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Rethinking retail workforce planning: The strategic advantage of task-based shift optimization

Feb 7, 2024 3 min

A store is a hive of activity where every employee’s role is crucial. This makes efficient scheduling essential to the store’s success — a task easier said than done for retailers employing vast amounts of workers.  

Retailers have traditionally been beholden to scheduling methods that do not allow store managers to allocate their employees to activities and tasks based on expected demand. However, the paradigm is shifting with recent advancements in scheduling technology. Companies require a shift scheduling approach that transcends traditional job-role-based shifts, instead focusing on shifts based on the tasks and activities that drive operational excellence.  

It’s called task-based shift optimization, and it’s a strategic move that every retailer should consider to gain additional efficiencies in labor planning and save on labor costs. 

The power of task-based shift optimization 

Task-based shift optimization has emerged as a game-changer for retailers focused on unlocking the full potential of their workforce. Retailers using a conventional, shift timing-based scheduling method often struggle to juggle their multitudes of employees and responsibilities.  

Scheduling task-based shifts ensures that each employee’s time aligns seamlessly with the specific activities that contribute most to operational success. These tasks include such activities as: 

  • Restocking shelves. 
  • Assisting customers. 
  • Managing checkout queues. 

In task-based shift scheduling, the optimal schedule is determined based on the expected workload on specific departments and activities. The alignment between tasks and workload maximizes productivity and reduces labor costs.  

The need for a robust workforce optimization solution 

The RELEX workforce optimization solution is a transformative tool designed to elevate how retailers plan and organize their store workforce. The solution prioritizes task-based logic, enabling retailers to transcend the constraints of traditional shift scheduling and construct schedules that enhance operational efficiency and directly impact the bottom line. Task-based shift optimization yields the most significant value in stores and verticals, where multiple employees are working on the store floor, and the amount of replenishment-related work is significant. For example, RELEX’s grocery customers have seen an increase in sales/labor hours productivity of up to 16%.  

A truly optimized schedule requires a wealth of data and a solution powerful enough to handle it all. The RELEX platform leverages all relevant data, providing retailers with a comprehensive toolkit to design shifts that align with specific business needs. These data points often include: 

  • Replenishment plans. 
  • Customer footfall and POS scans. 
  • Relevant employee data, including skills and preferences. 

A major retailer that traditionally schedules equal shifts for all employees without considering the dynamic demands of the day may end up overstaffing during slow periods or understaffing during peak hours. Instead, the RELEX solution allows them to allocate tasks to each shift intelligently based on individual demand drivers for separate tasks. This ensures the deployment of the correct number of employees for each specific function. It also empowers the workforce to adapt to the ebb and flow of the retail environment, maximizing operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. 

Schedule for success 

Shift scheduling has long been due for an overhaul, and technology has finally caught up to the needs of retailers. RELEX-powered task-based shift optimization opens the door to unparalleled efficiency gains and significant cost savings — critical advantages that stabilize an often-tumultuous market. To achieve these benefits, retailers must improve their own labor scheduling strategies and meet the demands of the dynamic retail ecosystem.  

Written by

Max Mononen

Director of Product, Workforce at RELEX