- Unplanned employee absences waste one hour for every 10 hours of budgeted in-store labor, according to a survey of 800 multinational retail managers conducted by Kronos' Workforce Institute. Researchers found that absenteeism causes understaffing, creating significant management challenges for retailers and affecting store revenue, customer satisfaction, productivity and labor costs.
- More than half (52%) of retailers in the survey cited unplanned absences as one of their more time-consuming problems. Kronos said retailers are understaffed 25% of the time due to last-minute absences; 49% of survey respondents from the U.S. said that most of the time, they are given one to three hours' notice when an employee is not going to show up for work.
- More than half (55%) of global respondents have technology to manage unplanned absences, and 59% said that scheduling technology can positively impact their teams' productivity. According to Kronos, respondents believe that new absence and shift-swapping solutions can reduce absenteeism by as much as 18%.
Staffing is not a new problem in retail, where the nature of work is often part-time and unpredictable. The challenge for employers, as the Kronos study attests, is to avoid costly understaffing that prevents stores from being able to adequately stock shelves, allow for breaks and — perhaps most critically — provide customer service. An estimated 6% of all possible sales in the retail industry are lost due to a lack of store associates, according to a 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management study.
Technology can help employers better manage and reduce unplanned absences, and new solutions abound. AI-driven solutions can automatically track the times at which employees enter the workplace, for example, later using the data to build smarter store-wide schedules. In one example, Container Store adopted a voice tech solution that helped to improve communication between workers and allowed customers to schedule one-on-one appointments with employees.
Gig work upstarts like Uber have added on-demand staffing services for business partners who have last-minute or unexpected needs. The ride-hailing company joins Lyft, TaskRabbit, Airbnb and Shiftgig in the increasingly competitive temporary staffing space.
On the flip side, predictive scheduling has become a focal point for retail workers. On-call scheduling has made it difficult for these workers to do things like make medical appointments and arrange childcare, activists say, prompting some states and localities to consider predictive scheduling laws. Though they may add to the compliance burden for retailers, stable scheduling policies may actually improve sales, as observed in a study focused on Gap.
HR leaders can make use of technology to track absences, find workers to fill gaps and employ analytics to gauge the effectiveness of their strategies. Employers can also keep tabs on the predictive scheduling trend using HR Dive's predictive scheduling law tracker.