Does 1 Second Really Matter?

Occasionally I have been asked to justify why anyone in retail would need engineered labor standards. The arguments go something like,

• “Does one second vs one and a half seconds really make a difference?”
• “Most scheduling systems round labor anyway”
• “At the end of the day, operators have to schedule to the budget, not to labor standards”.

The basis of these questions is probably related to a bad experience trying to implement a pile of over-engineered labor standards that were handed off with little context or considerations for the end use. I know this because it happened to me back in my workforce management software implementation days. I have seen over engineering and incomplete labor engineering — typically from consulting firms whose primary services are focused elsewhere.

Labor standards should not be thought of as over-engineered time studies that split the hairs of time and are not compatible with environments that operate more fluidly. They are precise and accurate calculations, true, but in retail practice they should be viewed as a means to a more operationally productive end.

Engineered labor standards are the basis for achieving operational excellence. They are about understanding the workload required to effectively and efficiently operate your stores to make your workforce more productive. The information and insight they provide can lead to substantial gains in labor savings and lead to increased profitability. In most cases our clients are able to reinvest savings from inefficient tasking work to customer service and selling. Labor standards can also help make workforce management scheduling systems more accurate and work toward sharpening the budget – not blowing it.

So back to the original question – “Does one second really matter?” The answer is that you are asking the wrong question. The question should be, “Do labor standards really improve my operations?” The answer to that question, that we have seen over and over again across our clients, is emphatically “YES!”.

More to come on operational excellence and top-line growth…..

Sensing the Retail Store’s Pulse

Fresh from NRF2017, PJ Jakovljevic of TEC wrote a great article summarizing the momentum Reflexis Systems currently has in the market.  PJ specifically describes how the Reflexis partnership with Connors Group is a “step in the right direction” and will enhance their ability to compete.

Reflexis Overview

Founded in 2001, Reflexis is headquartered in Dedham, Massachusetts, and has offices in Atlanta, London, Düsseldorf, and Pune (India), with additional sales presence across cities in Europe and Latin America. Some of the company’s ~320 employees are stationed in their home offices in many other places.

The Reflexis retail store execution (operations) software platform started from store operations software solutions such as task management for corporate planners and store managers and retail store auditing for regional managers (the latter called StoreWalk). In 2009, the vendor expanded into the realm of labor operations software solutions such as time and attendance (T&A), workforce management (labor budgeting, forecasting, and scheduling), employee self-service, mobile apps, and analytics (see figure 1). These retail store execution capabilities aim to enable retailers to align store labor and activities with corporate goals and to institutionalize best-practice responses to near real-time exceptions and alerts.

More than 240 of global retailers in multiple vertical retail categories have reported significant improvements in store-level compliance with corporate strategies and increased revenue and profitability after implementing Reflexis solutions. These include grocery, quick service restaurant (QSR), convenience, specialty, big box, and apparel stores. In fact, Reflexis has an impressively high customer retention rate of 97% and high customer satisfaction ratings.

Figure 1. Reflexis retail execution platform
Figure 1. Reflexis retail execution platform

IoT-enabled StorePulse

Reflexis recently moved into the real-time retail store operations realm with StorePulse. This solution has since been adopted by major discount, grocery, consumer electronics, and drug/pharmacy chains. This is an IoT play where retailers can link their existing systems and devices to Reflexis to create automated best practice actions for store associates and store managers. This is based on metrics and exceptions from store supply chains, point-of-sale (POS) devices, store traffic counters, loss prevention, and various other retail systems (see figure 2).

For example, a major big box retailer is using the Reflexis StorePulse solution to greatly improve the efficiency of execution of the retailer’s in-store price matching promise to consumers (who typically come to showroom and then buy from the likes of Amazon). In this setup, store managers can approve the price reduction request by responding to a StorePulse alert with a simple “yes or no” click or finger push. Previously, store managers would have had to spend an inordinate amount of time shuffling papers or through computer screens to find info on the product whose price discount needed approval, which prevented them from doing more valuable stuff (imagine doing about 30 such approvals a day).

Check out the remainder of the article here.


Store Closing Trends and Operational Opportunities

The convergence of several retail patterns continues to point toward an increased need for operational labor improvements, from retail stores to distribution centers.

Retail store closings have been making headlines over the last few weeks.  Macy’s, Kohl’s, Walmart, and Sears have all announced store closings.   Conversely, the trend for distribution centers appears to be growth; in terms of new facilities, facility size increases, and inventory turns.  This largely reflects the impact of ecommerce growth.

We also continue to read, and hear from our clients, about Millennial’s desire for experiences in stores and increased service levels.  So, while the sales volume may be shifting to online transactions, there is still a demand for enhanced in-store service.

The need to increase the focus on customer service by minimizing time spent on non-service store activities/tasks (stocking, merchandizing, receiving, etc.), becomes tremendously important.  Our consultants, however, continue to see high levels of non-service tasking, and inconsistent execution coming at the expense of service across most retailers.

Time spent with customers is crucial to driving conversion and higher units per transaction, and needs to be focused on heavily to maintain the correct payroll percent.   This is negatively impacted if store employees are increasingly burdened with inefficient processes, or not well trained on defined best methods.

A reduction in physical store count means that the remaining stores will need to up their game operationally to meet the customer demands.  The remaining stores will not receive much payroll breathing room from the closing store cost reductions, and will need to prove their worth and viability on a daily basis by extracting the highest value from the labor they have remaining across the fleet.

We have found that processes in both the distribution centers and the stores can be improved to help ensure that product is delivered efficiently, and in a way that is quickly and easily merchandised at the store level.  Minimizing this type of tasking time to reduce overall payroll spend, and to refocus efforts on customer service, is essential.

The trends point to decreased physical store footprints, increased customer service levels, and increased distribution center activity.  Operational processes need to be crisp, and labor needs to be balanced optimally to pull this off effectively.


How to balance team development with operational duties: three steps to success

In today’s post-recession environment, companies are finding it increasingly
Screen_Shot_2015-10-20_at_5.18.32_PM-1difficult to keep up with lingering growth expectations. As a result, most management teams focus more time on operations than finding and training employees. In fact, we’ve found that managers spend less than 15 percent of their time on team development, disrupting the balance between operations, sales and talent acquisition.
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Welcome to our blog

Let’s face it, managing a business is no walk in the park. Between fluctuating markets, buyer uncertainty and an increasing focus on efficiency and return on investment, it’s easy to throw up your hands in frustration wondering where you should start. Here at the Connors Group, we’re all about helping our clients achieve real, measureable and sustainable operational successes through proven, results-driven programs created and delivered by our expert team of consultants. We help companies improve the way they do business—whether focused on customer experience, distribution planning or engineered labor standards.
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