Magazine Article | February 1, 2006

Workforce Management Reduces Employee Scheduling Time By 50%

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Workforce management software helps this grocer allocate employees to provide optimal customer service.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2006

Harmons Grocery Store, a full-service grocer headquartered in Salt Lake City, began as a produce stand in 1932. After a truck destroyed the stand, the owners opened a market, which has since grown to 11 locations employing more than 1,500 people. This continued growth spurred Harmons to update its employee scheduling system.

Harmons is a one-stop shopping entity, including a hardware department, pharmacy, full- and self-service meat departments, bakery, post office, dry cleaner, clothing department, as well as grocery items, under the same roof. Scheduling employees for ample coverage is time consuming. Harmons' homegrown, antiquated scheduling system no longer provided the functionality the retailer needed. The old system simply provided managers with a total number of employees needed for coverage in each department during work hours. "We considered updating our old system," says Lee Hussey, VP of information technology at Harmons. "But with limited IT staff and an immediate need for a solution, we researched other options."

Since Harmons uses Tomax' as a pricing control program, Hussey looked at Tomax' scheduling solution, along with solutions from several other vendors. By choosing the workforce management segment of from Tomax, Harmons received a solution from a vendor it already relied on. The software also allows for future integration with other store systems.

The implementation initially included automated scheduling for front-end employees such as checkers (cashiers), baggers, and CSMs (customer service managers) throughout its stores. The Web-based software automatically creates schedules for each role (checkers, baggers, etc.), while categorizing employees into different schedule bands. Each week, employees are scheduled in hourly bands such as 0 to 8 hours, 8 to 16 hours, 16 to 20 hours, or full-time hours, depending on availability and employment status. Employee availability, role, and daily sales are entered into the system in 15-minute increments. Based on predetermined standards, the system generates a work schedule for each role. The standards are set based on the number of customers a checker processes within a certain time frame, as well as trends such as the average number of items purchased throughout the day and the desired ratio of each type of employee to customers shopping at designated times.

Automated Scheduler Leads To Improved Customer Service
Store managers previously spent 12 to 16 hours per week per store scheduling checkers, baggers, and CSMs. With the workforce management software, Harmons reduced this time to 4 to 8 hours per week per store. Next year, Harmons will expand automated scheduling to other departments, such as produce, bakery, and deli. This will be fine-tuned at one store, then rolled out to all stores.

Since the system schedules employees based on needs and trends, Harmons provides better customer service by scheduling the optimum number of employees at peak times. Customer service surveys and focus groups show that Harmons' customers have seen a steady increase in service, as well. This is a huge priority for the neighborhood grocer, as service is the basis for its success.

Accountability has improved since the system implementation. System-generated reports are compared to time-clock entries to ensure accurate payroll. Harmons intends to further improve accountability by setting limitations on time-clock entries, ensuring employees are clocking in and out at scheduled times.