Today’s Retail Workforce Management: How to Knockout Your Problem with One Punch

by | Nov 19, 2012

It appears that there is a growing phenomenon in workforce management affecting some of the leading retailers: associates have collectively and completely forgotten how to punch in and out at the start and end of day on their time clocks.

How could this be? Have they been abducted by aliens in order to discover the secrets of Earth’s productivity, and in an effort to undermine our celestial dominance, they have erased the concept of hard work and using time clocks? Is it that they spend so much time in a virtual social world that they feel that being virtually on time for work is good enough? Or is it simply they don’t see any value in clocking in and out and no one is holding them or their management accountable?

I’m certain that some fall into the first two categories, I will do all I can to stop them dating my daughters. The others are taking advantage of the retailers’ struggle to find and retain good talent and are gambling that their odd missed punch will be conveniently fixed during the end of week payroll process with not so much as a slapped wrist.

Trust me. I was a front-line retail associate and have I implemented many WFM solutions around the world, and I have seen every type of creative process-sidestep known to man. From stealing the timeclocks off the wall and selling them on on-line auctions (don’t do this at home kids) to people buddy punching from a printed list in their back pocket of their friends’ ID numbers and/or barcodes like a VIP list in a nightclub.

But what is a retailer to do about it?  In short, there are as many approaches as there are issues. As part of our Retail Best Practice Forums and over 250 WFM engagements, I wanted to share the most effective remedy that Axsium has implemented. It consists of four best practices that when combined effectively minimize the problem of missing punches:

Best Practice #1: Put the responsibility on the associate . The time has come to flag every, and all, missed punches as an exception. The first step in recovery is to admit you have a problem and be able to quantify the problem. These exceptions have to be raised to the associate and the onus needs to be on them to make a determination. Clearly, having the associate correct the error at the clock, on screen or even on paper is preferable legally. You now have a record of the original missed event and the associate’s declaration of what really happened. At the end of the week there will be exceptions to the rule due to associates not being there the day you close payroll but this is a giant step forward.

Best Practice #2: Let your managers manage. Managers need to be aware of each exception, they need to be required to attest to the correction of the issue, and they need to reinforce policy often and consistently. Retail managers cannot perform to their maximum ability with missing or inaccurate labor cost data. Lack of payroll insight and mounting administration has a detrimental effect on the customer experience and that connection needs to be clearly articulated to persistent offenders.

Best Practice #3: Keep score. – Attendance Management is beautifully simple and under-utilized. There is so much talk in the media of gamification of industry and how we can leverage the workforces’ predisposition to how online gaming provides positive philosophy of immediate rewards and trophies; well eventually you die in those games if you repeatedly do something stupid too many times too! Attendance Management allows retailers to overtly score and track attendance habits and numerically prioritize those associates that need retraining or some positive reinforcement of the consequences.

Best Practice #4: Drive behavior change programmatically. A human problem cannot be solved by software alone. A fresh change management program should accompany any required behavioral change in business. Educate the associates why it is important not only to you the retailer in order to be compliant, competitive and fiscally responsible but also how it benefits them. These programs need a start and end date or they can become cultural wallpaper.

These are simple yet sometimes overlooked answers to the problem of missed punches. The Time and Attendance products on the market now are robust and functionally rich. It’s time to stop calling this a WFM issue and be honest with ourselves; it’s an associate behavioral issue.

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