‘It’s the employees, Stupid’

Jan 28, 2005

Editorial by Stuart Silverman

One of the things I was impressed with at NRF this year was the number of companies selling solutions to improve or “optimize” employee productivity.

When I started out in this business years ago, retailers were deploying engineered labor standards and the systems to process them to insure that employees delivered a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. The prime motivator was that when employees were measured against a standard, productivity increased significantly.

While we still see traditional time and attendance, labor standards and scheduling systems, it appears that a newer class of systems is emerging in the market more geared to (1) recruiting, retaining and educating retail workers, (2) scheduling and optimizing the tasks they are being assigned and (3) providing sales assistant tools to allow retail employees to deliver much more informed advice about the products that they are selling. The focus of these applications is to hire the right people, assign to them do-able tasks that respond to the always-changing store environment and to give them the tools that they need to perform those tasks.

A positive retail environment attracts and retains customers. I’m sure we all have our favorite stores where the employees are engaged and happy to provide service — mine are Wegmans, Whole Foods and DSW. While these work force management tools will not guarantee employee satisfaction, they can go a long way to alleviate many of the stresses that retail employees encounter today.

Moderator’s Comment: Are retailers beginning to focus more on technology that drives sales rather than on applications and hardware that promises to
reduce costs? Where do you see the greatest opportunity for retail technology to help drive sales?

When purchasing big-ticket systems, buyers are often required to determine the ROI of the overall investment based on either reducing costs or increasing
sales. When it comes to the workforce, the “reducing costs” applications have traditionally been more popular than the “increasing sales” applications. Don’t you think it is time
for retailers to start investing in the tools to help their store employees do a better job at their assigned tasks so that they can feel better about themselves and project a
positive attitude in the store?

Stuart Silverman – Moderator

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