NRF 2020 – “Store Manager Walk”

I’ve been told I walk too fast. I learned this trait running multiple stores over the course of my life. My friends who’ve worked in the trenches of retail call it the “Store Manager Walk”. I walk fast because in a store I had a job to do that required me to be present quickly. I could be helping a customer, cleaning a mess or listening to a teammates concerns. All of it required speed and presence in that moment.

This week at NRF I found myself walking faster than most. As I walked to and from the conference I would weave in and out between people to get where I needed. Once in the conference it was much of the same. It was a steady reminder of those store manager days.

In the world of retail speed is everything. Speed to market, speed to shelf, speedy checkouts. This world is moving at such a fast pace. Even methods of planning and analysis need to be done quickly. 

At NRF I counted more than 900 vendors all promising they can help retailers find that speed to win in the market. It is fun to see all the innovation and capabilities coming.

I saw virtual reality devices to train associates and help with customer experience, even better holograms. They had wearables to free your associates hands to work while they receive automated communication through a headset or wristband, Artificial intelligence to help guide or even make decisions for the store. There were cameras galore showing how they monitor and gather data. Robots in every aisle automating processes once done by human hands.

It’s always a really cool show. At times you wonder if some of these things will ever become mainstream or a differentiator in business. 

It’s difficult to know who will even be here in the coming years as some markets seem so saturated. I had a fun time asking vendors how their product is better than the 32 other vendors in their category. 

I remember reading a Harvard Business article comparing two vendors claiming one had more staying power. Where is that vendor today, not there but the other one remains.

To me the ones that shined were the ones that know that “Store Manager Walk”. They understand the trenches of retail and what it takes to get work done. They know what stores need in order to make their lives and business better. Unfortunately as I weaved through slowly moving vendors and watched tons of demos many didn’t illustrate their knowledge of stores and with it maybe the possibility of selling their products to them.

It is a crazy space with lots of promise. I love being in retail and helping clients figure out which of these products have the ability to make a difference and their business better.

Focal Systems and Connors Group Announce Partnership to Transform Retail Operations

We’ve all been there – you head to the grocery store to pick-up a couple of items and that one item you REALLY wanted isn’t on the shelf.  In the list of frustrations that pain grocery shoppers the most, out-of-stock items is always at the very top.  For grocery retailers, they feel this pain nearly as much as consumers do.  Recent studies show that grocery on-shelf product availability continues to hover in the low 90%’s.  This represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity to the entire grocery industry – the retailers, distributors and manufacturers would all benefit greatly by improving on-shelf product availability.  Even grocers with best-in-class supply chains, workforce scheduling practices, employee training and inventory management systems find themselves battling against on-shelf availability.  Despite all of this technical and analytical horsepower, most grocers can’t crack the on-shelf availability code and the reason for that is simple – grocers don’t know what is actually sitting on their shelves in real-time.  And it is for that reason that we at Connors Group are partnering with Focal Systems and leveraging their focalOS technology to help our grocery customers significantly improve on-shelf availability. 

Read the Press Release here:

Conversion – The KPI for the New Retail World

The traditional retail performance metric of comp store sales (year over year results for stores open at least one year) may no longer be the best metric to measure store performance. Customers increasingly shop across channels and embrace online shopping. Store closings compress sales into a smaller population of stores. “Comp sales” is, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, completely misleading. It is time to consider a different metric to measure store performance.

For example,

A Store Manager and team may have limited impact on how many potential customers walk through their doors on a given day, but they certainly have tremendous impact on the shopping experience. Ultimately this experience should convert those shoppers into buyers. (Refer to the articles by my colleague Andrew Taylor here for more detail on the “New Reality” for retail.) To maintain performance when store traffic is down, conversion must increase!

Even in 2019, many large-scale retailers don’t consistently track conversion. And if they do, many don’t build performance metrics and strategies for improvement around the findings. I’ve worked with many retailers who say “oh yes, we know what our traffic is…” only to discover they are using transactions and equating that to traffic. Transactions tell the actual number of customers who made a purchase, while traffic presents the total opportunity for converting a shopper into a buyer. Assuming that conversion is irrelevant because you are a “destination shop” is also dangerous. Even a destination shop can “walk” traffic without the right disciplines in place to deliver on the customer experience.

To calculate conversion, you must first capture traffic, and this requires devices. There are many traffic capturing device options in the market; but for the purpose of this discussion we will not discuss the pros of cons of each, just that devices are required for determining traffic. Once you have traffic counts, the conversion formula is simple:

Once the baseline conversion rate has been calculated, it is easy to derive the potential sales lift that can be realized by an increase in the conversion rate. For large-scale retailers, even a 1 percentage point increase can translate into hundreds of millions of dollars of top-line impact.

Conversion Levers

To achieve even a modest sales lift, understanding the levers that impact conversion is imperative. The levers you pull should revolve around the customer value proposition for your stores. Wal-Mart has a very different value prop than Nordstrom, but both should be concerned with converting traffic into sales.Four broad levers that influence turning a shopper into a buyer are:

  1. Maximize Product Availability
    1. Is the product the customer wants to purchase available in the store?

Depending on the type of retailer, this means even down to the size and color level. When an item is not available, the chance of converting that shopper into a buyer significantly decreases.  In addition to a lost sale, the customer has also had a negative shopping experience. Simply having the product in the store is not enough. The product must be available to the customer. Having twenty of a SKU in the backroom doesn’t matter if the shelf is empty. In-store disciplines and processes should ensure that the number of “perceived out-of-stocks” (POOS) are minimized. Typically, for most retailers, a 3-4% improvement in POOS will drive a 1% sales lift.

  • “Save the Sale”
    • Offer alternative fulfillment options. If the item a customer wants is not available in the store, what options does a sales associate have?

Best practices would drive a series of actions to execute when this occurs. Typically, the first may be to offer an in-store alternative. Do you have the same item in a different color? Is there a similar item you can show to the customer? The goal is the save the sale by selling what is available.

Best-in-class retailers offer the option to fulfill through omni-channel and have it delivered to the customer’s home, sometimes even same-day!

The final step in the “save the sale” process is to offer to find the item in another store. Best practice is for your sales associate to have inventory visibility to see what store(s) have the item and then offer options that best suit the needs of the customer. They could go to another store and purchase the item, or another store could send the item to your store or another store could ship the item directly to the customer’s home.

Most retailers have processes like the ones mentioned above, but normally lack visibility to how often those options are being offered to their customers. Failing to measure the delta in conversion when these actions do and do not occur risks failing to drive behaviors that will ultimately delight the customer and save the sale.

  • Drive Customer Engagement
    • If your retail model is built on differentiating your brand based on service, it is paramount that your sales team effectively engage as many customers as possible.

Many retailers do not track and know how often their customers receive service experience. The difference in conversion when this occurs is significant compared to when it does not. Even a behavior as simple as greeting a customer has proven to have an impact on conversion, yet when measured most retailers are surprised by how many customers are not even being greeted.

Depending on the type of retailer, studies have shown a dramatic increase in conversion when your sales associates can get a customer to interact with the product. This can be as simple as getting the customer into a fitting room or to try on a pair of shoes. Why do we think Costco has so many sampling stations? In our experience, this is a behavior that is best achieved organically by first engaging with the customer. Once again, how are you measuring how often this occurs?

  • Enable Scheduling Effectiveness
    • To enable the store to execute on the behaviors described above you must create effective schedules.
  • The goal of scheduling is to get the right employee scheduled in the right place at the right time. Best practice is to leverage technology, along with a great process, to create a schedule based on analytics that matches labor to workload in the store. If your store is under-staffed during peak selling days or peak times of the day, conversion will be negatively impacted.  In addition to poor conversion, you will also be providing a sub-optimal shopping experience. Conversely, this often leads to over-staffing during slower periods of the week thus bleeding payroll.

A final note of caution is that focusing singularly on conversion can have unintended consequences as well. Conversion is that act of turning a shopper into a buyer. Stores must also pay attention to what the customer buys, not just whether they buy. Cross-selling and upselling are critical to making sure the customer gets the solution they need, not just what they ask for. Again, this could range anywhere from getting signage and pricing right, to having fully trained specialists available for the customer. Conversion is necessary, but not enough to win the retail game in the new reality.

In summary…

To compete and win in the new retail era, new strategies must be developed and executed.

These strategies need to include:

  1. Track conversion and use as a key performance management metric
  2. Identify the levers that drive conversion
  3. Quantify your baseline execution of these levers and their impacts on conversion
  4. Design and implement a plan to improve metrics that impact conversion

All the above will ultimately result in improving the success rate of converting your shoppers into satisfied buyer, but ultimately an effective performance management program is crucial to drive sustainable results. More on that in a later blog…

Beyond Development…Integrating Engineered Labor Standards into Your Business

Here is an all-too-often familiar scenario…

Your organization has just completed a project to develop Engineered Labor Standards, and chances are that either your organization has never had standards or has not revised them in quite some time…

Obviously, this was not merely an intellectual exercise to keep your engineers busy. There was a strategic reason for developing or updating the standards.

So, what happens next?

There are typically two broad categories of application for labor standards. One is operational and involves using the standards to help generate schedules for stores that are unique to their individual labor demands. The other is financial and involves using the standards to help forecast the actual cost of labor for different budget scenarios.

Developing Labor Schedules:

Accurate labor schedules are an underpinning of effective store operations. The process to generate effective schedules can vary from retailer to retailer. Mall-based retailers with small footprints may be able to get by with predominantly “fixed” schedules that ensure minimum coverage is in place during open hours. Larger retailers will be highly variable depending on customer flow, product flow and other activities (like visual merchandising and marketing) in stores. For anything other than the most basic of retailers, it is usually best to employ a Workforce Management (WFM) system to help managers generate accurate schedules.

Integrating Labor Standards into a Workforce Management (WFM) Application

WFM systems use standards, coupled with a forecast engine to determine when certain drivers (such as customers, shipments, plan-o-grams, etc.) will occur, to determine finite labor demand, often down to the 15-minute increment level. Other factors such as skillsets, scheduling rules, job roles and availabilities transform this demand into actual shifts and schedules. Let’s assume you already have some WFM solution in place to generate optimized schedules for your stores. You must now integrate your newly developed labor standards into the WFM solution. Most WFM systems default to a static table within their software to house labor standards. Another option is to house your standards in an external system or database, then integrate it into the WFM through a robust API.

Why use ANOTHER system to house our standards?

The optimal way to manage labor standards within a WFM environment is to have them reside in a tool / application specifically designed to house labor standards and to integrate into a WFM application. The primary benefit of using a tool like this, since such tools are designed specifically for labor standards, is that it makes maintenance much easier.  In any business environment, changes will occur that require you to make updates to your standards. For example, a process may change due to a technology enhancement. This may involve making a change inside the standard rather than a wholesale replacement or global update. These changes can be made manually if you do not have a tool, it is just a much more arduous process which often leads to the changes not being done on a regular basis. Labor standards tools facilitate these changes very efficiently.

Another benefit of using a purpose-built labor standards system is that it facilitates functions like peer grouping and store attribute tracking. There are normally physical, demographic or technological differences between stores that change the labor requirement for similar tasks. For instance, a mall location might experience much higher traffic, but lower conversion (i.e. more “browsers”). The standard for recovery per traffic might be different for mall stores versus stand-alone locations. This requires that these attributes are housed in one location that can be easily monitored and audited when changes (i.e. relocation) occur. Having “one source of truth” in a labor standards system facilitates this process.

Finally, labor standards systems typically have been designed to integrate with most of the major WFM solutions on the market, so the process is straightforward to achieve integration. If you do not have a tool and you are using, for example, Excel, integration can still be achieved by an export and manually inputting the file into your WFM application. This is certainly not the optimal method, but still feasible. The point is, you should be thinking ahead at the beginning of your labor standards project to how you will ultimately integrate your standards into a WFM application.

Financial Modelling:

Just as accurate labor standards are an underpinning of effective store operations, they are also a critical piece of effective financial planning and analysis regarding labor. An accurate picture of how much labor is required in stores, particularly in discrete detail down to the task level, allows a series of intelligent decisions to be made; a reconciliation between labor demand and available budget reveals productivity challenges, underfunding and ramifications to the service model. However, it is critical that this process is not oversimplified. Consider how WFM systems use standards to generate schedules. If, in financial analysis, standards are simply applied against historic drivers (traffic, transactions, units sold, etc.) then the true labor demand can be greatly underestimated.

Understanding the Difference Between Labor Demand from Standards and Creating a Schedule

It is critical to remember that standards are only one piece of the puzzle and the hours that are used to schedule will be different than the simple application of forecasted drivers to labor standards (also known as “Raw Hours”). Typically, the hours scheduled will be higher. There are various reasons for this. Let’s examine a few:

Minimum Staffing Requirements

There are many reasons why a retailer would want a specific store or department staffed with a minimum number of store associates regardless of what the forecasted labor demand is. It could be due to safety related concerns (you may never want an associate working in a store alone). It could be for loss prevention reasons (maybe you have a high-shrink department). It could be strategic (you want to grow a business segment) or it could be just the physical space of an area would make it more desirable to have a minimum coverage requirement. If you have minimum staffing requirements, you would then configure your WFM scheduling application to ensure there is always the required staff schedule even during times when the workload (as determined by standards and driver forecast) would not dictate those hours.

Business Rules

When you configure a WFM scheduling application, as part of the process, you must define specific business rules to adhere to. You may establish a minimum shift definition of four hours. This means that even though your labor forecast may only show a spike for a specific time for two hours, you might schedule to the demand with a minimum shift of four hours. You may have a rule for minimum hours that a full-time associate can be scheduled (typical ranges are from 37 – 40 hours weekly). This means that even during a slow business period, if you staff compliment is heavily weighted with full-time associates, you must schedule their designated weekly minimums regardless of workload demand. There are many other business rules that have an impact, and these are applied by the WFM system in the schedule generation process.

Idle Time

Idle time can be a little more challenging to handle. Idle time is simply the time in a store when a Manager or associate is not performing any productive work. Productive work is defined as any activity dictated by the needs of the business, such as customer service, freight processing, administrative, or cleaning / maintenance. Idle time literally means time the person is idle and not doing a defined activity.

Idle time in the current state is very difficult to quantify unless you have conducted a utilization study. This type of study involves observing and tracking all activities performed by an employee. Data collection typically takes place seven days a week over all store hours to obtain accurate information. Retailers are commonly surprised at the amount of idle time that really exists in their stores when a study is conducted, although it varies greatly by company and type of retailer. We typically see idle time in the range of 5 – 30%.

There is no simple, one size fits all answer on how to address idle time. The decision will vary for each company depending on their service model, customer expectations and objectives. It is not as simple as reducing hours to recapture idle time. Some companies prefer not to reduce labor hours from historical levels and would rather re-purpose idle time to higher-value customer-facing activities to drive conversion and top line revenue growth. Others may see this an opportunity for payroll reduction. Remember that the business rules as they are defined may “force” idleness as well. Many high-service models require that salespeople stay within a certain area, and when no customers are present, they may be “forced” into an idle situation. There is no one correct answer to addressing idle time.

Process Inefficiencies

Typically, during the process of collecting labor standards, observations are made about process inefficiencies that are documented and reported as improvement opportunities. There are also situations where some stores may be doing activities that are above and beyond what is required for the company’s Standards Operating Procedures (SOPs). Examples may include doing a SKU by SKU detail check of new receipts even though the procedure calls for full assumed receiving or only scanning in new receipts at the carton level. Another example may include Districts or Regions initiating cycle counts that are above and beyond what is driven from corporate. Going forward, you would not want to allocate labor to support these inefficiencies and would limit labor to that dictated by the standard for the process as it should be performed.

Without factoring these elements in to your equation, you may experience hours that are significantly lower than you are currently using. You may arrive at the false conclusion that that the labor standards are not accurate. The reality is you must account for minimum staffing, business rules, idle time, and process inefficiencies that reside outside of “raw hours” to create a schedule. Labor standards are a critical component of accurate labor forecasting, but other levers are also part of the complete labor model.

Ultimately is it critical to remember that engineered standards are a means to an end. In order to take advantage of this incredibly powerful tool, it must be effectively integrated into your operations and financial planning process. Store payroll is not only the largest controllable store investment it is the largest single asset and differentiator that an organization must drive sales and positive customer experiences. Getting the right people in the right place at the right time not only saves money and makes the store easier to run, it makes for a better customer experience. A great place to work, a great place to shop and a great place to invest… isn’t that the reason we’re all here?

Eight Steps to a Successful Retail Labor Scheduling Implementation

As brick and mortar retailers are under siege by online competition, the criticality to have an engaged, trained, and effectively scheduled workforce has never been higher. Despite the ubiquitous technology being infused into stores, a retailer’s workforce is the best weapon to differentiate the brand and to drive customer satisfaction and sales. Many retailers have made the investment, or have on their roadmaps, to implement robust labor scheduling software application to create optimized schedules. It is a logical expenditure to make considering the potential benefits and the fact that it is a retailer’s highest controllable expense. Unfortunately, many retailers completely fail to implement at all, after spending millions of dollars, or don’t realize projected ROI after implementing. This will not be an assessment of the various labor scheduling software providers (in my experience of implementing different solutions with retailers, most reputable vendors can be effective) but rather bring attention to eight key steps to help ensure success. My definition of success is high end-user adoption and ROI realization.

Step 1: IT as a Strategic Business Partner

It is critical that IT and the business (typically Store Ops, HR, and Finance) work together to define the goals and objectives of the solution and create detailed requirements prior to an RFP to initiate the vendor selection process. Store Ops must be the owner and driver of the business requirements while IT needs to create the technical requirements. Even though in many cases the budget for the capital expenditure of the software / hardware, as well as the budget for internal and external resources may reside in IT, the internal customer is Store Ops and must have a strong voice in the vendor selection. And throughout the entire journey through implementation and ongoing. Store Ops being asked to implement a solution that they had little or no say in the selection of is a recipe for disaster and, unfortunately, one I have personally witnessed too many times.

Step 2: Create a Cross-Functional Team

A labor scheduling implementation touches so many functional areas of a retail business. Stores, Field Management, Corporate Store Ops Support, IT, HR, Finance, Legal, Loss Prevention, Marketing, etc. are all examples of business units impacted by implementation. Many retailers fail to ever create this cross-functional project team or do so too late in the process and often omit critical areas. This is a huge mistake and can be catastrophic to the project’s success. This team needs to be built at the very start of the process, beginning with requirement definition, and progressing with vendor selection, design, testing, pilot, and full rollout. Although all the roles identified are critical, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have representation from Store Managers and District Managers as part of this team. They are the ultimate end-users and their finger prints must be all over the engagement from start to completion to ensure their concerns are addressed. This input from stores along the journey, on what will have a major impact on running their business, will be necessary to provide credibility. I have also seen retailers get HR and Legal involved too late in the process, after design sessions (where business work rules are defined) and build has occurred. If a red flag is raised at that point, critical time and resources have been wasted if business policies must be re-designed to mitigate potential exposure.

Step 3: Create / Refine Labor Standards

For a labor scheduling application to be effective, it must have the ability to accurately forecast how much workload will be created and then to schedule people to meet workload demand by day of week and time of day. As a prerequisite, a retailer must have labor standards to create this forecast. Typically, this is done by creating an “activity dictionary” of all activity that occurs within a store and determining workload values for these activities. Normally these activities are classified as either fixed or variable (although some retailers create an even more granular breakdown) and frequency is documented (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). If an activity is classified as variable, a driver must be identified to forecast workload. Examples may include time needed to unload and stock a truck, which will be based on the number of cartons or units received or cashier hours which will be determined based on the number of transactions. In these examples, cartons / units and transactions are drivers and must be forecasted to determine workload. Do not fall into the trap of rationalizing too many activities as variable. This adds unnecessary complexity and can cause inaccurate workload determination. A litmus test when contemplating if an activity should be fixed or variable is to be honest with yourself about the ability to forecast that driver. You can make a case that the driver for a store planogram is linear feet of shelf space, but if you can’t accurately forecast linear feet by store two weeks out you will be better served using a fixed labor amount. One of the biggest mistake’s retailers make with labor standards is the trap of trying to be precise over accurate. Projecting retail workload is not a precise science and the quest to achieve precision can be a killer in implementing labor scheduling solutions. If you have labor standards in place already, challenge yourself to the need for updates particularly if your business process has changed since the labor standards were originally created or you have implemented new technology to reduce the time it takes for an activity to occur.

Step 4: Operational Readiness

Operational Readiness identifies the non-systematic processes and execution that a retailer must execute. If not quantified and addressed, they will destroy your projected ROI from your labor scheduling solution. Examples include:

Schedule adherence (are your people actually working the posted schedules?)

Associate availability (how flexible is your workforce to address peak and slow business periods by day of week and time of day?)

Full time / part time ratio (high full-time ratios create a very restrictive environment for an optimized labor scheduling solution to create an effective schedule that meets workload forecasts)

Cross-training (have you invested in training your team to perform multiple functions within the store and is this training documented in a system of record?)

The above cannot be addressed by even the most sophisticated software. As part of the process of a successful labor scheduling implementation, you must develop a baseline, quantitative score of where you are and immediately develop an action plan to improve in all areas prior to full implementation. If your organization lacks the discipline to work the schedule, you may have hired too many people with restrictive availability. If your staff has not been trained to perform multiple job functions, the system will be constrained from maximizing its full functionality.

Step 5: Change Management

One of the most common themes I hear when I attend labor scheduling user conferences and listen to retailers tell the story of their experience implementing solutions is that they under-estimated the change management impact on the organization. I have personally witnessed during my years in industry, as well as a consultant, the impact on changing an hourly associate’s schedules, even slightly, is dramatic, stressful, and highly emotional. You need a proactive plan in place to effectively mitigate the risks and ensure user adoption. Your change management team must be part of the project team from the beginning and utilize tools such as stakeholder risk analysis, communication plans, executive alignment and project goals (are we doing this to reduce costs, drive productivity, increase sales, increase the customer experience, etc.). Unfortunately for many Managers and Associates in the field, the term labor scheduling project is synonymous with cost reduction and spurs fear and anxiety. I have been involved in implementations where the business is strong and cost reduction is not the objective and others where it is. In either case it is critical for honest messaging and risk mitigation plans to be executed. Your organization also must decide how aggressive it wants to be in the balance of migrating from associate centric schedules to customer centric schedules. Although in almost all cases there is a desire to move the needle towards customer centric schedules, each retailer must determine how far is too far. Saturdays and Sundays may be your busiest days of the week, but do you really want your full-time associates to work every weekend without ever having a full weekend off? Do you “grandfather” in long tenured, loyal associates and allow them to maintain their current schedules or will the new rules apply to all? There are no simple answers and they will be different for each retailer, but questions like these must be addressed as part of an effective change management plan.

Step 6: Analytics

As you embark on the journey of a labor scheduling implementation, now is the time to determine your analytics strategy and requirements. Many organizations have fragmented reporting and KPIs across the organization. This is your opportunity to evaluate and determine what are the true metrics you are going to utilize to ensure you are achieving desired targets in critical areas such as productivity, cost control, conversion, and customer satisfaction. Most likely as a result of your implementation, you will have access to data that was previously not available to the organization. You also must evaluate the benefits and downside of developing custom reports above and beyond the “canned” reporting provided by your software solution partner. Now is also the time to consider the benefits of leveraging the expertise of and outside firm that can provide tools to use data from not only from Workforce Management software, but combine with other data points such as HR data, Point of Sale (POS), traffic counters, and customer feedback reporting to maximize the vast amount of data available is an easy to use dashboard that can drive actionable results.

Step 7: Phased Implementation

I would never recommend a “big bang” methodology of rolling out labor scheduling to all your stores at the same time. A thoughtful, phased implementation plan is best practice. Your initial pilot store group needs to be small but selected by creating a matrix of store attributes such as sales volume, store size, urban / suburban, manager tenure, state specific labor laws (Example: California), etc. These stores will be your lab and will require hands on attention to ensure the software is performing as designed, edits are kept to a minimum, change management concerns are addressed, etc. A critical part of this phase is the delineation between a true configuration issue (you get additional hours for stocking on Tuesday but you receive your weekly truck on Thursday) as opposed to the schedule is poor but the true issue is that people are now working days and times they didn’t in the past to meet customer traffic patterns. Once issues have been identified and addressed, you can now begin a phased rollout to the remaining stores in the chain and use the pilot District Managers and Store Managers as advocates.

Step 8: Culture of Passion for Labor Management

The journey doesn’t end after the last store goes live on the new application. You must continually follow-up and audit your stores to ensure compliance. Your leadership team must be trained on how to manage with new metrics. You will now have a quantitative score of scheduling effectiveness and the goal should be to partner with your Store Managers to find the root causes of low scores and to provide coaching and guidance on how to improve. If the issue is availability of associates, it may take some time and you will need to develop an action plan. The culture must change, and you can no longer settle for just “meeting payroll budget”. Having the right person, in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, will ultimately help drive a great customer experience that cannot be duplicated online.


The benefits of a successful labor scheduling implementation are significant, and your workforce has become the key differentiator in effectively competing in an omnichannel retail environment. However, the risk is high and consequences of a failed implementation are severe. Following these eight steps to a successful labor scheduling implementation will provide your organization the roadmap necessary for benefit realization and risk mitigation.

Reflexis Systems – Reflexions 2019 Conference Recap

Last week, several Connors Group staff were in Las Vegas for the Reflexis SystemsReflexions 2019 Conference. It was a great pleasure to not only be a Charter Sponsor, but to also share our customer success stories on the big stage.

Reflexions has always been one of the best places to connect with our customers. This year, half of the Retailers in attendance were past or current Connors Group clients. It was amazing to reconnect with so many wonderful folks, share our achievements and plan for what’s next.

During the internal debrief, our team seemed to have consensus on these 4 conference themes:

Machine Learning & AI – an overarching theme from Reflexions was the rapid expansion of Machine Learning and AI into the retail space. Reflexis is at the forefront of this technology and from our own experience, we are seeing rapid adoption by retailers.

Renewed Focus on Customer Service thru Better Scheduling – more than ever, the “Amazon” influence is changing the way retailers are thinking about scheduling in their stores. There was a real focus during retailer presentations on the need to consistently deliver an excellent in-store experience (every time) and how proper scheduling is critical towards achieving this. 

International Growth – the number of international retailers at Reflexions this year was exciting. The Global Retail Panel was particularly insightful!

The Importance of Labor Standards – Connors Group conducted an overview session on the important of labor standards in today’s complex retail environment. The standing room only response to that session was overwhelming! A rapidly increasing number of retailers are realizing the benefit labor standards can provide their organizations, particularly as a tool to maximize their investment in Reflexis. 

Friday Quick Read: Common Process Compliance Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them.

Compliance is a heavy word and often carries with it a negative connotation, especially when associated with business and employee related issues. But, it doesn’t have to be.

In todays’ Friday Quick Read, Nate Steadman, Director at Connors Group outlines common compliance pitfalls, how to address them, and the expected results from taking action.

The big-picture problem:  Retail store associates not complying with process is costing millions in payroll inefficiency.

Common Pitfalls:

  • Whether retailers planned it or not many times store operations are being forced to operate with less than ideal staffing due to the low unemployment and difficulty finding and maintaining associates.
  • Call-offs are frequent and cause productivity and efficiency disruption, especially during peak periods of the year.

How to Address:

  • Supplying stores with tools to help better execute current best practice can result in significant operational improvements, including, but not limited to:
    • Reduced lines
    • Increased sales floor coverage
    • Improved product replenishment
  • Implementation of new store communication and task management software to improve compliance; allows for improved communication, task assignments and tracking completion (from corporate and/or field leaders)
  • Implementation of technology solutions that empower associates to swap shifts that may otherwise go unstaffed. These same solutions can also enable store leadership to request volunteers for shifts to account for un-forecasted events such as larger than planned product shipments

Expected Results:

  • Improved compliance
  • Increased associate engagement and morale
  • Reduced turnover
  • Enhanced customer service
  • Increased sales

Connors Group Named Innovative Partner of the Year by Manhattan Associates

Phoenix, AZConnors Group was recently presented a Partner Performance Club award by Manhattan Associates during Momentum 2019, Manhattan Associates’ annual customer event. The award was given for Connors’ Group LaborPro™Labor Standards software system, which they designed and developed for the Retail, Grocery, Distribution, Manufacturing and Service industries.

Shawn Roche (left) and Jon Huesdash (center) from Connors Group receiving the Innovator of the Year award from Eric Lamphier of Manhattan Associates at the recent Momentum conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“LaborPro™ is an easy-to-use, fast and reliable cloud-based system, that gives users the ability to centrally manage engineered labor standards in support of labor modeling,” said Patrick O’Leary, Vice President, Workforce Technology Services and Software. “We are extremely proud of our accomplishments with LaborPro™ and thankful for the recognition from our longtime partner Manhattan Associates.”

“LaborPro™ ELS software has delivered tremendous value to our joint labor management clients,” added Eric Lamphier, senior director of Alliances at Manhattan Associates. “Connor Group’s accelerated SaaS platform for the development and maintenance of labor standards is truly innovative, and we look forward to working with them on many future implementations.”

About LaborPro™ Features and Benefits:

  • The platform is preconfigured with master standards for Retail, Grocery, Distribution, Manufacturing and Service Industries
  • It’s powerful, easy to use and flexible location profiling simplifies location-specific standards
  • Users can quickly apply labor standards to an entire organization or network
  • A statistical approach ensures an accurate labor model by focusing on the work content that truly matters
  • The software is highly scalable and deployable with minimal IT support required
  • Offers the ability to manage large, dynamic, and complex labor models or simpler but ever-changing models

About Connors Group

Connors Group was formed in 2008 with the mission of helping companies achieve real, measurable, and sustainable operational improvement through Industrial Engineering and Lean business practices.


To learn more, schedule an interview or LaborPro™ demonstration:

Phone: (800) 813-7028 Ext. 405

Connors Group:       




REPL Group and Connors Group Partner to Enhance Retailers’ End-to-End Integrated Approach

Retail 101

My first “real” job was in a retail store: running a register, stocking, cleaning shelves, picking up cigarettes outside. Anything it took to keep the store cleaned and maintained to serve our customers.

I quickly rose through the ranks; running the same store at the age of 17 over the summer school break. I had to ensure someone was over 18 on staff to sell alcohol, because the “manager was too young”.

As I’ve grown in retail through multiple roles the term “Retail 101” became a popular phrase.

Retail 101, in the course you will learn the basics it takes to run a retail location:

  • Stocked shelves
  • Clean floors
  • Clean restrooms
  • Replace broken fixtures and light bulbs
  • Warm greeting
  • Fast checkout
  • Make sure someone is over 18 to sell alcohol…

I’ve worked with countless field leaders and we can all agree you know a well-run store when you walk into it. “You almost feel it.” As one SVP of Operations told me.

Forbes posted an interesting article that reminded me of the same issue, “Retail 101”, with some interesting facts to why retail is struggling today. Sometime “Retail 101” is not the problem. These issues go straight to the top, well above the operations team. The retail space continues to be pressured with cost controls:

  • Marketing spends to acquire new customers is going up
  • Margins are thinning
  • Minimum wages or other labor law compliance
  • Trying to control costs

Many retailers turn to their workforce to manage these costs. At times eroding the capability to perform “Retail 101”. The good ones will find tasks they can remove from a store, but even in those cases it is hard to complete the basics. I’ve seen where the business decided to stop cleaning the floors seven days a week, three is good enough. The worst offenders don’t give options they just hold the store to a number.

This why I love working in this space and especially with Connors Group. Instead of cutting things to the bone and ultimately ending up like one of the closing retailers. Let’s be thoughtful of what your customer expects in their shopping experience. Let’s remove those task that don’t bring value, help control costs, but more importantly find things that increase revenue.

Let’s be thoughtful and ensure our operations is passing Retail 101 with an A+