by Rotageek on 19 April 2021
Employee scheduling is a complex, time consuming task. An optimised rota must accommodate for predicted footfall, staffing costs and a perfectly balanced team of experience and responsibilities.
It’s therefore no wonder that the creation and management of the perfect rota can take retail managers up to nine hours per week.
But with leading retail scheduling software, businesses can not only claim back this valuable time - they can save up to 10% in labour costs too.
In this guide, we share how successful retail businesses are overcoming five common operational challenges through optimised rota management solutions.
Too many businesses still rely on old fashioned, ineffective ways of employee scheduling. From Excel spreadsheets to shifts shared over Whatsapp, retailers are often victim to putting up with methods that cause more stress than implementing a new system.
Using a paper based approach, or non-specialist platform, causes endless challenges. The manual process of rota creation means there are often multiple versions that result in missed shifts and unhappy employees. Workers are also prone to chasing leave requests or stuck unable to swap shifts without a structured workflow to follow. What’s more is the risk of time theft which costs businesses billions every year in revenue and employee productivity.
With ever-more complex business and legal regulations, even the best manual scheduling systems are error-prone and liable to fail.
The Perfume Shop experienced these challenges first hand before switching to digital scheduling. “We had no control over budget versus our spend, and no central view of our staffing,” says Hardik Dave, Lead Project Manager. “For our employees, it wasn’t easy to apply for holidays, it definitely wasn’t simple to see their shifts in advance or apply for gap shifts.”
However through specialist online scheduling software, retailers can remove these barriers immediately. One version of an automatically updated rota is created in thirty seconds or less, giving all employees complete visibility at all times.
Dune is just one retailer who has witnessed this benefit firsthand:
“This solution has helped us reinvest time into the shop floor. Before Rotageek, our managers would spend too much time each week writing and editing rotas. If you consider that managers are your most trained and experienced team members, with the strongest connection to your brand, you really do want these people on your shop floor talking to customers.”
Retailers must adhere to labour laws to not only avoid financial and legal consequences, but also poor employee sentiment. Businesses that ignore this often fall victim to negative press, Glassdoor reviews and even company turnover.
Unfortunately, unfair scheduling is an easy mistake. With non-specialist technology such as spreadsheets or offline processes, companies are unable to regulate working hours or fairness rules within an unstructured platform. Managers can often end up relying on the same few employees to fill empty shifts, resulting in suspected favoritism or illegal overtime.
This is where retail workforce management software can be of utmost benefit. Built with compliance in mind, systems will automatically alert schedulers when there is a risk of overworking an employee, saving any chance of breaching labour laws. Managers can additionally gain oversight of timesheets by department, job role or even gender to aid investigations.
The platform additionally complies with any pre-existing company policies and processes such as overtime rules; a helpful feature for tracking accurate payroll. These legal elements contribute to the creation of a fair rota; ensuring schedules are non-preferential and accommodate to employees’ individual needs.
Large organisations have complex scheduling needs. Week after week, a manager must craft a perfectly balanced team combining skill sets and varying shifts - often allowing employees to work across different roles or multiple locations. This is typically a very difficult, error-prone task that takes hours of time to achieve.
What’s more is the challenge of accurately predicting customer demand to ensure the team is large enough to uphold excellent service, whilst not unnecessarily spending labour costs. To get this wrong can cost businesses up to 8% more in overstaffing.
But with retail rota management software, businesses can take the difficulty out of accurate scheduling. The system uses complex data points to ensure the correct amount of staff are in one location at one time whilst automatic forecasting takes trends, events and footfall into account to predict accurate demand. This creates a rota that has a 12% improvement in accuracy of matching shifts to demand, whilst also factoring in the skills needed for an optimum team.
“Thanks to Rotageek, planning the right number of people with the right skills and at the right time is no longer complicated and time consuming. The perfect integration with our HR & footfall traffic counting systems allows us now to build effective schedules for our retail teams in a matter of minutes. That’s an amazing win and a major step forward in making the business operations more efficient and productive"
-Andreea Ciocan, Retail Operations Manager at Sephora Middle East
From reducing staff hours to socially distanced teams - to shutting up shop completely - the retail industry has been through the wringer since the start of 2020. The increase and continuous change to government regulations have complicated shift-based scheduling for the foreseeable future in addition to the fluctuating rate of customer demand.
Whilst the high street will eventually return to normal, retailers must continue to adapt their day to day operations to the repercussions of the pandemic. But how can stores continue to meet safety guidelines whilst also pleasing employees?
Thankfully, agile retail scheduling software has been developed to take such considerations into account. Businesses can now minimise risks whilst still catering to staff preferences with simple implementation. New tasks can be quickly assigned and social distancing regulations can be easily adhered to through staggered shifts. The technology also removes the last minute stress of finding replacement staff for those who need to self isolate or are unable to work. Push notifications reveal available shifts to suitable staff - a hassle-free alternative that also promotes fair scheduling.
Productivity Manager for William Hill commented, “it’s a solution that helps us plan thousands of colleagues working in hundreds of locations, giving our colleagues visibility and agency to plan their lives and drive our goals in a fast-moving retail environment.”
Retail workers are notoriously among the unhappiest workers in the UK. It’s therefore unsurprising that the industry experiences drastically high turnover and absenteeism rates, costing stores thousands every year.
A common reason (as in most deskless workforces) is a lack of flexibility and poor work/life balance. Currently, almost half of surveyed retail staff are dissatisfied with their allocated shift - with 40% having missed important appointments due to inflexible scheduling. This lack of autonomy results in lower productivity, affecting both customer service and overall revenue.
But with a mobile-friendly scheduling app, employers can implement a flexible working model that works for their staff and their business. Users have autonomous ownership of their rota, with the ability to swap, pick up or reject shifts as per their availability. This also reduces manual schedule-related admin, giving managers more time to get back to the tasks they enjoy.
Brands that boost flexible scheduling can additionally overcome challenges in talent retention and acquisition; an important factor for retailers giving the difficulties facing the industry’s employment due to Brexit.
After taking their staff management from spreadsheet to auto scheduling, Gap reported a dramatic improvement to their employee experience.
“Our employees have an app. They can see their schedules, they can see when they're working, they can see when their lunches are. They can see who they're working with. They can request holiday when they're at home,” said Marcus Davidson, Senior Operations Manager.
“What really matters when it comes to scheduling is not the technology for its own sake, it’s about return on investment, ease of implementation and measuring the metrics that matter; like whether an employee can take time off for their child’s doctor appointment or how happy customers are when stepping out of their local store.
Rotageek’s first-rate scheduling technology is the solution of choice for many of the world’s leading retailers.