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05/09/2022

Empowering Employees Through Workforce Management Technology

Today’s capabilities enable convenience stores to do more with less store-level staff.
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workforce management technology

NATIONAL REPORT — The labor shortage that plagued retailers in 2021 is continuing in 2022, and it’s unclear when the situation will begin to improve.

Many retailers are turning to technology — specifically, workforce management (WFM) technology — to not only do more with less store-level staff, but also retain the staff they do have. What was once thought of as simply time and attendance technology now offers innovative solutions to help retailers do more with less and keep their current staff satisfied.

“The labor issue is not a temporary situation,” Sanish Mondkar, founder of Legion, a workforce management technology provider based in Redwood City, Calif., told Convenience Store News. “This is something that is going to last and everyone in the industry has to raise the bar to provide a better experience for employees.”

Today, WFM technology falls under the broader category of Human Capital Management and in many cases, includes safety-related technology, forecasting technology, employee self-service, task management, and training. Not only do these tools benefit the retailer, but they also empower the employees, which leads to higher job satisfaction and retainment.

The COVID-19 pandemic fueled many c-store operators to speed up the rollout of WFM technology as both employer and employee needs began rapidly changing. This included the need to communicate with employees across the chain, as well as give them access to swap schedules to ensure shifts were covered. And the pandemic highlighted the need to monitor compliance with new policies and procedures across an entire organization. 

“Workforce management technology has evolved so much over the past six years and in the past two years, it’s evolved again,” said Will Eadie, chief revenue officer at Workjam, a digital workplace provider based in Montreal. “It used to be thought of as time and attendance, but in the past two years, retailers started realizing they needed to communicate with employees, let them have tools to change their schedule, and also manage employee tasks to make sure they get done and stay consistent from store to store.”

While employee time and attendance remain a part of workforce management, today’s technology offers “an abundance of tools that sit on top of it,” Eadie explained.

Some of the most popular options available under this category are:

  • Task Management — This enables a chain of stores to deploy step-by-step digital instructions for tasks, assign them to specific locations and people, and monitor compliance throughout the chain.
  • Scheduling/Time & Attendance — This digitizes employees’ schedules and makes it easier to make changes, and also tracks their hours worked.
  • Forecasting — With forecasting technology, often powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, c-stores can consider outside data such as weather, local events and holidays, and combine it with historical data to create optimized labor schedules at the store level.
  • Employee Self-Service — Employees feel more in control and empowered when they can not only have access to their schedules, but also have the authority to swap schedules digitally and with ease from their mobile phones. This also includes pay visibility.
  • Performance & Training — Learning management systems and training can be part of a workforce management system, and can be tracked by the employee so any certificates earned will be visible when it comes to swapping shifts or taking on new responsibilities.
  • Earned-Wage Access — Also known as “same-day pay,” this allows employees on-demand access to their earned pay based on the hours they worked, rather than having to wait one or two weeks for a paycheck.

Turnover in the convenience store industry has always been an issue but, in a labor shortage, attracting and retaining employees is more important than ever. WFM technology can empower employees and give them the tools they want and need to increase job satisfaction.

“I’m impressed by the trend of not just optimizing labor and reducing cost, but prioritizing the employee’s wellbeing and their experience with the company — and you will actually save money if you retain workers,” said Mondkar.

The No. 1 driver of employee satisfaction is giving them a say over how, when and even where they want to work within a company, he said, noting that the communication and messaging piece is also important to today’s workforce and something technology makes easier.

“A lot of employers are realizing communication equals respect and employees want respect,” Eadie echoed. “Communication is everything, and a schedule is a form of communication.”