By Chris Kiernan, ADD Systems’ Director of Operations – Wholesale/Retail
Everyone knows that retailers are experiencing the effects of the labor shortage. There is no easy fix, but there are ways to lessen the impact using back office technology. A modern back office system can bring automation, simplified processes and insight to help stores run smoother and more profitably, even with limited employees.
When faced with a prolonged labor shortage, it is important to know exactly what a store’s labor needs are. It is an opportunity to rethink assumptions. When labor was plentiful, a store may have been kept open 24/7 or had multiple people staffing the store at certain times of the day, but now it makes sense to decide what is really needed. Does the store traffic truly justify the hours? Could a store make do with less staff from midnight to 5:00 am? What do inside and outside traffic patterns really look like? A modern back office system can easily share the analytics needed to have that insight and make informed decisions.
Challenging those assumptions means not only potentially shortening store hours, but functioning with less hands. The current labor shortage makes questioning those beliefs a necessity. A clear answer for this is simple processes. Dealing with multiple systems and manual work is a sure fire way to slow down current staff and new employee on-boarding. Modern back office systems can simplify daily work, automate processes and eliminate the back and forth between multiple old systems. This streamlines employees’ work to allow them to handle more and still provide an exceptional customer experience. It also cuts the confusion out when training new employees, enabling them to quickly become productive team members.
Speaking of the customer shopping experience, expectations have changed with the introduction of self-service shopping. This includes curbside pickup, mobile POS, kiosks and self-checkout. By nature these new options lessen the load on your staff, so a back office system that interfaces with these time-saving solutions keeps transaction counts up and staffing needs down.
Like self-service, automation in the store can also decrease the burden on staff. The more that can be automated, the less hands needed and the easier the training process for new employees. A centralized pricebook and item scanning, for example, take the guesswork away from new employees at the register – accurate pricing every time. Processing electronic invoices (also known as EDI) minimizes the effort of entering in the new delivery. A handheld multipurpose scanner helps as well. It can be easily used to scan deliveries, waste, lottery, transfers and inventory counts, with no hand written notes or paper reports. It also enables immediate error checking to catch mistakes.
Once the employee is initially trained, of course oversight is still needed, but with fewer hands, a new employee may be on their own sooner than normal. Technology can help management and trainers keep an eye on the new recruits. Not only does on-demand reporting enable management to check on the store and employee activity any time, but exception reporting can make it easy and effective. Management by exception means information is brought to a management’s attention only when it is out of the norm. For example, a cash over/short exception report would only show entries outside of the expected range. It can even be automatically emailed to everyone who should know about it. When running a chain with lean staffing, not having to review reams of reports for signs of trouble means better management and protected profitability. Information that needs management’s attention is efficiently delivered right to the appropriate inboxes.
Automatic alerts can also help staff-strapped retailers keep an eye on store activity. An email alert can be sent right away for anything that is outside the norm. For example, an excessive write-off can generate an email alert that can be sent to the proper people, automatically. Alerts can indicate a need for a check-in, additional training or possible theft, all before too much damage has been done. Back office technology can help management leave a new employee at the store, without completely stepping away.
There are so many ways a modern back office system can help retailers better navigate the labor shortage. Of course, there are no magic bullets when it comes to attracting the best, qualified applicants. But easy-to-learn, helpful technology is one more feather in a retailer’s cap that can help them attract, nurture and retain new team members. It’s more than just a method to mitigate the challenges of the current labor shortage, it’s a way to make a c-store chain more efficient and profitable now and in the future.
Sponsored content by ADD Systems