How AI and app technology are transforming retail schedules

by Rotageek on 8 April 2022

The retail sector is going through a period of major change, which is requiring businesses to deal with challenges on several fronts.

Volatility in customer demand, for example, has made it much harder for retail managers to produce workforce schedules. Pulling these rotas together requires managers to match staffing levels to footfall forecasts that have been hugely disrupted by the pandemic.

At the same time, retailers are trying to meet the heightened expectations when it comes to flexible working – while also ensuring all contractual and legal obligations for each employee expectations are met. These requirements are throwing up added complications for retail managers who are looking to optimise their staffing levels.

To meet these challenges, retailers are now having to deploy sophisticated technology that can support both managers and staff. These solutions are helping in several ways, which include:

AI-enabled smart schedules

Advanced scheduling solutions, using AI technology, are reducing the time it takes retail managers to produce a roster, from several hours to just a few minutes. These solutions look at the latest demand forecasts to accurately allocate resources to the right place and at the right time.

They can take data from multiple sources and suggest where individual staff would be best deployed – either in the warehouse or out-front supporting customers, for example. When applied holistically across several stores, they can also help optimise staff in multiple locations.

App-based transparency

The ability to schedule employees across different sites from the same rostering system is also providing managers with greater visibility – and enabling them to take a more flexible approach to staffing.

Managers can quickly see the holes that need to be filled – and work cooperatively with staff to plug those gaps. Managers can broadcast shift availability to the whole team instantly through a workforce app. From there, staff can identify opportunities for extra work, with any schedule changes made visible to them immediately on their phone.

Self-service on a smartphone

An intuitive workforce app, enabled by an AI-powered rostering system, also facilitates self-service for employees. It enables them to request time off or swap shifts, without the delays associated with the submission of paper-based forms.

The speed at which AI-based solutions can calculate the implications of a request also means staff can receive responses quickly from retail managers. This faster decision-making process is helping staff to take more control and manage their personal time more easily.

Greater automation

Greater automation is also helping retailers to comply with working regulations. By implementing technology that automatically performs compliance checks, retailers can reduce their exposure to risks, such as inadvertently under paying staff.

Automation also has the added benefit of taking decisions out of human hands. It removes the threat of unconscious bias creeping into schedules, for example, and reduces any potential for favouritism or discrimination. This is helping to build trust between managers and employees, by developing a more equitable approach to workforce scheduling.


If you’d like to know more about how the challenges facing the retail sector can be resolved, download our whitepaper, Squaring the Circle: How scheduling technology is creating flexible retail workforces that deliver for everyone in full here.

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