Reimagining the Management of Your Workforce

by | Dec 4, 2020

It’s already December. Peak season and the other curveballs that 2020 has thrown at retail will soon be in the rear-view mirror. Our businesses have changed dramatically over the last nine months and will continue to do so in the new year. It is now time to begin to explore your longer term WFM strategic needs. If you’re like most retailers, this means managing and effectively controlling payroll spend in a time when customer demand, employee availability, and business models are in flux.

Many retailers may have had an idea of what their longer term WFM strategy looked like prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic has forced them to significantly rethink their overall technology strategies. And as they struggled to leverage their existing WFM tools during and post shut down, even with significant manual intervention, their existing tools lacked the flexibility to dynamically adjust to the dramatic changes that were occurring in their business in real or near real time. So what’s the answer?

Next Generation WFM is now Near Generation WFM

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of advanced technologies. Prior to the global pandemic,  these technologies were longer term considerations – even what some might have thought of as “futuristic” or “trendy buzzwords”. However, all business sectors are now considering advanced technologies to run their businesses more efficiently, improve financial control, and improve the customer and employee experience. At the top of this technology list are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Robotics, all of which are now being leveraged to not only reduce the number of employees in the store but to augment those that are working and improve both the customer and employee experience.

Artificial Intelligence

What is it? Artificial Intelligence is intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. Leading AI textbooks define the field as the study of “intelligence agents”: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic “cognitive” functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as “learning” and “problem solving”

What does it mean for WFM and Retail?

Fact-Based Payroll Decisions

We can leverage AI to ensure our WFM solutions are consistently making and executing the right decisions and or recommending the right decisions to managers to be approved and executed. This will enable us to more effectively control labor costs while providing customers with the level of service they expect.   

Labor Savings and Customer Impact

This will also allow managers to spend far less time manually trying to figure out what the right decisions are within the application and interacting with the application to execute these decisions. We can also automate many routine tasks that currently require manager and or employee interaction.

Machine Learning

What is it? Machine learning is the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence. Machine learning algorithms build a model based on sample data, known as “training data,” to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so. Machine learning algorithms are used in a wide variety of applications, such as email filtering and computer vision, where it is difficult or infeasible to develop conventional algorithms to perform the needed tasks.

What does it mean for WFM and Retail?

Machine Learning can be leveraged to ensure we can forecast sales and labor more accurately and that forecasting results are much closer to the actuals. ML is constantly monitoring itself and making the necessary changes to improve the forecast (e.g., selecting appropriate algorithms, determining appropriate trending models to base the forecast on etc.).

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are not new; what is new is the real-time ability for WFM systems to process the massive amounts of data necessary to effectively leverage these technologies.


What is it? Robotics is an interdisciplinary research area at the intersection of computer science and engineering. Robotics involves designing, building, operating, and using robots. The goal of robotics is to design intelligent machines that can help and assist humans in their day-to-day lives and keep everyone safe.

What does it mean for WFM and Retail?

One of the biggest misconceptions about robotics is that it will replace humans. Robotics is being designed to assist or augment human employees with their work and reduce risk to employees and customers. During the shutdown, some grocers implemented robots that continually scanned every aisle to assess real-time stock positions to enable stock replenishment of high-volume SKUs.

How Do You Get Started?

The last nine months of shutdowns, panic-buying, and fluctuating demand have given you little time to do anything but react to this change and refocus on keeping the lights on. With peak season upon us, December and early 2021 provide a rare opportunity. It is critical that you use this season to take the time to reinvent your immediate and longer-term wmf strategy.

Gone are the days when you can simply plug-in a software upgrade every so often and be fine. You now need to think about internal WFM alignment, new WFM business needs, and the rapidly evolving feature sets of vendors in the WFM space. If you nail this process, you’ll soon find yourself equipped with a best-in-breed WFM solution that makes it possible to:

  • Accurately forecast sales and labor
  • Effectively and accurately control payroll
  • Ensure compliance (and push compliance to the employee where appropriate)
  • Automate time-consuming manager and employee processes
  • Provide an engaging experience for managers and employees  

Reach out to me at to learn how Axsium can assist your organization as you evaluate the significant cost-saving opportunities afforded to you by using Machine Learning, AI, and Robotics.

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