Achieving Effectiveness Through Efficiency: A Case for Workforce Optimization

Retail is one of the most highly-competitive industries. Retail consumption is estimated to contribute to approximately 2/3 of the GDP for the United States. What does this mean? Potential for great profits.

To keep a foot in the ever-changing retail landscape, all internal systems of your business must be running at peak performance to outdo the external opposition. The best way to do this is with workforce optimization. Workforce optimization hones in on the individual practices that occur on a day-by-day basis to better understand what can be improved upon to maximize efficiency, productivity and, ultimately, profitability. By utilizing workforce optimization and well-structure Engineered Labor Standards (ELS), you can set you retail business to reign supreme.

 Eyes on the prize!

The Components of Effectiveness: Efficiency versus Productivity

When thinking of effective business practices, both efficiency and productivity immediately jump to mind. The combination of the two is the recipe for profitable success. Understanding what each of the ingredients to this winning recipe are is important for creating proper ELS to support workforce optimization. With a vetted ELS in place, workforce optimization can function at its highest level.

It is generally accepted in business that efficiency versus productivity is equivalent to saying quality versus quantity. Although both necessary distinctives individually, the profitable power comes from the combination of both. Having a productive employee who is not efficient means a lot of work output at low quality, leading to a loss of profit. Efficiency without enough productivity cannot meet supply and demand, and also affects profitability. There needs to be a well-balanced combination. Workforce optimization is the solution.

Power of the People

The core of workforce optimization is the workforce itself: your employees. Your employees are your directors of first impressions, your product experts, your money managers and your advertising aficionados. By examining the individual practices that contribute to both the efficiency and the productivity of your employees, workforce optimization will bring the best out of your business.

Employee Efficiency

Efficiency in regards to employees in retail is mainly comprised of excellent customer service. You want your employees to always be able to provide the utmost level of customer service to return to your business the highest rates of customer retention.

 The best type of retail business is repeat business, making

workforce optimization for efficient employees extremely important to long-term success.

For example, let’s examine the importance of manager/employee relationship communication and how effective ELS and workforce optimization can achieve this goal. Once your business has implemented a well-tested ELS, the systems in place for day-to-day processes should be optimized. One way this is accomplished is through automation of menial tasks, like time card management. With these processes in place, your management has more time to be in constant and consistent communication with employees, allowing performance monitoring to promote improvement and reinforcement.

 Having regular communication between employees and management is

essential for a successful retail business. Workforce optimization helps create this time.

Employee Proficiency

Proficient retail employees are employees who maximize what is accomplished in the amount of time worked in a shift. Overall employee proficiency for your business comes from getting the maximum amount of work without having too many employees scheduled at one time.

Workforce optimization will allow for creating specific tactics to ensure that the highest level of proficiency is being received and maintained by all employees. Utilizing methods such as automated attendance tracking and schedule analysis allows for improvement upon ELS. A quick and easy clock-in method leaves more time for work and less room for human error. Analyzing scheduling trends that provide the most profitability at peak hours will allow for the application resources efficiently for maximum productivity.

There are so many more ways that workforce optimization can be incorporated into your retail business. Request a free consultation today and learn how we can assist you in workforce optimization!

Standard Time Is Not the Opposite of Daylight Savings Time

If you are a Retailer, Standard Time is about more than just geographical time zones – it is also a key factor in Labor Management. The livelihood of a Retailer depends is its ability to be very cost-efficient on task work in both Stores and Distribution Centers, in order to focus efforts on customer service and selling. Standard time represents the ‘should take’ time for these tasks. Engineered Labor Standards (ELS) are the key to understanding standard time, and to documenting and implementing best methods and processes. Becoming informed about standard time with ELS will allow for improved workforce planning, workforce management, customer service, and ultimately profitable sales for your company.

A Bit of the Basics

Engineered Labor Standards are time values established from analysis of the elements that are part of your company’s process, from start to finish. These standards are used to monitor and improve productivity, identify areas for improvement, provide reliable time frames, reduce cost and maximize labor (just to name a few). It’s been said that about half of cost accrued from distribution is due to labor. Probably more importantly, having the proper allocation of labor by store and by hour for tasks and customer service is critical to Retail success. Understanding and mastery of ELS is a vital tool in workforce management.

ELS can take into account critical time and workload details.

Engineered labor standards are one of three basic types of labor metrics. The others are estimates and historical actuals. One reason engineered standards are the most important and profitable to a company is the ability to analyze current procedures to find key areas for improvement

Regarding Retail

The days of ELS as a tool for manufacturing are in the past. Standard time within the retail and distribution environment is paramount for workforce planning and productivity.

Standard Time considerations might include the time that it

takes to complete a customer checkout transaction.

ELS is different for each company, but the core approach remains the same. Below are some of the main steps to constructing ELS, along with some important considerations:

  • Improve Your Foundation
    Developing effective ELS for your company results from clearly identifying the current process, along with specific areas for improvement. This provides the ability to set clear task improvement goals.
  • Develop the Necessary Elements
    Developing elements, or “work-steps”, provides the level of detail required to accurately drive labor based on key volume drivers. This provides the resolution needed by site and by hour. Each element has its own respective unit to be able to track efficiency.
  • Roll Up the Details
    While having the details measured is important the labor management equation, most organizations do not have the time and resources to manage these details on a day-to-day basis. It is critical to roll up to a few key drivers that are manageable. This is a critical miss in many ELS efforts.

The key to success with ELS is to have the details to allow for

data analysis, but to roll these details up to a manageable level.

  • Implement
    Once ELS has been developed and validated, your standards can be implemented. Standards can be built into labor management and scheduling systems. Employees can be trained on the best practices to optimize efficiency.
  • Maintain Awareness
    Standards must be maintained and updated as necessary. Changes in business practice or operations could impact elements of your ELS, so it is important to stay involved and aware of changes. If ELS are well-structured, this process is much easier.

These items are just some of the several keys to success for workforce planning. Contact us today to learn even more about Engineered Labor Standards and other helpful tools for optimizing workforce management.

Crawl-Walk-Run to Distribution Labor Management Success

Crawl-Walk-Run to Labor Management

Labor Management System (LMS) implementations are often considered a technical challenge.  Often overlooked, however, is the cultural change component that requires a patient, phased implementation approach.  LMS implementations require IT integration and engineering effort to ‘go-live’, but what sets them apart from other technology enablers is that they are truly a people-centric program focused on your most important asset – your workforce.   To achieve long-term, sustained success we typically advise companies follow a crawl – walk – run strategy for their labor management journey.


The crawl phase is all about the basics.  Many core operational practices can be developed or updated well in advance of going “live” with an LMS.  One such example that many companies miss, is to prepare the workplace and standardize work methods.  This is where time tested Lean approaches such as workplace organization (5-S) and standardized work methods can yield significant improvements; often in the range of 5-15% improvement.  The largest intangible benefit is that by engaging the workforce and physically improving the workplace and work methods, the culture begins to change.  This paves the way for positive change and develops momentum for a successful labor management adoption.


Once the foundation is in place, goals and expectations need to be established to track progress.  A simple way to start this process is to develop “Reasonable Expectations” (RE).  An RE is an expression of work output in units of measure per hour (e.g. cases per hour, units per hour, or pallets per hour).  The major benefit of REs is that they are easy for managers, supervisors and associates to understand.

Once Reasonable Expectations are determined and understood by supervision, employees can begin to be held accountable.  Implementing initial REs allows supervisors to build proficiency in holding employees accountable to more specific output expectations.  Supervision should start by focusing on observing compliance to standard work methods, as opposed to immediately focusing on a number.  This coaching shows employees that supervision is committed to their success and builds a deeper level of trust and engagement.

After employees are making improvements through adherence to standard work methods and performance feedback, the REs can be used to build simple staffing models to better predict the requirements of the business.  Many times, this is as far as many organizations need to go.


Companies that have properly prepared themselves through the crawl – walk phase are positioned to take the next step in the journey by utilizing an LMS technology solution for improved planning and reporting.  Though, it should not be taken lightly as many companies struggle, and even stop mid-implementation due to underestimating the technical and cultural challenges.  Careful planning, cross-functional involvement and project management are essential to ensure a successful implementation.

In this phase where technology is introduced, transparent communication is critical for complete buy in.  Everyone impacted should have regular touch points and be brought along through the project for a smooth implementation.  To achieve fair and accurate individual performance expectations, Engineered Labor Standards (ELS) are typically developed and travel is configured in the LMS.  This allows the LMS to dynamically track the accurately credit an individual associate for the work that they complete.  Associates should be actively engaged in this development process so they understand what is included in their performance expectation.

A key component of the implementation is to thoroughly test and validate the system results prior to going live.  The validation process should include the operations team to transfer knowledge of how the system is structured.    This ensures they understand how the system generates performance and the accuracy of the results.  A rushed implementation that does not thoroughly test the LMS and include the operations team in the process risks losing complete confidence of the standards and reports.

Lastly, Supervision must be trained on providing effective performance coaching conversations. Rather than simply letting someone know they are not meeting the expectation, individual performance management coaching helps associates understand the specific reasons for not meeting performance expectations and, more importantly, how to improve.  When performed correctly, coaching is the key to improving overall performance.

Labor Management System implementations can result in an improved, fair and equitable work environment, lower turnover, and productivity increases of 15-30%.  These results are not automatic and require investments of time and money to achieve savings.  Think of a LMS like a gym membership – you only get out of it what you put into it.  If you want to positively change the culture and achieve long term success, you need to develop a roadmap to reach your goals – a roadmap that goes from crawl to walk to run.

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…..

Reflexis Systems, Inc. and Connors Group Partner to Bring Operational Efficiency to Retailers

Reflexis and Connors Group Partner to Help Retailers Enhance Workforce Productivity, Improve Associate Engagement, and Provide the Best Possible Customer Service.

NRF Big Show 2017

Reflexis: Booth #1521

Connors Group: Booth #936

DEDHAM, Mass. and PITTSBURGH, Penn, January 4, 2017: Reflexis Systems, Inc. today announced a partnership with global retail management consulting firm Connors Group. Together, Reflexis and Connors Group will help retailers across all verticals, including grocery, QSR, convenience, specialty, big box, and apparel, achieve significantly faster return on investment and drive cultural adoption leading to sustained benefits throughout the organization. Through more comprehensive implementations, Retailers will enable their teams to enhance the store experience for customers and improve store operations.

“Connors Group partners with retailers every step of the way; helping assess their challenges, implement solutions, and optimize their technology suites,” says Chris Kelly, Director, Connors Group. “Through our partnership with Reflexis, we’ll help retailers understand the benefits and ROI of implementing Reflexis workforce management and real-time store operations software, provide expertise in project management and labor standards, and help retailers continue to extract additional value from their solutions over time.”

“I have been continually impressed with the level of professionalism, knowledge, and expertise that Connors Group has brought to every interaction,” says Brett Walker, Vice President, Global Alliances and Solution Consulting, Reflexis Systems. “It’s exciting to formalize a partnership with such a reputable and trustworthy company. Our joint efforts will be focused on helping retailers obtain the highest levels of benefits from our world-class solutions.”

About Connors Group
Founded in 2008, Connors Group is a global retail management consulting firm with deep experience across all retail verticals including grocery, QSR, convenience, specialty, big box, and apparel. We partner with leading retailers to improve and sustain operational efficiencies, workforce performance, customer experience, associate engagement, and top-line sales.

Our dedicated team of experienced consultants has its roots in workforce improvement, possesses extensive field experience, and is credited with developing cutting edge workforce management tools and proven methodologies for long-term operational success. We build trusted partnerships and often serve as an extension of our clients’ teams for ongoing project work.

Connors Group, LLC. is privately held and headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has additional offices in Atlanta, Denver, and New York. For more information, visit

About Reflexis Systems, Inc.
Reflexis is the pioneer in real-time store operations and workforce management solutions that enable retailers to carry out their customer engagement strategy flawlessly and uncover profit. The Reflexis platform of real-time store operations, task management, KPI/compliance, time and attendance, and labor scheduling (including budgeting, forecasting, and employee self-service) enables retailers to align store labor/activities to corporate goals and institutionalize best-practice response to real-time metrics and alerts.

For the past 15 years, more than 200 of the world’s best companies in multiple vertical categories such as retail, hospitality, and Quick Serve Restaurants have reported dramatic improvements in compliance with corporate strategies; higher productivity of corporate, field, and store employees; and increased revenue and profitability after implementing Reflexis workforce management and real-time store operations solutions. Reflexis StorePulse® (patent pending) synchronizes activities with real-time KPIs, alerts, and customer demand. Stores, hotels, and restaurants can systemically implement best practices to provide a greater quality of customer engagement, leading to higher revenues.

Reflexis Systems, Inc. is privately held and headquartered in Dedham, Massachusetts and has offices in Atlanta, London, Germany, and India, with additional sales offices in Latin America and Europe. For more information, visit Follow Reflexis on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and Instagram: LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Google+ | Instagram

Reflexis Systems, Inc.
David L. Andrews, (781) 493-3351
Director of Marketing Communications
[email protected]

OP Choudhary, 44 (0) 1256 857310
Head of Operations, EMEA
[email protected]

Connors Group, LLC
Chris Kelly, (724) 518-1727
[email protected]