Skip to main content

How Artificial Intelligence Is Powering the Fair Workweek

New technologies can facilitate greater flexibility and improve the overall employee experience.
A time sheet on a tablet

The battle for a fair workweek is not new. Labor struggles throughout history have given us weekends, the standard 40-hour workweek and other common benefits we expect today. Still, we've yet to perfect the concept of "fair" and in the places we're making progress, not everyone is reaping the benefits.

Right now, the struggle for a fair workweek is largely centered around hourly workers, whose rate of pay — and subsequently, their livelihood — depends on the reliability of their schedules. If they can't work enough hours, they may not receive adequate pay to cover basic necessities. 

But "fair" is more than just "enough." Workers also want the flexibility that allows them to take care of other responsibilities, like education and caregiving. Research shows that schedule flexibility is hourly workers' No. 1 priority — and they deserve that flexibility without having to sacrifice pay or stability in their schedules. 

It should come as no surprise that workers nationwide are campaigning for measures that further improve their work-life balance and guarantee a dignified workplace experience.

[Read more: CSN EXCLUSIVE: Retail Employees Seek Better Communication & Flexibility]

Advertisement - article continues below

Fair workweek laws prevent employers from assigning "clopenings" (consecutive opening and closing shifts), cap workdays at a certain number of hours and ensure predictive scheduling, among other measures to improve employees' quality of life. However, these laws may create new challenges for stores that depend on hourly labor. 

As workweek laws evolve, convenience stores could encounter difficulties in balancing compliance with growth and keeping ahead of the competition. 

Fortunately, new technologies — such as artificial intelligence (AI) — are constantly emerging to facilitate greater flexibility and improve the overall employee experience. It's simply a matter of knowing how to harness them. 

AI: The Manager's Workweek Assistant

C-stores have a legal obligation to uphold labor practices at the leadership level, but store managers typically have the responsibility of ensuring schedule fairness and maintaining compliance in day-to-day operations. 

It's just one more responsibility for store managers. Managers are the point of convergence between customers, employees and corporate leadership — they have an outsized impact on the success of the store, but that too often translates to an unsustainable workload. 

Using AI to intelligently automate schedule fairness and compliance management across all jurisdictions lifts a major weight from their shoulders and, when integrated into a modern workforce management (WFM) platform, allows them to focus on creating a better experience for both their internal teams and customers. 

A few examples of how AI can assist c-store managers are:

  • Error reduction: One small misstep in compliance can set off a wave of serious consequences. AI-powered systems, when coordinated with local labor laws, can flag and correct potential violations in scheduling, automatically calculate premium pay (overtime, holiday pay, etc.), and alert managers to new labor laws and policy changes. They can also help c-stores track their compliance records over time, should anything come under scrutiny. 
  • Schedule management: AI-powered scheduling automatically prevents "clopening" shifts, missed meal breaks and other potential violations while still accommodating employees' needs. It also prompts schedule creation well in advance, in line with predictive scheduling regulations. As labor laws amend and evolve, AI can help managers keep up with the changes to massively reduce legal risk to the business while providing employees with fair and flexible schedules. 
  • Compliance insights: Generative AI copilots within a WFM platform can automatically source compliance information for managers using a plain language interface. In addition to answering compliance questions, these powerful virtual assistants can enable automatic schedule adjustments and give employees increased visibility into their hours and pay. This way, employees have peace of mind that their schedules are up to fair workweek standards and managers don't have to second-guess themselves. 

Ideally, all these functions exist within a single WFM system with AI at the core. The harmonization of multiple types of AI optimizes the intelligent automation of WFM processes, reducing managers' stress while ensuring compliance. 

Improving the Employee Experience 

C-store employees deserve more than just a "fair" workweek. They deserve good jobs that energize them, give them purpose and allow them to lead fulfilling lives outside of work. 

Beyond compliance, AI-native WFM creates a better experience for hourly workers by enabling greater flexibility and freeing up time for more meaningful work. They get to enjoy their job and their life outside of it, while c-stores benefit from a more engaged workforce. 

This is why leaders must abandon tedious manual scheduling and embrace AI. With intelligently automated scheduling, employees can easily request schedule changes and the system will accommodate them according to projected demand and compliance requirements. 

The crux of the current labor movement — and every movement that preceded it — is a better quality of life. AI makes this more achievable for everyone than ever before. 

Michael Spataro is chief customer officer at Legion Technologies, an innovator in workforce management (WFM). Michael is a thought leader in the WFM space with a deep understanding of the changing dynamics of the workforce. His expertise lies in strategic planning for workforce management across multiple business sectors, with an emphasis on retail. 

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds