Magazine Article | April 19, 2006


Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

SEM (store execution management) maximizes your WFM (workforce management) investment.
SEM (store execution management) maximizes your WFM (workforce management) investment.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, May 2006

As labor budgets drastically shrink, retailers often struggle to execute new operational requirements with much smaller workforces. Store associates are the face of the store, and as demands on their limited time increase, stores risk losing touch with customers. Often it’s a choice between completing operational tasks like merchandising and stocking or spending time with consumers. It doesn’t have to be an either/or decision, however. While most retailers have focused exclusively on optimizing the number of hours worked within each store, many now realize they must also examine how to make more efficient use of their associates’ time. WFM and SEM solutions, though often confused for one another, are two critical and distinct approaches to solving this dilemma across the enterprise.

WFM rose to prominence as a means to handle scheduling, mainly in the manufacturing industry. By taking numerous factors into account — union requirements and labor laws, worker availability, overtime, seasonal production, and sales demands — thousands of employees could be easily scheduled at massive manufacturing plants. WFM was so successful, it was expanded for use in other industries, such as healthcare, airlines, and retail, which had similar scheduling requirements.

SEM Builds On WFM
While WFM determines who is working when, it fails to account for the work that needs to be done while employees are on the clock. SEM is a relatively new solution that does just that. It balances the tasks that must be completed with the number of hours employees are actually present at each location, prioritizing those tasks based on ROI, employee capabilities, and roles. For example, in the past, when a promotion and seasonal lineup change were scheduled simultaneously across a clothing chain, headquarters would send out binders, make phone calls, or fax details, giving all store locations identical instructions. Not only would each store have to sift through those instructions, but because of a limited number of employees, each was often forced to decide between arranging the promotion, resetting the store, or interacting with customers.

SEM solutions assist in prioritizing and optimally scheduling these initiatives, which originate at headquarters and flow across the enterprise. For instance, one location may have just four sales associates and a manager scheduled for that day, while another has eight employees scheduled. The software determines how much time is available to complete the tasks at those stores and assigns them the appropriate workload. The short-staffed location might only be asked to arrange a promotion, while the other store could handle that promotion and a complete resetting of the store in that same day. SEM also builds in automated feedback loops, allowing headquarters to more readily control and positively impact performance of the entire enterprise.

As retailers cut costs by reducing labor hours, WFM has become an integral part of store operations, balancing hour and people requirements and ensuring basic, core tasks are completed. Unfortunately, most stores also have increased operational tasks in order to better meet customer needs. So rather than simply optimizing the hours worked in the store, SEM helps retailers use those limited hours more efficiently, ensuring their operations continue running smoothly and keeping customers engaged at every store location.