Balancing Christmas demand with employee needs

With the countdown to Christmas now on, the retail industry is reaching the height of this years’ busiest shopping period. With Christmas spending hitting a record £50bn in the UK last year, it’s a frantic time for those working in the sector. In fact, our own research highlighted that almost half of retail employees fear work knocks their mental well-being.

With long hours and a constant rush considered ‘the norm’ during the festive season, there are a number of factors that can lead to and exacerbate employee burnout. Maximising business potential during this lucrative period is vital for the sector, but it doesn’t have to come with a risk of employee exhaustion and poor customer experience.

Matching resources to demand

Stretched, stressed workers should not be normalised, and we often find a poor approach to rostering is at the heart of the problem. Predicting and matching staff to demand is a challenging task, which becomes even more complex during the festive season. Shopping events, such as Boxing Day, can seem unpredictable. Failing to get staffing ratios right can lead to chaotic scenes that highlight why management simply do not have the time or the skills to devise the most cost-effective rotas.

By failing to match resourcing to market demand, inefficient operations and staff fatigue can lead to employee absenteeism and customer frustration, ultimately causing disruption across the entire business. This is especially dangerous for retailers that rely on the revenue boost Christmas shopping brings to the business as they learn to strike the balance between online and instore.

Meeting exceptional demand often requires retailers to embrace a large number of transient workers. Getting these new hires onboarded and up to speed as quickly as possible is key to driving efficiencies from day one and scaling and maximising the workforce as needed. What’s more, with a number of young people taking on these seasonal positions, managers must ensure these staff are scheduled within working hour allowances and in compliance with the EU working time directive.

Turning the challenge into an advantage

Having the right number of people, with the right skills, where and when you need them is key to hitting three crucial metrics. Firstly, maximising business potential with the best people doing the jobs most suited to their skills. Secondly, keeping customers happy by delivering excellence customer services. And finally, getting that balance right can ultimately make or break brand reputation. Profit margins are already razor-thin during the sales period, so retailers can’t afford to get it wrong.

Data-driven HR and rostering technologies can help retailers solve this puzzle. By analysing employee availability and offering workers more choice and flexibility over the hours they work, retailers can ensure fairer and more effective schedules. Enabling employees to view their schedules and swap shifts via their own portal on their mobile, means they can more easily manage their working hours on-the-go, saving managers valuable time spent arranging cover at short notice. Employee absenteeism also commonly declines as this flexibility means staff no longer feel the need to pull a sickie.

Furthermore, workforce analytics provided can simplify the pressure of advanced planning by matching the whole business to market and seasonal demand based on historical data, while also helping to ensure compliant operations. Not only can this approach ensure enough staff are in place to handle busy periods in a cost-effective way, it simultaneously drives employee satisfaction and business efficiency even during the busiest time of the year.

Yearlong benefits

It’s no secret that retailers are navigating tough market conditions, which is why it is so important management get this right. Meeting customer and employee expectations at the busiest time of year means retailers enter the new year on a high. Ready to perform at their best for the year ahead.

By Dean Forbes,  CEO at CoreHR

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