Empower Software held its annual user conference, EmpowerFocus 2014, in Orlando last week. In my wrap-up from last year’s conference, I described how Empower had focused on connecting with their customers. This year, Empower’s customers took the stage to describe how they are using EmpowerWFM and what made them successful. For this year’s show wrap-up, I thought I’d give a sample of what Empower’s customers had to say.
The Home Depot has been a long-time Empower user, having deployed EmpowerWFM’s Forecasting and Scheduling to all of their stores several years ago. Over the last year, the Home Depot centralized their forecasting process. This takes the responsibility for forecasting drivers and workload from the stores and puts it into the hands of corporate specialists. The Home Depot is using out-of-the-box forecasting algorithms to forecast dozens of drivers in each store. According to Senior Manager of Operations Strategy Chris Toner, centralized forecasting allows the Home Depot to be agile and quickly respond to changing demand. The new method has improved forecast accuracy and frees up managers to spend more time on the sales floor.
Modell’s Sporting Goods was an early adopter of EmpowerWFM and has been live for several years. Since its initial deployment, Modell’s has built a new labor model for their business. Modell’s Innovation Engineer Richard Givens explained that the retailer built its labor model by first establishing proper minimum staffing levels, then layering on task-based labor such as receiving and finally customer service. Givens explained that the key to success was to work closely with the stores to validate the labor model, ensuring each store’s unique attributes were accounted for.
Ingles Markets is a relatively new EmpowerWFM customer and expects to be fully deployed a year after starting their project. At Ingles, EmpowerWFM replaced TimeCorp’s VLM, and the new WFM system provides benefits such as proactive reporting and real-time access to labor data. Evan Wise, Employment Manager at Ingles, said that they had a very lean project team, consisting of four just people (not including part-time IT resources) including one executive member. Early on the team took ownership of the EmpowerWFM configuration to ensure that they could sustain the application later. But, Wise attributed their overall success to a comprehensive communication strategy that got buy-in from all levels of the organization well before the new workforce management software arrived in the store.
Big Lots! has rolled out EmpowerWFM’s Time and Attendance and Employee Self-service to 1,500 stores with Forecasting and Scheduling to follow. Chief Information Officer Stew Wennerstrom knew that change management was going to be critical to the overall success of his project. So, he embedded training staff in the WFM project team from the beginning. This ensured that the trainers not only understood about the software but also the business reasons behind the system. Communication with the stores about the project started 2 months before rollout began. Big Lots! piloted the system in the San Francisco area to test complex local and state wage and hour laws. Once the rollout began, Big Lots! deployed the solution in bi-weekly waves of 150 stores.
While the Big Lots! presentation focused on change management, it was a common theme with all speakers. Virtually every customer spoke about the importance of ensuring that the stores know more than how to use the system; stores need to understand what the system is doing. This level of transparency helps drive compliance (I am using the system because I have to) to commitment (I am using the system because of the benefits it gives me and the store).
Several retailers also stressed the importance of getting feedback from the field before, during and after rollout to understand how the system is being used. One of the big benefits of such solicitation is that it gives the workforce management team the opportunity to bust myths that the stores may have about the new system. For example, one retailer heard that the stores thought the new system was going to cut labor budget. That was not true. The system was going to help ensure that the labor budget was going to be used and wage and hour laws were followed. By being proactive, the retailer was able to correct the stores’ misperception and improve adoption of the system.
Overall, EmpowerFocus 2014 provided a wealth of insight and ideas to prospective and existing customers. It demonstrated the strengths of EmpowerWFM but provided best practices for any retailer implementing or using a workforce management solution.