Today’s Retail Workforce Management: Putting the Sexy Back in WFM

by | Sep 30, 2011

Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting for a second that I’m the Justin Timberlake of Retail WFM. In fact, I can categorically confirm that I have never been in a boy band, can’t hold a tune in a bucket and my two left feet keep hugging the wall every time the annual father-daughter dance comes around at school.

So, how can I help put sexy back in WFM, allow me to explain. In recent weeks I’ve had the luxury of spending time with a number of retailers in an effort to better understand their highest priority strategic goals. Overwhelmingly I’ve seen a number of common themes emerge and I can see these same goals repeatedly validated through recent retail surveys:

  • Improving customer experience

  • Improving the alignment of associates to customer traffic

  • Improving productivity & realigning payroll investment

  • Improving execution & consistency

No massive surprises here. In fact, broadly speaking more often than not retailers state these as the biggest opportunities they face.

Given the profound impact of improving these areas of their business, why then are so many retail executives weary regarding their organization’s ability to successfully and fully address these opportunities through WFM investment? Why has this weariness translated in a perpetual struggle for their teams to convince these executives that a WFM project should receive higher priority than other initiatives being considered? 

I’m not the only one that sees this.  Joe Skorupa at RIS News recently wrote an editorial asking these same questions.  Why are retailers weary of WFM?

One reason has resoundingly struck home to me in the last few weeks: Too often WFM initiatives focus on what can be done rather than what should be done.  This leads to very large projects that have unrealistically high expectations associated with them. 

But, stop and take a breath. How many of the major retailers have successfully fully rolled all aspects of a single WFM solution? The answer: a small handful (and I mean really small). This is about the same number of people that I know uses all of the functions in Microsoft Excel, and trust me you don’t want them over for a dinner party any time soon.

WFM can deliver a formidable return on investment through the functionality it offers. It’s just that most retailers either don’t need all of the functionality to address their goals and some aren’t capable of fully harnessing its full capabilities.

So how can you put the sexy back into WFM?

We can start by thinking about WFM in terms of your strategic goals rather in terms of the software that you have implemented or are implementing.  This might be tough to do on your own.  After all, it’s easy to be stuck in the “what WFM can do” rut.  You need to be able to think outside the box.

The easy step forward is to find partners that already think about WFM in this way.  These are people that have already helped retailers think about WFM in terms of strategic goals and – and this is the most important part – are willing to share all of their experience.  This includes the good and the bad.  They should be willing to put you in touch with others that have been through similar experience, not just flagship clients.  Good partners will be willing to collaborate with you to develop a roadmap that aligns your WFM initiative to your strategic goals.   And, while it’s a simple start, this is how to put the sexy back into WFM at your stores.

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