Workforce management (WFM) technology has long been the cornerstone of retailers’, restaurants’ and other service industry chains’ day-to-day operations. Using troves of data and complex algorithms, WFM technology has helped service industry employers understand store level human capital needs, even down to 15-minute blocks. Despite these capabilities, most modern WFM solutions don’t effectively support the “last mile” of labor allocation, which includes simplified bi-directional employee communications and intelligent schedule maintenance in conjunction with regularly changing operational needs and worker preferences.
While WFMs continue to serve a necessary purpose, the labor environment is continually changing and organizations will need to look for ways to bridge the growing gap between what they have and what their businesses require. In the face of a combination of new consumer technology, wage hikes, regulation changes and a tightening market, here are the three phenomena that companies should address in order to extend the value of their WFM investment:
- There’s a tangle of external communication: Despite the sophisticated processes that go into creating shift assignments, most schedules become paper charts printed once and then posted up in a break room. This is where the administrative burden begins. Once schedules move from digital to analog, it takes a web of calls, texts, written notes and in person conversations in order for employees and managers to do simple things like swap shifts or find replacements. Furthermore, the consumer messaging apps that are being relied upon like iMessage, WhatsApp and Facebook Groups just aren’t made for work. They share personal data, don’t integrate with other HR and WFM systems and fall short on enterprise security requirements. This dearth of appropriate communication tools adds to managers’ workload, increases the risk of errors, and perpetuates a negative culture for front line associates.
- There’s a bigger data picture: Though WFM solutions excel at creating optimized labor schedules, once a schedule is generated and distributed, it often has a very short shelf life due to its reliance on inaccurate availability data. Since store managers typically collect employees’ schedule preferences on a monthly or quarterly basis, they lack the ability to take in short-term changes in availability which lead to absenteeism, understaffing and attrition. Technology can’t solve deep-rooted scheduling challenges unless the system itself are based on accurate information. By leveraging the digital connectedness of today’s workforce to improve the quality of availability data, employers can have a dramatic impact on improving the quality of their optimized schedules and can operate more effectively and with more agility than ever before.
- There’s value in employee engagement: Scheduling is a main component of managing hourly employees, but it’s not the only one. Today’s WFM systems are unable to address other core components of employee engagement – including simplified messaging and communication, skill development, and employee recognition. By incorporating some of these features into their WFM practices, employers can reap the myriad benefits that an engaged workforce brings, such as higher quality service, reduced turnover and increased sales.
Evolving business, employee and consumer needs are redefining what it means to work in, and manage today’s hourly workforces. It’s the responsibility of employers to ensure that the WFM tools they use can adapt to meet these changing needs.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Download our new white paper, for tips on how service industry companies can extend their current WFM solutions to fill these gaps and foster a more productive, engaged and skilled workforce.