An app that invites hourly workers to ‘co-create workplace happiness’
Some of this century’s most disruptive technologies — Facebook, Amazon, Uber — made their mark by straightening out kinks in human-to-human connectivity and enterprise. Workplace System’s "Workplace Mobile" app could make a comparable impact on society by upending the age-old, top-down social construct between managers and hourly-paid workers. The company’s easy-to-use app invites hourly-paid retail workers to collaborate with managers in the scheduling process — as the company says, "co-creating happiness in the workplace."
Speaking with evangelical fervor at the NRF Show on Tuesday, Workplace System’s group chief executive officer David Farquhar all but channeled Steve Jobs in introducing a product he believes will "transform the lives of millions of hourly-paid workers around the world, forever."
"This will be the world’s first employee-centric mobile scheduling tool," said Mr. Farquhar, "and it will do for employee relations what the Kindle did for publishing and what the iPhone did for the music industry. What makes it a truly compelling product for adoption is that it is beautiful and has been designed in such a way that it is highly intuitive for the users."
There is apparently a smart back end behind that sexy interface, as well, one that can, according to the company, find the best among a 100 million iterations of a schedule in under 30 seconds, a task they estimate would take a human manager seven years.
The app, and the Smart Schedule daskboard used by store managers to collaborate with workers in optimizing shift schedules, seeks to address the often devastating impact of erratic scheduling on employees’ work-life balance.
"If we ask them to work double shifts," Mr. Farquhar told RetailWire, "if we tell them to do ‘clopenings’ — if we give them highly disruptive shifts … how long are they going to last?"
[Read more from RetailWire’s interview with David Farquhar.]
The societal issue has been acknowledged in San Francisco to the extent that the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last month in favor of the "Retail Workers Bill of Rights." The legislation mandates, for example, that employers "provide all employees with two weeks’ advance notice of work schedules" and "advance notice of any changes." In fact, when employers fail to do so, additional "predictability pay" kicks in to compensate workers for the inconvenience.
"The fact that you have to create a Workers Bill of Rights is a consequence of having a lot of unenlightened employers," said Mr. Farquhar. "For me, this is all about business sense."
Joining Mr. Farquhar at NRF to present a retailer story was Dawn Bernick, director of retail operations at Wireless Vision, the T-Mobile premium retailer in the U.S., currently with 200+ stores. After about 18 months using Smart Schedules, Ms. Bernick reports that Wireless Vision has pushed its in-store sales conversion rate to 11 percent from about 4 percent prior, mostly attributable, according to Ms. Bernick, to greater engagement by employees. Revenue per hour jumped from $45 – $50 per hour to $55 – $60.
Perhaps most dramatic was the impact on the composition of the staff. Wireless Vision went from a 90 percent/10 percent full-time/part-time ratio to roughly a 60 percent/40 percent split, affording them much greater scheduling flexibility. All this was reportedly accomplished while pushing the employees’ "happiness" rating to 95 percent, up from 65 percent. And employee turnover plummeted from 125 percent prior to implementation to 40 percent after.
- Interview: David Farquhar, Group Chief Executive Officer, Workplace Systems – RetailWire
- Auto-Improve (video) – Workplace Systems
- Workplace Systems – company website
- Fair Scheduling and Treatment of Formula Retail Employees – City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors
- Hours and Retention Protections for Formula Retail Employees – City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors
- Retail Workers Bill of Rights – Jobs With Justice San Francisco
Do you see technology playing a role in improving the work-life balance for hourly-paid workers and their managers? What cultural hurdles will worker scheduling “co-creation” applications face in retail management?