Data will be the new oil running the workforce in retail

For frontline staff in retail, the threat of contracting the virus is high, given the amount of human interaction involved in the job.
Data will be the new oil running the workforce in retail

The Covid-19 outbreak continues to limit us more ways than we could have ever imagined. It has also forced us to rethink the way we conduct business and learn to do more with less. Even as the world is trying to normalize and organizations are trying to restart operations, there are a number of challenges that need to be overcome.

When it comes to the workforce, heavy sectors continuing social distancing norms have impacted business recovery. Even as organisations have been allowed to resume on-premise work, their re-entry strategy has to be planned meticulously to avoid any untoward incidents and safeguard their employees’ health. Critical staff is resuming work through staggered entry and exits, to minimise contact.

While adhering to strict health & safety codes, firms have also equipped themselves with masks and thermal scanners to safeguard people at the workplace. However, sectors like retail are at higher risk, and hence safety measures need to be more comprehensive.

Requirement of Real-Time Data Analytics

For frontline staff in retail, the threat of contracting the virus is high, given the amount of human interaction involved in the job. Despite undertaking appropriate measures, on the off chance that an employee does test positive on the floor, retailers should be equipped to react immediately. Several actions are required, including identifying if other employees have been exposed, communicating with employees who may have come in contact, and reporting the case to the right authorities, all within a very short period of time. These actions become difficult to execute, without instant and ready access to data on the employee’s shifts and schedules, entry and exit points, canteen visits, and more. Therefore, real-time data analytics with insights on schedules, location, working hours, etc becomes a critical factor for employers to understand employee presence and movement at the workplace, and automatically generate contract tracing logs to manage and contain the spread of the diseases within the premises

With the workforce not being fully available due to migrant labor shortage and regulatory restrictions, organisations need to look at measures that will help them put the right person at the right job at the right time to make the most of the resources that they currently have. However, due to the reduced number of staff at the workplace, managing the right skill mix to deliver the right outcomes is complex. And this is where data once again becomes critical. Having access to relevant information on your workforce availability so that they can be deputed as per business needs has become critical for smooth business operations.

Retailers across the world rely on their sales teams to drive additional revenue and hence in-depth visibility to workforce availability is invaluable in making on-the-spot staffing decisions that can directly affect both top and bottom line. With the pandemic numbers steadily climbing, one of the challenges organizations across sectors are facing is that of the reluctant employee who is hesitant to rejoin the workforce due to various personal constraints.

Data analytics offers complete visibility into employee schedules, shifts, working hour preferences, and skills, which help improve decision making. AI and machine learning can also be employed to further understand employee preferences and availability which can then be factored into shift planning to ensure more predictability in the team rosters.

Need for Analytics-Based Workforce Platform

Furthermore, an analytics-based workforce platform can help aggregate workforce, financial, and other business systems together to create a complete and accurate picture of headcount and the cost of the workforce, regardless of the source of labor. This enables retailers to track and manage costs most effectively. Also, data-backed insights eliminate the chances of human error and biases, freeing the managerial staff to pursue higher-value work.

Leveraging the power of data has never been so critical before. From resource planning, to on-floor crisis management, to preventive measures - technology can be used to address numerous complex challenges at the same time. Analytics enables organizations to confidently double down on their strengths so they can meet every manpower need of the retail organization. With talent shortages looming and the global business environment shifting at high speed, retail companies must transition from intuition-based decisions to data-based ones, to better plan and engage their workforce in the contactless world.

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