Today’s post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

According to a recent survey of 800 retail managers across multiple countries we conducted with our research partner Coleman Parkes,  for every 10 hours of in-store labor budgeted, more than one hour is wasted due to staffing misalignment caused by unplanned employee absence.  We’ve written a lot about the impact of absence on business in the past, but not with this focus on retailers.  As the holiday season looms, in this climate of record low unemployment, retailers are more concerned than ever about finding and keeping the right person in the right place at the right time.

We analyzed the responses of retail managers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. to examine the broad impact of absenteeism on retail organizations with more than 1,000 employees. According to more than half of retail managers worldwide (52 percent), absenteeism is one of their organization’s most difficult, complex, and time-consuming issues.

I sat down with our board member Mark Wales, a long time veteran of the retail industry, to talk about some of the key findings of this research.  Mark  has more than 30 years of experience in the US, Europe, and Asia with leading retailers such as Starbucks, Ralph Lauren, Williams-Sonoma, Selfridges, and Tesco, where he has focused on implementing workforce management strategies and solutions to drive company performance and customer experience by investing in the retail employee experience.

You can listen to a podcast of our conversation at the bottom of this post.  We discuss key findings of the research and Mark’s recommendations about why these issues occur and what store executives and managers can do to improve their planning for and response to staffing issues.

In the podcast, I posed the following questions to Mark:

  1.  More than half of global retail managers (52 percent) say unplanned absence is one of their organization’s most difficult, complex, and time-consuming issues. Did that number surprise you in any way – or was this your experience working in the field?
  2. For every 10 hours of in-store labor budgeted, more than one hour is wasted due to staffing misalignment caused by unplanned employee absence. In fact, retailers are understaffed 25 percent of the time thanks to last-minute absenteeism. Why do you think retailers have been unable to address this issue effectively?
  3. Our survey also found that nearly half of retailers worldwide (48 percent) find it challenging to deal with administrative issues resulting from associates working additional shifts and/or incurring overtime to cover unplanned absence, and 42 percent feel a big impact on labor costs. Why do you think this is such a headache for retailers?
  4. I’d love to get your point of view on the practice of over-scheduling: our research found that the vast majority of retail organizations (88 percent) proactively over-schedule additional labor each day to cover for anticipated absences. This is most common in France (95 percent), the U.S. (89 percent), and Germany (88 percent). Why has over-scheduling become the norm – and how can retailers better ensure the right level of staffing?  And to what extent do you think this is data driven vs. store managers’ individual assessments of their needs?
  5. We also saw that while most schedules are posted 1-2 weeks in advance, 86% are amended to some degree after they are published.  What can retailers do differently to balance their needs for effective schedules with their employees’ needs for predictable hours?

Click on the player below to hear Mark’s answers:

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

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