Top 5 Workforce Management Priorities for 2012

As retailers look across the enterprise from the point of sale all the way into the warehouse, here are five areas they should focus on to optimize their workforce in 2012:
Planning and projecting labor demand: With today's tight margins, retailers have to plan for constantly fluctuating demands for labor. They must take into consideration variables such as seasonality, buying trends and the emergence of hot items. They can't just schedule for next week or next month; they need to look across the year at what has happened in the past, what is desired to happen in the future and adjust forecasts for those labor demand levels for special events.
Optimizing labor schedule: Once the plan is set, it's still important to have the flexibility to react to unforeseen events. For instance, when should a sales clerk do non-service work, such as stocking shelves, during a busy holiday season? By more effectively scheduling non-service labor away from peak customer traffic periods, retailers can save on labor AND improve the customer experience.
Skills-based personnel scheduling: One leading North American food retailers has reduced shifts from 44,000 to 4,000 by training employees across multiple skills and gaining better visibility into their roles. Instead of scheduling based on single-role definitions, employees receive training across various roles, enabling them to handle the most pressing tasks, whether it is cleaning, greeting customers, slicing meat, stocking shelves or checking out. Managers can also pull up a list to see who is available to fill in when needed, quickly matching the qualifications to the roles that need to be filled.
Task management integration with merchandising and marketing: Retailers are looking to incorporate their non-service task management emanating from marketing and merchandising projects into workforce management labor forecast and scheduling. For instance, the ability to effectively incorporate the labor demand and tasks represented within centralized projects provides a single view of labor while ensuring consistency across the stores in the way shelves are set with planograms, for example.
Persona-based workforce mobility: As mentioned earlier, retailers are getting away from function-specific user interfaces and instead focusing on a persona-based scheduling environment that accounts for the multiple roles a person can fulfill throughout the day. With mobile access to a workforce management system, managers on the floor gain immediate visibility across the enterprise into staffing levels, employees' assigned tasks and even inventory demand levels that may require attention. They can then quickly make an informed decision about who is available and qualified to fill those roles and redirect those employees via a mobile device to meet that demand.
Bottom … and top line: Heading into 2012, retailers would be mistaken to only consider workforce optimization as a cost line issue that impacts the bottom line, given the considerable impact under-optimized labor can have on customer service and topline sales revenue. By planning labor broadly, optimally executing and adjusting against that plan and leveraging mobile workforce management technologies for both managers and employees, they can provide the ultimate customer experience … with a significant impact on both the top and bottom line.
Lisle Holgate is the directing of product marketing for workforce management at RedPrairie.
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