Workforce Skills Management

Workforce skills management is the process performed by retailers to understand, develop and deploy people with the right skills in the right place throughout the workplace. Retailers such as Steve & Barry's and 24 Hour Fitness address their staffing needs by comprehensively studying employee skill levels and tracking workplace rules through advanced workforce management applications that effectively increase productivity per employee, per store and improve efficiency throughout the enterprise.

Workforce skills often are defined by the retailer in terms of a skills framework - a list of skills and a grading system that defines what it means to be at a particular level for a given skill. Skills management technigues should be conducted as an ongoing practice, with senior level executives assessing and updating their records on a continuous basis.
At the most basic level, workforce management processes as they are practiced today in retailing involve scheduling employees' time, tracking hours worked, planning full coverage of operations during business hours, and tracking state, local and federal regulations, as well as empoyee requirements and preferences. Skills management, on the other hand, is a more sophisticated approach to this fundamental, although vital, process.
"Retailers are investing in workforce management applications to better match labor demand and skills," writes Robert Garf and Christa Degman Manning in RedPrairie Swoops Up StorePerform, Complements Workforce Management Footprint. The report continues, "A retailer's goal is to increase store productivity by ensuring employees are executing as efficiently as possible."
To achieve this increase in productivity, retailers are focusing on carefully managing one of their most important assests - their workforces. "With today's market focus on innovation and individual productivity, human capital is vital to sustained business growth," continues the AMR report. "This means more than just finding, acquiring, assimilating and retaining workers. It also means optimizing the workforce once you have it in place."

Implementing a workforce skills management system into a store environment not only provides benefits in the areas of productivity and efficiency, but it also has strong positive impact on customer satisfaction.
In "Workforce Management Landscape: The Right People in the Right Place at the Right Time," by Christa Degman Manning, Robert Garf and Judy Sweeney of AMR Research, it states, "The risks today of not using workforce management can directly affect key businessgoals. In the retail sector, it can mean customers shopping elsewhere when checkout lines are too long and stock is not on the shelves."
The following factors are the drivers behind the workforce management imperative today, according to the report by AMR: to better match business demand with labor levels, increase employee productivity,and streamline and reduce overall scheduling processes.
In terms of future growth and expansion in the retail environment, AMR sees consolidation between workforce management (WFM) and the integration of advanced functions like skills management into strategic work force management suites. "Looking three to five years out, AMR Research predicts absolute consolidation among WFM vendors and integration of their functions into strategic HCM, as well as larger business application suites. This will come at a time when workforce management tools experience early successes and can provide a clear picture of how retailers align personnel activities with the strategic goals of their business."

Steve & Barry's recently outfitted its global retail operations with workforce management tools. This year, the rapidly expanding college apparel retailer chose the SAP Workforce Management application to attend to its staffing needs, track employee skill levels, payroll requirements, employee availabilities and workplace rules to increase overall productivity. Steve & Barry's uses workforce skills management tools to gain further insight into the needs of its targeted customer.
The retailer leverages its workforce management application to anticipate its consumer demand for products, and build and analyze assortments based on customer preferences. This helps to increase margins and maximizesales for each of Steve & Barry's product lines.
The private fitness center chain, 24 Hour Fitness, implemented an integrated suite of functions including task management, labor scheduling, mobile store walk and KPI monitoring applications. It selected the Reflexis's RetailAction suite for coordinated planning, streamlining communications and scheduling, optimizing workload and monitoring key sales and operations trends. "We selected Reflexis on the strength of its applications, its history of fast successful implementations and the company's impeccable track record of solving customer problems," says Dan Benning, senior vice president of operations for 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide.
Sterling Jewelers added an execution management application that helps the jeweler design and monitor processes and programs that are executed in stores. The jeweler opted to implement RedPrairie's on-demand hosted model of its execution management application to meet its needs. Execution management gives Sterling Jewelers a single, chain-wide window to all aspects of store executions.
Party City and Party American, which operate more than 450 company owned stores and 300 franchise locations, became the largest party-related retailer when it merged in 2006. To manage its consolidated operations, the retailer implemented a new workforce management system in 2007 from Tomax. The system, not only handles workflow, task management and workforce managment, but also merchandise management, store operations and customer management.
Workforce management is one of the four pillars of retailing, along with inventory management, POS and merchandising, and as such, any improvement made in this area will have a big impact on the entire enterprise.
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