You know the drill. The order comes in at 3:59pm and company policy says anything ordered by 4:00 gets shipped the same day. You immediately assign it to your workforce to fulfill. But it’s not like the workforce you had when you became a manager 5 or 10 years ago. Whether you call them Millennials or Generation X, Y or Z, they’re just different. They have different lifestyles, different motivations and different attitudes about work. They’re also digital-native and a perfect workforce for today’s digital economy. Your job as a DC or warehouse manager is to leverage their skillsets to get the order to the customer on time, while staying within budget. Actually, that’s four jobs.
4 Workforce Management Jobs
Let’s break it down. First, you have to have the right workforce with the right skills available when you need them. That takes long-term workforce planning. Second, you have to attract, engage and retain a workforce that reflects your plan, which may include retraining existing workers. Third, you need to schedule that workforce to precisely match demand on a day-by-day and hour-by-hour basis, with the flexibility to handle that 3:59 order. Finally, you have to manage and motivate the workforce in such a way that efficiency and productivity are inherent in how they accomplish each task every day. That’s four critically important jobs for every manager.
The answer isn’t a crash course in time management (Although there is nothing wrong with that). The answer, like so much in our new digital world, is technology support.
Ecommerce. Robotics and advanced automation. Artificial intelligence. Internet-of-Things. Same-day and next-day deliveries. So much has changed about staffing and the skillsets you will need next month, next season and next year. Besides a crystal ball, what you need to create accurate, metrics-based long-term staffing plans is software that absorbs input from many different sources and intelligently balances future demand with the skillsets and headcounts needed to fulfill that projected demand. Next it needs to compare those projections with the skillsets and headcount on hand to determine where the gaps will occur so you can decide on the mix of hiring and retraining to fill those gaps.
Remember when workforce management basically meant hiring and firing? Not anymore thanks to a shortage of workforce talent and the demands of ecommerce fulfillment. Now you need to attract, engage and retain a skilled workforce that wants flexible schedules to match their lifestyles, who communicates through text and social media, and who thinks of a job as a gig—which they can quickly replace with another gig if they’re not happy.
To attract and retain this new workforce, you need a scheduling system that is not only flexible (see below) but also transparent. And you need to be able to communicate with the workforce via their mobile device of choice so they can quickly and easily check their schedules, swap shifts, report illnesses or conflicts and request time off from wherever they are at the moment.
There are two sides to flexible scheduling. On the one hand, you have to create schedules that accurately meet projected demand, yet with the ability to flex quickly as demand changes. This scheduling must include the capacity to understand the content of each task so schedules reflect the actual amount of time required to complete.
On the other hand, the schedules must be matched against the preferences of the workforce, whether that is for the fixed schedules often preferred by older workers or the flexible schedules preferred by many younger workers, as well as by those with family or eldercare responsibilities. It’s an incredible juggling act that no manager should have to attempt without sophisticated systems that can do all of the matching and balancing quickly and accurately—then redo a hundred times as things change.
When you’re up to your butt in alligators, it’s hard to remember the objective was to drain the swamp. That’s kind of the way it is in today’s DCs with ever-changing demand and flexible scheduling vying to turn operations into chaos. But you still have to get the job done efficiently and productively in order to meet customer expectations and maintain budgets. In the midst of the frenzy, managers can’t be hovering over workers to enforce productivity. Rather, detailed standards and self-motivating goals and incentives turn the workforce into self-monitoring productivity experts.
4-in-1 Workforce Management
The detailed labor standards used to promote productivity are based on the same task content used for accurate scheduling. Thus, the traditional labor management capabilities must be integrated with the new workforce management and scheduling applications to create optimal workforce management in the DC.
What will this integrated 4-in-1 workforce management approach mean for you?
- Accurate, metrics-based long-term staff planning that ensures the right staff with the right skills will always be trained and available to meet future demand
- Engaged and retained workers due to flexible scheduling and mobile-based communications and interactions
- Automated staff scheduling to free you for problem-solving while creating optimal hour-by-hour schedules that respond to ever-changing demand
- Efficiency and productivity driven through optimized task methods and standards
Most importantly, an integrated workforce solution drives bottom-line results. Customer service is improved while unplanned overtime is reduced. Efficiency is increased while worker engagement and retention are improved. The frenzy and chaos are replaced with a well-oiled workforce management structure. This results in DC labor cost reductions of 3-8 percent and return on investment in months, not years.
So, let those 3:59 orders come rolling in. With 4-in-1 workforce management you’ll have the workforce capacity to handle it without disappointing customers or busting the budget.
Learn more about Workforce Management solutions.
Martin Reynolds, VP of Retail Solutions at JDA Software, is an accomplished retail executive with over 25 years of experience, with an established track record of successfully leading and implementing strategic retail transformations. His retail operating background enables him to truly understand the needs and problems of retailers and consumer product companies in today’s dynamic and challenging environment and has applied his combined knowledge of retail business processes/operations and systems to help JDA’s strategic-relationship customers achieve their business goals. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org