Brett Friedman is senior vice president, global sales and marketing at Reflexis Systems.
Deploying a workforce management solution allows retailers to unleash the full power of their associates, and have the right staff with the right skills in place to deliver a differentiated customer experience.
But not all solutions are created equal. When shopping for WFM software retailers need to consider a host of features and how they can best be leveraged to empower current and future employees.
To uncover how retailers can best put modern workforce management solutions to work, Reflexis Systems’ senior vice president, global sales and marketing, Brett Friedman sat down with RIS for an exclusive Q&A on the hot topic.
RIS: What role does a workforce management solution play in helping retailers compete in the customer-centric age?
Friedman: Unleashing the power of retail associates to engage with customers and to provide a differentiated customer experience is the number one weapon that brick-and-mortar retail can deploy against pure-play online retailers. A workforce management solution helps the retailer unleash the power of their associates, by having the right staff with the right skills available at the right time to deliver an exemplary customer experience. The solution needs to do this in a manner that ensures legal compliance across jurisdictions while also optimizing the cost impact of the schedule. However, this is really just the baseline. Next-gen workforce management systems do far more.
RIS: How has workforce management technology evolved and what makes the next-gen iterations more valuable?
Friedman: Traditionally, workforce management systems have been primarily planning systems, which attempted to align staff hours with expected traffic or transactions. Next-gen systems go beyond workforce planning to address the broader work opportunity in stores. Approximately 30% to 35% of work that needs to be done by store associates is driven by tasks coming from the head office. Task management must be resident within the same platform as workforce management in order to properly account for this work and to distribute the work in a manner that does not detract from customer engagement. Driving simplification for stores is key.
Today’s store associates also insist on more control over their schedules, as well as the flexibility to ensure work-life balance. Employee self-service, which puts these capabilities at an associate's finger-tips, is essential for associate engagement and retention. These capabilities need to be resident within the workforce management platform in order to perform real-time validation of employee requests against labor laws, overtime policies, and required skills or certifications.
RIS: What key features are must haves for retailers shopping for a new workforce solution?
Friedman: Having task management and employee self-service resident within the workforce management platform is key. Retailers should look for a single user interface that allows store managers to address workforce management issues, corporate driven task work, as well as tasks created in real-time based on exceptions in various IT systems or IoT enabled devices all on the same screen from a mobile device. Technology silos that pull key personnel off the sales floor need to be eliminated.
Retailers should look for systems with algorithms specifically designed to address retail problems and that incorporate machine learning to drive fewer and fewer keystrokes to create the ideal schedule. The workforce management system should enable associates to provide availability across locations and to optimize the schedule across stores utilizing this availability within a retailer’s rules. Retailers should also be able to schedule key personnel at an above-store level, for example, across a market area. The system user experience should provide in-the-moment training to ensure consistent execution, regardless of the experience of the store team.
RIS: How can a cutting-edge workforce management solution help retailers operate at the speed of retail?
Recent advances in workforce management systems have enabled retailers to improve customer engagement, increase conversion and sales, while better controlling labor spend. Advances in employee-centric systems lead to better employee engagement and retention. Real-time capabilities have transformed workforce management systems from mere planning tools to work execution systems that react dynamically to changing conditions, optimizing at the speed of retail.