Retail 2020: A sneak peek at the future of retail workforce management
Photo by iStock.com
By Jennifer Johnson, director, retail and hospitality practice group, Kronos Inc.
There is buzz in the industry today that the retail scene will change more by 2020 than in the last 50 years, and it's for good reason. By 2020, it will not just be millennials that retailers will need to cater to, it will also be Gen Z, who, in just a few years' time, will have significant power to shift trends in retail.
In fact, by 2020, Gen Z will be the largest group of consumers worldwide. These new shoppers will have tools at their fingertips and access to shopping across channels like no generation before. Also, like no one else before them, they will find the best price points and, at the same time, ensure that the retailer they're supporting is socially-conscious.
In short, they will have unprecedented levels of shopping power and 2020 is just two short years away.
So, what can retailers do? Of course, implement the latest in-store technologies and optimize all selling channels are good places to start, but there is an important aspect that cannot be missed: Empower the multi-generational workforce (many of them will be Gen Z) to deliver a superior shopping experience. Retailers must make routine work strategic so they're empowering staff to make bigger business decisions and have a real impact the bottom line.
• Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies can provide the predictive capabilities and valuable insights retailers need to produce stronger business outcomes.
• Revolutionary employee scheduling solutions that help supervisors create schedules employees will love but are still cost-effective for the company's bottom line.
• Mobile workforce management applications and technology that let employees and managers work the way they prefer — wherever, whenever, and however they choose.
Together or separate, these workforce management solutions will significantly improve retailers' abilities to manage staff, generate new sales and revenues, and run the entire business as effectively as possible to protect bottom-line profits.
Let's take a look at each of these three innovations and envision what "Retail 2020" could look like.
Work smarter: AI and machine learning
New improvements in AI and machine learning provide unprecedented business insight for better workforce management — and results.
These technologies enable retailers to detect valuable patterns within mountains of business data, which may have gone undetected in the past. For example, powerful algorithms now weigh many external variables, such as weather and traffic reports. While these examples may not be traditionally associated with workforce management, they can help managers fine-tune schedules. So even if there's an impending snowstorm or a traffic jam, retailers can be rest assured that they have a contingency plan and enough workers on hand.
Retailers can also leverage AI and machine learning to uncover attendance patterns by tracking employee-related data such as absenteeism, tardiness, past call outs, shift changes, and more. The technology then identifies various outcomes, including risk, reliability, engagement, and performance. Managers can use this to make the best decisions each day, while providing the continuous, data-driven feedback employees need.
Improve employee scheduling practices — and results
Many retailers today are already taking advantage of new ways to create schedules that make employees happy while still delivering bottom-line results. Specifically, the most sophisticated scheduling tools let retailers schedule the right employees at the right time without overspending budget.
Employees can make themselves available to work in more than one store or franchise when there are many locations in a close geographical area. This option gives managers a larger pool of employee experience levels and more options to choose from when they need to fill an open shift.
Enhance the employee and manager experience with easy-to-use mobile solutions
Additional new innovations in workforce management technology also include the ability for applications to operate entirely on a user's preferred mobile device.
From an employee's perspective, this mobility now gives them much more visibility, input, and control over their own work experience, especially in areas such as scheduling. If something comes up unexpectedly, they can use their mobile device to quickly post their shift to a shift-trade board. These capabilities promote and support work/life balance, which leads to increased levels of engagement and satisfaction.
For managers, these mobile solutions free them so they don't have to be trapped behind a desk and can be productive anywhere, anytime. They can truly “manage in the moment” and interact with employees and customers on the floor, where they'll have the most impact. Even better, these solutions are all device-agnostic, and any user can easily move from desktop to tablet to phone, with the same experience.
New solutions for the next generation of retailers
While these new technologies will certainly be part of the overall retail landscape in 2020, they are all available today. In fact, today's most innovative retailers are already successfully deploying these cutting-edge technologies to increase employee engagement and productivity, manage their business better, and ultimately, drive revenues and profits higher.