by Rotageek on 8 August 2022
In response to evolving consumer behaviour and employee expectations, retailers must find ways to build greater levels of flexibility into their rostering schedules - to engage staff and increase efficiency.
By Mark Thomas, Vice-President of Customer Success at Rotageek
It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for retail, particularly within stores. The Office for National Statistics reported the biggest annual fall in retail sales since records began - in the midst of the pandemic.
Footfall on the high street has been unpredictable, to say the least. And, as managers look to make efficiency gains in the face of such uncertainty, they also need to find ways to retain and engage their staff. In the face of these challenges, rostering schedules have become a prime area for digital transformation.
From Brexit to Covid-19, supply chain delays to inflation, retailers have been hit by a wave of forces beyond their control. Finding ways to build resilience into their operations for the future has become imperative.
For those managing schedules within the sector, data-driven rostering technology has the potential to improve operational efficiency – and is increasing retention and loyalty among the workforce, helping to future proof against further upheaval.
Facing up to fluctuations
The mounting pressures on retailers have left legacy staff rostering systems looking increasingly outdated and unable to account for the nuances of fluctuating consumer behaviour.
There are issues around the volatility of staff too. The retail sector has always been susceptible to high churn and absences, and with increasing competition for talented people, the inflexibility of traditional scheduling systems has been left exposed.
Smart scheduling solutions, however, are providing managers with more accurate forecasts, and a greater ability to optimise staffing levels. When staff across multiple stores are enrolled on one centralised rostering system, for example, they can also potentially work at multiple locations, within pre-defined or agreed parameters of course – ensuring that resources are always optimised in the right place and at the right time.
Improving engagement and wellbeing
These smart systems are also helping retailers to accommodate the growing demands for flexible working arrangements.
The government has recently completed a flexible working consultation focused on extending the right for all workers to make changes to their contractual arrangements. Although flexible working is not always practical in a retail store environment, HR departments are still under enormous pressure to offer more flexibility, in a bid to retain their staff.
Despite the prominence of technology in our everyday lives, many retail staff are still reliant on paper-based schedules to view their rotas. Through a combination of spreadsheets, printed rotas, and exasperated WhatsApp messages between managers and staff, retail workers are having to adhere to rigid schedules, which leave them with little time to plan their lives outside of work.
Not only are these rostering systems difficult to administer and offer poor visibility, but they also lack the agility and flexibility that staff now expect.
To enable this flexibility, retailers need systems that offer greater transparency and increased automation – with the ability to accommodate change easily. They also need to incorporate a self-service element to truly involve employees in the process. By making rotas visible and accessible via mobile apps, for example, staff can request leave, swap shifts, or communicate with colleagues with ease. This gives staff greater autonomy over their working and social lives – which is key to retention and loyalty.
More efficient, more productive
As well as empowering employees, reducing the time managers spend on building rotas enables them to focus on more productive tasks. Smart scheduling with rota software essentially cuts the production of rotas from hours, or days, to a matter of minutes.
The process of complying with working time regulations also becomes fully automated. As retailers look for greater operational efficiencies or need to react fast to staff shortages, the HR department needs to feel confident that they are not breaching any contractual obligations to their workforce.
Crucially, for HR teams, all of this frees up time for managers to spend more 1-2-1 time with team members, so they can listen to their concerns or provide ad hoc coaching where needed.
And, of course, the knock-on effect of keeping staff happy, engaged and up to date with their training is an improved level of customer service.
The pandemic has left an indelible mark on the retail sector, and it’s clear that change is needed. Smart rostering solutions offer retailers an opportunity to build greater levels of resilience into their workforce management processes while releasing managers from the drudgery of schedule production.
They are also helping to improve employee retention, de-risk compliance and, through improved productivity and a better overall experience for the customer, deliver a benefit to businesses on the bottom line.
Learn more about the four R's to consider when deploying new retail technology here.
Rotageek is a data-driven workforce management solution creating staff schedules using cloud-based technology to effectively manage and engage employees. More than just digital scheduling, Rotageek uses complex, highly configurable algorithms to create millions of shift possibilities in seconds, to deliver a perfectly optimised schedule that meets business rules and legal requirements.
Today Rotageek is used by leading retail businesses and organisations including Pret a Manger, White Stuff, Pets at Home, Sephora, William Hill and Lola’s Cupcakes.