Employee rostering: A one-size approach does not fit all retailers

In my previous article, I shared key points for evaluating whether your current rostering practices are costing you retail business money. If you are like most retailers, you may have learned there is room for improvement. If you started researching rostering solutions, you likely found that there are many different approaches—from simple and consistent template-based rostering to fully automated options that align staffing with organisational needs. With so many options, it can be difficult to determine the right roster automation approach—or approaches—for your retail business. In this article, I will try to help you understand the most common approaches and critical features to look for when evaluating employee rostering solutions.  

Template-Driven Rostering in a Highly Stable Work Environment

Across your retail business, there are probably people in roles where the work performed and coverage needs are consistent. This can be as a simple as working standard business hours, such as Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, or a rotating shift pattern that repeats at a specific interval—for example, rotating between 4 days on and 4 days off where the same pattern repeats every 8 weeks. Assigning a template or shift pattern to an employee with template-driven rosters allows you to track employee attendance, identify behavioural trends, and understand where you may have gaps due to planned vacations. Look for solutions that support: 

  • Templates with any pattern, duration, or shift, including those that cross midnight 
  • Effective dates, so you can make and publish changes in advance 
  • Multiple tasks, meals, and breaks so employees know when and where they need to be 
  • The ability to assign shift patterns en masse or at the individual level 
  • Allow adjustments when needed without disrupting future rosters

Demand-Driven Rostering for Seasonal or Highly Variable Work Environments 

For retail organisations where demand for products and services can fluctuate—from seasonal changes to highly granular increments of an hour—demand-driven rostering, often referred to as roster optimisation, helps organisations avoid over and understaffing and achieve key performance indicators (KPIs), such as sales, basket sizes, conversion rates, wait times, customer ratings, and productivity levels. Predict demand for your products and/or services more accurately by analysing historical business data—including footfall, sales orders, call volumes, and more—against business KPIs while accounting for current and projected conditions.  

Although forecasted demand is important when it comes to demand-based rostering, it is not the whole picture. You must also balance the demand against your capacity, capability, and budgets. Demand-based rostering will ramp staffing levels up and down to meet variable demand—at any interval—without exceeding capacity and will place top talent during peak periods to maximise productivity and keep budgets on the right track. 

Feel Confident the Right People Are in Place with Job-Driven Rostering

Whether your employees work in a highly stable retail environment or one with high degrees of variability, it may be necessary to confirm that employees have very specific qualifications to perform a job—whether trained skills, certifications, and/or behavioural characteristics with varying levels of proficiency. Job-driven rostering often complements a template- or demand-driven rostering approach to hit all points of the “right people, right time, right place” equation not only by ensuring employees meet the qualifications, but also by alerting as to whether a qualification has or will expire, including continuing education, required hours of experience, and completion of qualifying exams before assigning a shift to the employee. This is especially important when a job is essential and when operations could be negatively impacted if a replacement is not found when the employee is absent or unavailable.

Enforce Legislative or Contractual Requirements with Compliance-Driven Rostering

Not being able to prove compliance can be just as damaging as being non-compliant. My previous arctiles have touched on the risks: litigation, fines and penalties, diminished employee engagement, and damage to the brand. Although often a component of the other rostering approaches, I wanted to highlight the importance of compliance-driven rostering toward avoiding violations of legislative or contractual rules, work hour limits, required meal and rest breaks, sufficient rest periods, roster notification periods for fair and predictive rosters, and more. 

Flexible Working Arrangements to Support Work/Life Balance 

Not all retail jobs require employees to work at specific times. Offering flexible options that help employees reconcile personal and professional commitments can go a long way in improving employee engagement and attracting and retaining top talent. However, most organisations need to have some level of coverage throughout the day or shift to handle unexpected situations. Building and assigning flexible work arrangements (or templates)—that define and monitor core working hours balanced by a span of hours that allow more flexibility—can help set the right expectations with employees and empower them to achieve a work/life balance that fits their situation.  

Key Employee Self-Service Features to Boost Employee Engagement 

No matter your rostering approach, if elevating the employee experience is a top priority, be sure you look for a solution that gives employees a say in how they are rostered, including the ability to: 

  • View published rosters weeks in advance to plan their vacations and personal obligations around work commitments 
  • Self-report availability for extra hours or shifts 
  • Initiate qualified shift swaps with colleagues when last–minute conflicts arise  

How WFS Australia can help large or complex retail businesses with their unique rostering needs.

WFS makes managing your workforce easy, less costly, and more rewarding for everyone.

Our solution, the WorkForce Suite, adapts to your organisation’s specific workforce management requirements no matter how unique your pay rules, labour regulations, rostering, and employee self-service needs are.  To learn more about how WorkForce Suite can meet the unique needs of your retail business, visit our site.