I am fortunate enough to have a ring side view of the impact of mobile applications like The Anywhere Learner Mobile has on the productivity of frontline store employees. The users of Anywhere Learner Mobile are now seeing actionable training that they could put in practice on the job, and are seeing the value in learning best practices directly from their peers.
I believe applications like Anywhere Learner foretell an emerging drive to take a broader view by retailers (that goes beyond just training solutions) by looking at workforce management solutions that would allow them to capitalize on sales opportunities, manage optimum staff levels, differentiate with superior customer engagement, and cut workforce management costs.
RIS has come up with an insightful report recently that captures the key milestones towards maximizing the ability of retailers to handle employee, customer, and technology challenges. The milestones are:
1. Use Granular Data to create Forecasts and Schedules: This means leveraging customer counting technologies, videos based data, and algorithms to analyze how many customers are in present in what areas of the stores, how many staff with what skills may be required, and why a large presence of customers is not translating into more sales. Such questions will throw light on scheduling, training gaps, and even store layouts.
2. Incorporate Customer measures into Workforce Calculations: Scheduling workforce is no longer just based on square footage of the store, but rather based on customer data geared towards making knowledgeable store employees available at the right time at the right places within the store. The focus on staff allocation is aimed towards addressing sales opportunities.
3. Use Mobile Deployment to increase Staff Productivity: According to the June 2012 RIS research, 19.2% of retailers are planning to deploy task management software with mobile device support by the end of this year, and another 30.8% have such a
deployment scheduled for 2013. Mobile apps can be used to deliver contextual customer information and manage operational tasks to increase workforce productivity.
4. Analyze Task Management Data to fine tune Labor Standards: Stores are using analytics to figure out individual productivity differences and leverage this data for shift allocation. And of course, task analysis helps in figuring out key productivity benchmarks which could then drive training.
5. Optimize Skills Mix for each Shift: Workforce management solutions provide an opportunity to analyze team dynamics and assign the most productive teams during the most productive hours. More importantly, Stores can now figure out what drives a high performance team and what causes team dysfunctions and take appropriate responses.
6. Offer Self-Service Options to Tech Savvy Employees: According to the May 2012 RSR Research report, “The employee is the in-store brand ambassador. It serves retailers well to invest in technologies that both educate these employees, help schedule their time in the most productive fashion, and insure the tasks they are given actually get done.”