The growing Mississippi c-store chain recently turned to the cloud to better navigate its workforce issues.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
Victory Marketing LLC., which does business under the name Sprint Mart, is like many convenience operators when it comes to the necessity of having to balance workforce requirements amidst business expansion.
Located in Ridgeland, Miss., Sprint Mart now operates 85 (soon to be 86) store locations, two Subways, two Burger Kings and fuel distribution services. Depending on what time of the year it is, the retailer fluctuates between 1,200 and 1,300 employees.
With its growing workforce, Sprint Mart is like other c-stores when it comes to trying to contain costs while creating a productive atmosphere at its stores for its employees. To make the leap from an old administrative system, Victory last year enlisted the help of Kronos Workforce Ready, a unified cloud platform from service provider Kronos that supports the entire employee lifecycle from pre-hire to retire, including talent acquisition, performance management, benefits and compensation, scheduling, attendance, Affordable Care Act (ACA) management, attestation and payroll.
The old administrative system was—in a word—cumbersome, said Chris McKinney, the company’s director of human resources.
“We were utilizing a combination of processes, with time keeping, payroll and human resources (HR) being electronic,” said McKinney. “However, everything outside of those functions was done on paper (benefit time, insurance enrollment, along with every other aspect of the company’s human resources needs). Even with the electronic processes of the past, reporting and/or rolling up the data to view the stories it told was a very difficult process.”
Now up and running, Kronos has allowed Sprint Mart to gain better workforce management, driving a cultural change and a positive work environment where employees have greater control over their work day. For example, since the full system integration was implemented late last year, the cloud-driven platform has enabled Sprint Mart employees to swap shifts with each other without manager intervention and work across different locations.
Managers have also gained access to the entire pool of Sprint Mart employees to select from when creating schedules for different locations.
The company operates stores in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
In the last few years, Sprint Mart has modernized its store operation, including touchscreen ordering, price book and integration and a kitchen monitor system by Gilbarco Veeder-Root. However, changes in federal labor laws had wrested some of that independent control away from the company.
In the summer of 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rolled out proposed changes to the overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law that mandates minimum wage and overtime pay for certain workers, who are not otherwise exempt. At the time, businesses such as Sprint Mart had just a few months to prepare to comply with this significant change in wage and hour law, which carried a deadline of Dec. 1, 2016.
“Our business was facing massive changes due to many of the proposed changes to the FLSA set to take effect in December of 2016. Every time we settled on a solution to operate within the proposed changes, we were met with a roadblock in terms of our old process,” said McKinney. “It was simply becoming too difficult to remain compliant, while operating efficiently within the old process. The spark was lit to find a new solution.”
Through Kronos, the company was able to gain some control back through a more efficient workforce management system.
“The system knows what time employees are scheduled, and what time they punched in (or if they didn’t),” said McKinney. “These systems working seamlessly together has all but eliminated the manual process of attendance tracking.”
Not only has technology made the process of monitoring mandated data less cumbersome, McKinney explained the integrated platform has streamlined other administrative tasks pertaining to staffing decisions.
“Virtually overnight, the simple process of requesting a vacation day went from a handwritten note you hoped your manager would see, to an electronic one where the employee making the request can see every step of the process,” he said.
McKinney can attest to the measurable improvements the new system has delivered to the company in terms of streamlining various ways Victory does business at the main office.
“Processing payroll, which has always been weekly in our company, went from a two-day process, to two hours,” said McKinney. “Submitting time sheets, offering benefits, time and labor, reporting—while not only getting easier, has seen significant workload reductions. Paystub distribution, which used to require 1,300 printed pieces of paper per week, are now distributed instantly to every employee’s self service module.”
The hiring process at the Mississippi convenience chain was also restructured. The distribution of available job openings are now posted across the internet with a few clicks. The more than 10,000 applications Sprint Mart receives annually are now distributed to hiring managers instantaneously.
Perhaps the most significant issue of any c-store is employee turnover. With help from Kronos, even those numbers are improving at Sprint Mart.
“While results are still preliminary as we haven’t quite been live for a year, we saw a sharp decrease in turnover during the fourth quarter of 2017. While I have no data to correlate Kronos having a direct effect, this was around the time many of the automated services went live, including benefit/insurance offerings,” McKinney said.