Retail branches suffer from multiple problems that directly impact sales, employees’ productivity, and business performance in general.
These problems vary from a long waiting line, sudden no-shows, understaffed branches, peak season traffic, misplaced items…etc. These problems commonly intensify during peak hours and seasons.
If we take a look at the common factor affecting all of the said issues, the answer would point to the employees📍. Their number, quality of their work, and productivity make all the difference. What affects their performance? Unstable and inconsistent scheduling!
In a study led by Ms. Joan C. Williams, the authors looked into how employee scheduling could impact Gap’s sales in 28 of Its branches. The main result was “more stable scheduling increased sales and labor productivity”. While this Is not the only study concluding the negative ramifications of understaffing, It differs in Its trial-based results.
The authors implemented multiple changes in Gap’s branches, all related to scheduling, to measure the impact of stable scheduling. Results of the study found that branches with stabilized schedules had an increase of 7% in sales (compared to the rest of the industry where an increase of 1-2% is considered a triumph). Labor productivity also increased by 5% .
The study also found that while retail companies focus on increasing sales through traffic and marketing. Study authors were able to increase Gap’s sales through investing in human resources, which increased conversation rates and basket value 🔥.
On a more local note, we have noticed during our work with Sabbar’s partners that one of the weakest links in most businesses is scheduling.
When looking at the causes, we concluded that unstable scheduling is usually due to one of these 2 main reasons:
This includes all internal communication 🏃🏽. It means that the schedule changes periodically but inconsistently (meaning that the schedule Is not changed monthly or bi-weekly on a regular basis, It changes more than once a week or almost daily). This happens due to multiple reasons. Which include: supervisors changing the schedule without information from higher management, sudden no-shows, understaffing, or random scheduling.
Williams’ study found that only 30% of scheduling problems occur due to clients’ traffic, meaning; variability in customers’ demand and traffic are not the primary reasons behind scheduling inconsistencies, rather, it is the understaffing during peak hours/seasons.
Most retail stores rely on full-time employees only, and most of the time, the number of employees does not meet the store’s demand! How does that happen exactly?
Well, keep in mind that for most industries (especially retail), there are seasons where customers’ demand and traffic increase, which increases sales during those periods. For example, Eid tends to be a busy season for bakeries and dessert shops. Ramadan is usually a busy season for supermarkets and dates shops/stands. Lack of knowledge of peak seasons and times leads to the inability to meet customers’ increasing demand. Most importantly, it could also lead to implementing unnecessary changes or causing irreparable problems (such as closing branches or decreasing the number of employees), all due to the unawareness of the root cause.
The reality is that schedules are hard to set and hard to maintain due to differences in store size, the number of available employees, and fluctuating peak times.
So the question is:
The numbers we’re referring to here are your store and market data which should be taken into account when scheduling your employees. When you are aware of your peak seasons, you’ll be better able to schedule your employees accordingly, and figure out times where you’ll need flexible staffing (Read: 5 Reasons why companies use flexible staffing and so should you!).
Have your attendance, leaves, and working hours policies are clear to each employee. Firstly, write them in their contract as required legally. Secondly, be sure to coordinate with the branches’ supervisors/managers to monitor compliance. Thirdly, try utilizing software that helps you keep track of your employees’ attendance.
Clarity of policies and procedures makes each employee accountable for their actions. More importantly, it makes agreed-upon consequences clear and justified 😌.
Scheduling your employees bi-weekly or monthly gives them ample time to arrange their other appointments and responsibilities in a way that works with their schedule.
Try using a scheduling software (other than Excel). Scheduling software helps in improving internal communication. It also helps you know each employee’s working hours (which will make finding the right replacement when needed easier), and It will save everyone’s time as it requires less active work 🙏🏻.
With periodic scheduling, make sure you share the schedule with your employees early (2-3 weeks in advance). Add an “accept” option to the schedule that is required of each employee. This way, you’ll know when the schedule does not fit any of your employees in ample time to change it. This additional step can be added in the software you use, through messages, or into the email you send them.
Engaging employees in the decision-making process when it comes to scheduling creates a healthier, and more supportive work environment, which will impact employee’s satisfaction and commitment (Read: Why Do Employees Resign from Cafes and Shops? Hint: It’s not the salary!).
Williams’ study discussed the managerial impact of the time and effort put into scheduling issues and changes. Frequently editing the schedule, coordinating between staff, and finding the right replacement when needed exhausts human and financial resources. In these cases, flexible staffing is considered your best option. You can hire them for set (and well-thought out) periods. Consequently, this will help you arrange your schedule without the long-term commitment or the high costs of hiring and letting go of full-time staff frequently (Read: Full Time VS Flexible Staffing Recruitment Cost).
Moreover, flexible staffing can be the best support for your staff during peak periods in terms of stress reduction and burnout prevention. When Alhokair Group utilized flexible staffing, they saw an 80% increase in performance development.
Sabbar helps you determine your flexible staffing needs by looking into your business model and industry and deciding market needs and peak seasons. In addition, Sabbar provides you with flexible staff per your need while assisting you in managing them 🚀. Hence, you’ll save great financial and human resources in the long term.
Therefore, your scheduling will be more stable and consistent, as it will be based on a needs analysis rather than random assumptions and predictions 🌵.
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