With the flow-on effects of the endemic and the ever-changing government guidelines, retail and hospitality organisations, like many other businesses, are currently facing a diminished workforce and higher than ever employee expectations.

Lack of visibility to workforce data can be disadvantageous when rostering staff and trying to fill last-minute shifts, especially due to a sick employee. Employers must have processes in place to support staff to take leave as needed while allowing management to be able to efficiently cover shifts to reduce disruptions without adding to their workload is essential. But this isn’t just about sick leave.

The positive impact on the workforce

A retailer’s most significant asset and most valuable competitive advantage is its people and the level of customer service that they deliver. Since retail and hospitality has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by COVID-19 and many continue to struggle under the pressures of an unpredictable workforce, ensuring that team members are empowered to contribute to the organisation and remain engaged is essential.

However, any workforce planner can show that rosters change rapidly and that there are other challenges such as controlling labour costs, promoting a positive work culture, and managing safety and compliance risks. Thus, having a system that allows real-time visibility into schedules, leave, and associated costs for both parties is beneficial.

For employees, visibility into real-time scheduling, gives them control over their work preferences, requests for coverage, and swapping of shifts while managing their availability and balancing their work-life commitments. This not only gives them convenience but gives retailers invaluable data into workforce behaviour.

For front-line management, this real-time data lets them support employees more effectively, establish a business that is appropriately staffed, and reduce administration so productivity isn’t impacted.

Helping retailers better manage the workforce

A solution that leverages real-time employee data allows retailers to make informed decisions, streamline processes, and effectively plan by automating the alignment of labour to demand. Smart workforce management solutions now deliver retailers a far greater level of flexibility than they previously had access to and lets them keep pace in an ever-changing environment, whether it be due to a pandemic or seasonal trends.

Cloud-based, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solutions are an effective way to streamline those complex processes while also delivering operational insights that help balance employees’ needs against business objectives. They use the real-time data to self-tune and learn from the data trends that are unique to the business to provide effective scheduling and accurate forecasts as well as bring recommendations to managers about the workforce they manage by automating tasks relating to time, attendance, leave, and compliance.

Understanding precisely what is happening in real-time lets retailers predict and, more importantly, prepare for peaks and troughs with the correct number of skilled staff to ensure that business operations are optimised.

Diana Barbieri is head of retail and hospitality for Asia Pacific at UKG.