Is last minute absenteeism playing havoc with retail store performance?

Discussion
Nov 15, 2018
Tom Ryan

Retailers are understaffed 25 percent of the time due to last-minute absenteeism, according to a survey from Kronos.

According to a survey of 800 retail managers across multiple countries with on focus on larger retail organizations (more than 1,000 employees):

  • For every 10 hours of in-store labor budgeted, more than one hour is wasted due to staffing misalignment caused by unplanned employee absence;
  • For the most part, retailers are given just one to three hours’ notice when an employee is not going to show up for work;
  • The top three operational downfalls of absenteeism cited by retailers worldwide are staff productivity (58 percent), customer satisfaction (47 percent), and store revenue (42 percent).

For store managers, absenteeism causes unexpected additional work on a regular basis. An average six percent of labor hours each month are worked to cover issues such as unplanned absence. This causes unnecessary stress for more than half of U.S. retailers (57 percent).

Forty-eight percent find it challenging to deal with administrative issues resulting from associates working additional shifts and/or incurring overtime to cover unplanned absence and 42 percent feel a big impact on labor costs. A wide majority (88 percent) also proactively over-schedule additional labor each day to cover anticipated absences.

Kronos, a provider of workforce management tools, not unsurprisingly indicated that technology could help by giving retailers a better read into employee preferences on shifts while also enabling associates to modify their schedule or swap shifts.

Three out of five (59 percent) retailers in the survey said scheduling technology has a positive impact on productivity within their teams. However, the findings reveal that technology isn’t promising to eliminate the high rates of absenteeism. Retailers anticipate that implementing a new absence and shift-swapping solution will result in only an 18 percent decrease in unapproved absence rates and would reduce labor costs by nearly three percent.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What tech and non-tech solutions to do see helping retailers minimize and manage last-minute absenteeism in stores? What’s your advice to store managers dealing directly with associates about unplanned absences?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"There is no cure for unplanned absenteeism caused by human/nature-related factors except to replace humans with androids that are stored in a closet and don’t get sick."
"retailers have to do a better of job of providing hourly team members with a reason to want to work beyond a basic wage."
"Store managers need to collaborate with store operations and IT to leverage technology solutions to solve the problem."

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9 Comments on "Is last minute absenteeism playing havoc with retail store performance?"


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Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Time-swapping is a direct cure for part of the cause. We must consider the fact that unplanned absenteeism is due to factors that are human or caused by nature (weather, personal situations, last-minute sickness, etc.). There is no cure for unplanned absenteeism caused by such factors except to replace humans with androids that are stored in a closet and don’t get sick.

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust

I really wish I could remember who did the study, but I very much remember the results. A university looked into the work habits of retail employees, specifically I think in Chicago and New York. This was maybe five years ago? What they found was that employees are absent mainly because of: 1.) Transportation failures, either that the bus schedule doesn’t work or the bus didn’t come. 2.) The fact that they work two or three jobs, and employers were not willing to be flexible to accommodate those schedules. 3.) The lack of support at home — so, a sick child, or a sick caregiver who suddenly can’t come in.

The net of it is, for the “average” retail worker it’s incredibly hard and stressful to meet the demands of what is usually more than one employer. So, if retailers want greater participation, this isn’t about technology. This is about livable wages and empathy for the people they depend on to be the face of the company to customers.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

There will always be the employee who is just paying for the next outfit and they need to be dealt with differently but, for the most part, Nikki’s take is spot on. Understand your employee’s issues and find the solution that works for them. Good software that allows employees to handle some of it themselves is a plus. For my 2 cents.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Those factors are important. Another is the preference of some retailers to schedule workers on the fly without a predictable schedule. Stressed-out associates have high turnover and lower productivity. When retailers concentrate on the well-being of associates, they’re rewarded with happier customers and improved revenue.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust
Technology is not going to solve the problem. Sure, some tools would make the manager’s job easier, but the problem is too many managers do not understand how to schedule staff in advance, and they instead wait until the last minute. That causes big problems. Ask most store associates about their biggest complaint with their job and they’ll most likely say “I can’t get enough hours,” “they always schedule me when I can’t work even though I’ve told them,” “It’s hard to plan a life when you never know when you’re working.” Managers are at fault because they don’t understand the scheduling process. They need better training to learn how to plan in advance, to work with associates’ availability and needs. No, they’re not going to be able to accommodate every associate every time but when they do they will find more associates wanting to work and not calling out. It’s not hard. Unfortunately, managers today get bombarded with so many other tasks, objectives, and goals they often don’t look at scheduling in advance as… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

First, look at your part-time and full-time mix. Staff the more consistently-scheduled full-timers in the shifts you need the most. Then look at recent history to see where your staffing is weak. Now, you get “personal” by talking with specific part-timers, or even full-timers who are habitually late to work. Respond to their specific challenges, either by documentation to weed them out if they’re not productive in general. Or, help them get back on track via accommodations that make sense for both of you.

These are very tactical ways to start addressing this issue, however you need to get tactical in your business processes and then think about how technology, e.g., automated schedulers, can help refine your staffing even more.

Ray Riley
BrainTrust

It is ABSOLUTELY playing havoc with retail store performance. Non-technologically and culturally, retailers have to do a better of job of providing hourly team members with a reason to want to work beyond a basic wage. This also means developing better store leaders that don’t pit sales associates against each other, are better coaches, and are fundamentally there to develop their associates into rock star sales and service people. This isn’t entirely technological; technology does not solve all problems, but front-line managers need to schedule their store several weeks in advance. I’ve talked to thousands of front-line team members, and the reasons they left “Company X” was because their schedule would change last minute, they didn’t know what hours they were working next week, and they couldn’t plan their life.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

This is not a problem that can be completely solved — there will always be last-minute absenteeism to deal with. Retailers need to develop processes (technology can help but not solve 100 percent) that create flexibility in labor scheduling. Most retailers will find that their associates will welcome increased flexibility that allows them to be part of the process to cover last-minute scheduling changes. No worker wants to be short-staffed. When the scheduling decisions do not include the associates in some way you get more broken schedules as a result and stores with staffing issues that result in less-than-satisfied customers.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Staffing is an ongoing challenge for retailers and last-minute notifications of unplanned employee absence make it very difficult for store managers to correct the situation. Retailers need real-time visibility across all locations to identify issues immediately and monitor the responses. Fortunately there are some very innovative tools that are very effective at monitoring and resolving issues in real-time.

For example, the Reflexis StorePulse real-time solution enables retailers to sense key events and trends happening inside and outside stores and intelligently redirects store managers or even the technology to resolve the issue. The real-time information can also be monitored by corporate teams that may be able to help identify available staff from nearby stores that can fill in for absent employees. The key is to identify issues and respond in real-time. We have a technical opportunity here to lower payroll costs and improve customer experience. Store managers need to collaborate with store operations and IT to leverage technology solutions to solve the problem.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"There is no cure for unplanned absenteeism caused by human/nature-related factors except to replace humans with androids that are stored in a closet and don’t get sick."
"retailers have to do a better of job of providing hourly team members with a reason to want to work beyond a basic wage."
"Store managers need to collaborate with store operations and IT to leverage technology solutions to solve the problem."

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