Q&A: How StoreForce’s workforce management solution helped specialty retailers navigate COVID-19
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The importance of quality workforce management solutions really stepped into the spotlight this year as specialty retailers were first faced with the unexpected shutdown of the economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, and secondly faced with figuring out how to reopen with the right amount of staff to meet shoppers’ needs. StoreForce President Dave Loat sat down with SmartBrief to discuss how COVID-19 has changed retail and the importance of retailers having the right tools that allow them to manage all the different aspects of their workforces in one system.
How does your workforce management system help in a situation like COVID-19? How is your system unique?
The teachings from both the shutdown as well as the reopening elevated certain functions within both workforce management itself as well as the ‘“plus” side of StoreForce’s offering, as follows:
- Employee communications – During the shutdown, a reliable method to communicate with furloughed store staff was critical. The ability to broadcast a message to all employees or groups of employees based on where they worked and what role they were in was critical in the reopening process. Further, during the reopening, new rules and regulations were being brought out daily as local and state governments pivoted to adapt to ever changing situations – being able to communicate a single concise message to employees based on what store they worked in was essential.
- Borrowing employees – Finding staff willing and able to return to work after the furlough was difficult – this left a staff shortage in many stores. Being able to post available shifts to qualified staff via ourEmployee Self-Service (ESS) module became critical in filling these shortages. This allows staff with the appropriate skillsets in the same geographical area to work across a number of stores.
- COVID-19 attestations – prior to clocking in on StoreForce’s ESS module, the system has the ability to ask employees to attest that they are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Tasking – With store reopening, a series of new recurring tasks were born – specifically around store cleaning and COVID-19 policy adherence. StoreForce’s advanced task management system allows for recurring specific tasks that can be assigned to individuals, and task completion can include photos to prove compliance;
- New metrics – The pandemic has placed capacity restraints on many specialty store retailers. Given that StoreForce’s exclusive focus is on specialty retail, we pivot to address the needs of this marketplace every day. COVID-19 has brought on new metrics such as “capacity turn” (measuring how many times the maximum capacity of the store is turned over daily), and elevated the importance of other metrics such as “visit value” (how much you receive on average from each person crossing your lease line). StoreForce was able to co-develop this new KPI regime with their clients and deploy it prior to store reopening
- Stores as Markets – StoreForce is the pioneer solution that marries the physical demands of in-store omnichannel activities with the traditional demands of the brick-and-mortar store. This includes measuring the influence of stores on omnichannel activity (market sales) as well as to calculate the Available Capacity metric for each hour in each store and direct in-store omni-channel activities (pick & ship from store, click & collect) to the optimum store or time to increase store labor efficiency while enhancing the customer experience.
StoreForce and specialty retailers have learned a lot about how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. But since no two pandemics are alike and other unknown challenges might not be a pandemic at all, how do these lessons apply to the next unforeseen scenario?
The learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic have broken traditional specialty retail paradigms. While many of the technologies that have proven useful over the last few months (E-commerce, Unified Commerce, Unified Inventory, Labor Pooling, Shift Marketplaces, Available Capacity, Stores as Markets) have existed for some time, those who had not made the investments found themselves on the back foot, and they are now remedying these issues. The outcome is that retailers will be better equipped to address what comes next, and more agile and nimble in embracing the challenges.
How big a role has StoreForce’s solution played in helping specialty retailers navigate COVID-19?
StoreForce is fortunate to have such incredible brands as clients – they are our partners and we collectively navigated the storm. Immediately upon shutdown and pre-furlough, we introduced a twice weekly drop-in style online training for all of our clients’ store and field managers to keep them engaged. We held virtual round table discussions with client leadership, thereby creating a forum where they could share ideas and solutions with each other, and held a series of webinars sharing real benchmarks from our client’s actual reopening experiences.
Retailers are still in the middle of this. Will this be an ongoing learning process?
Without question, yes. In the early days of reopening, retailers were trying to react to daily changes to local regulations on capacities, hygiene, etc. I expect that in the future we will not have an across the board lock-down, but that any lock-down will be a local or regional event, and much of what we’ve already learned will come into play. However, the consumer’s behavior will continue to evolve – we have never been through a COVID-19 holiday season before. And while many pundits have many predictions about what will occur, which range from supply chain and home delivery collapsing under the weight of an online surge, to stores as distribution centers, all we can really count on is that we are going to have to get up each morning, see what the world has to offer and respond accordingly.
Consumerism is alive and well – how agile and nimble a specialty retailer is in responding to it will separate the winners from the losers.
Learn more about StoreForce and its workforce management solution helped its specialty retail clients navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic. Download the "Preparing retail workforces for anything" whitepaper now.