Chris is a 60+ employee of a convenience store chain. Been there a decade. Late night, standing outside his shop, he shares a few thoughts with me over last cigarette of the night. Today, he is quitting his job for another local shop a couple of miles down the road. It’s going to pay him $4 more per hour. He told me that the problem with his organization is that there is no distinction between him and a new bee. Well, I am sad to see my 15 minute per night pal go away.

A senior is a senior and a junior is a junior. People do think hierarchically. This is an age old truth and will not change till human brain changes it’s anatomy.

Senior employees think of themselves as the privileged card holders. They expect the company to treat them as such. Respect, wealth and stability. Note the choice of word ‘expect’. They can obviously ask, argue, cajole. But getting a red carpet treatment without asking for it builds a ‘my company looks after me’ sentiment that asking and arguing can never bring about.

As a business focussed on Human Capital Management, workforce stability is our forte at Nextenture.

In the context of store employees, stability means a predictable work schedule. 8-4.30 shifts, Monday-Friday shifts, predictable meal times, no hopping from task to task all day long, no weekend work and no late nights. That about sums up stability. The problem is that, from a software centric point of view, these are too many expectations.

Many workforce management softwares are smart enough to factor in employee’s seniority and give them first priority while allocating work. But the scheduling softwares serve two masters, the employees and the work demand. While employees expect stability, the demand curves that need to be staffed are far from it. As a result, no software can deliberately, consistently assign stable shifts to senior employees.

The only way to get around the dilemma is to assign fixed schedules to senior employees. Thankfully many schedule optimizing softwares operate in dual mode i.e. a part of the employee pool can be assigned fixed schedules and the remainder of the employee pool staffs the rest of the demand curve. Seniors are happy and most schedule is cost effective.

So where’s the problem?

Implementation of workforce management begins with all thoughts focussed on ROI, consistency, visibility, better employment strategies, less legal bothers, less trouble with unions and what have you. With winds of change blowing and excitement abundant, it is difficult for the implementation team to come around to the idea that a multi-million dollar software is still forcing them to have fixed schedules, at least for part of the employee pool. Although it is a bit of a downer, implementation teams have to bite this bullet, solution consultants must insist upon fixed schedules and the leadership must reduce their ROI expectations by appropriate proportions.

While an optimization software can deliver cost effective labor allocation, it is an impersonal tool. Optimizing entire store workforce, senior employees included, has a tempting¬†ROI. But, as a business solution, it has no longevity. The ultimate costs of dissatisfied & disgruntled seniors to US retail businesses is $45 Billion each year. Please don’t be one of those retailer!

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