to the important business process of matching your people to demand. Organisations that are in the Planning phase see the value of their workforce as beyond an expense, and more of a resource – your people have particular skills that you won’t want to lose. Similar to an asset like equipment or materials, the workforce is an important component of the business with skills and capabilities that need to be deployed the right way in order to meet your business objective. Whilst at the same time ensuring the work is stimulating and engaging for the employee.

Mature organisations typically have workforce management solutions that provide accurate forecasts of what drives labour demand, standards that convert those forecasts to skills required in each area of the business, and schedule optimisation capabilities that take the ideal requirement and match it to the labour in the organisation. The solution will take into further consideration: preferences, availability, time worked and local legislation, providing complete visibility and control to where the workforce is deployed.

By eliminating manual scheduling processes organisations will reduce excess labour costs from over-scheduling and the quality or service level impacts of under-scheduling. Overtime and supplemental labour usage is reduced and balanced schedules greatly improve staffing. Moreover, employees are much happier and engaged when they feel that they are adding value to the business. The time and effort required in manual scheduling processes is eliminated, and schedules automatically adhere to rules, requests, skills, certifications, availability and experience. So here are a few questions for you:

• How does your workforce know when they are scheduled to work next?
• How is the right level of coverage for each shift or activity determined?
• Are employee shift requests and preferences taken into account when a schedule is created?
• Are there any seasonal or external influences that could impact demand on your business?

With cloud-based workforce management on demand, organisations of any size can now benefit from enterprise-class technology at a fraction of the cost and resource requirements.

In part three we will take a look at the next phase of workforce management maturity – Execute. Don’t forget to sign up to my blog so you won’t miss it and if you have any questions or comments please post them and I will be happy to respond.

*The workforce management maturity curve was first discussed in detail in my US Kronos colleagues’ blog It’s About Time.

Analysis paralysis absolutely not!

You wouldn’t be able to win a Formula One race without a lot of technical diagnostics and driver performance analysis before the race. Spain and Italy wouldn’t have reached the final of the UEFA Cup without having analysed player performance and game strategies that allowed them to beat opponents in the past. And Usain Bolt, the fastest runner in the world today would not hold his world record without having analysed his fitness and performance so that he would be at peak fitness and have a race strategy for his world-beating performances on the track.

I was recently asked to do an interview for an article in HR Director about how workforce data analytics in HR is now viewed as strategically important as any analysis done by the Finance Director.

The article mentions research that has shown organisations who integrate workforce data analytics into their analytics tools are three times more likely to achieve ‘best in class’ status than those who do not and that the top-performing organisations use data analytics five times more than lower-performing ones.

It is clear to me that without insight into how your workforce is performing and having the right tools to analyse the workforce data you collect, there is no way an organisation can improve their workforce management or put in place measurable workforce management strategies – whether it be reducing absence, increasing productivity or being able engage employees and motivate them to give their best performance for your organisation.

The HR team at LondonWaste, a customer of Kronos, also mentioned in the article, has used workforce analytics to analyse several years of HR data held in their system along with current data to enable them to analyse various aspects of workforce performance and believes this has helped their workforce to become a strategic asset in their organisation and given them a distinct competitive advantage.  In a recent video – Mark Beattie of LondonWaste can be seen discussing how workforce analytics has given them a deeper understanding and insight and driven business strategy.

So, it seems the proof is out there – for organisations who want to be the best, their employees are a key strategic asset and they will be using Workforce analytics to drive performance and business strategy.