I have been around employee productivity and retention reporting all my career. I can tell you without hesitation that the real productivity and retention are purely a function of emotional & social attachment to the workplace. The sense of belonging brings out a rare confidence in people. And efficiency inevitably follows.

Twenty years ago, I was once seated next to a group of fifty-something guys in the old fashioned club house of a steel manufacturing company. Reflecting upon that day I realize, what a lot of workplace stories those guys had! Complaint about some manager, jibes at some colleague and unadulterated laughter at some event. Several decades in the same company and they were still a happy bunch. Their job was their second home. They were in it for the long haul. Zoom forward to 2013 retail world of United States. In the last seven years since I bought my home, barring a few exceptions, I don’t ever remember seeing the same faces in shops in my neighborhood. ‘Begin with end in mind’ has reached it’s unforeseen extremity here! One might say that the high volume low margin nature of today’s retail is worlds apart from a manufacturing setup twenty years ago. The same employment philosophy won’t apply to both. But apply it must. If people go to a place to work good many of their waking hours, they must feel like they belong there.

It’s no magic wand, but a sure step one can take is to get a whole lot of informal conversations, the social chatter, going. Informal conversations provide the best breeding ground for budding friendships, social events and serve as the most direct path to emotional attachment. But sense of belonging comes along with all of it’s side effects. You better get ready to invest your time managing people in the real sense. Petty office politics, frustrations with a colleague, typical turf wars, displeasure at someone else’s promotion, complaints about overwork and much more. See, when people are involved, they feel comfortable exposing many of their personae. Now it is for you, the management, to accept all this gracefully and handle it like a big brother. Involvement is never a one way street. It’s not all happy, happy, happy. But once you allow for this bit of chaos, you got yourself more than what you asked for. People develop an underlying sense of association. People will think of you as the company they want to keep. It makes long term retention at least plausible. And your employee pool just changed from a team to a troop. And call me crazy, but I like troops better.

In terms of workforce scheduling software configuration, the job is extremely simple:- You have to over schedule your store and bite the bullet on additional payroll. Optionally, if your labor standards are really air-tight, you may beef things up by creating excess fatigue allowance. I prefer over-scheduling though. There are a couple of other tricks like pairing up rest breaks and meals. See, essentially you are letting people meet without keeping any artificialness in the meeting. You are promoting chance meetings and allowing some space during a workday for random socialization.

For those raised eyebrows, yes, in the short term your payroll bill will shoot up by a few million. In two-three years though, you will see better retention, increase in skilled workforce and a reduced training bill. But more importantly, you will find yourself at the helm of a much happier, willing to engage employee population. And the benefits of that extend way beyond productivity and retention.

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