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Scheduling Savings

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And that’s just one minor function of the Kronos system. The clock restrictions prevent associates from punching in early or after hours, and produces exception reports of those who clock in late. “It got people to clock in when they needed to clock in,” says Greg Ammons, regional VP at United. It also held everybody accountable to their schedules.”

Ammons offers this example of how clocking in early had a negative impact: “Even if the employees who came in early went to their departments and started working, it was inefficient. From an operations standpoint, if you have two people trying to do the job of one, you produce twice as much, and end up throwing more away, or getting distracted. And they were also being paid for those extra minutes. Fifteen minutes here and 15 minutes there adds up; then, at the end of the week, to keep our overtime under control, we’re sending people home early on a Saturday, and that when you need more people on staff.”
Growing Pains
Getting the Kronos workforce management and scheduling tools deployed is a study in change management and illustrates the challenge — and benefits – of getting buy-in from store-level management. After all, there’s no sense in implementing a tool that no one uses. “We needed to do a better job to carve out some income and profitability through our labor standards,” says Ammons. “Compared to other retailers in our share groups, we were running a little behind. Our store operations person put a task team together back in 2010 to try and enhance labour percentages compared to sales. We were using Kronos for our time cards, but a different tool for our scheduling for the stores, and for the individual departments, we were using just spreadsheets. So we wanted to automate the system using Kronos tools.”
David Crews, Director of strategic projects, worked with Kronos on a pilot of the workforce management system in fi ve stores — about 10 percent of United’s total store count. “Early on, we weren’t getting the traction and the confidence we needed from store operations that the information the Kronos tool was providing was accurate,” Crews recounts. “One of the first things Greg did when we put together the cross-functional team was to reset expectations how to use the tool, what its purpose was, where it was getting its information from, and how was it generating its forecast — and comparing it to the old process of manually inputting information. It was that effort that really carried the project over the hump.” Ammons also set up meetings about the system at every general managers meeting, to field questions and concerns. “And as issues surfaced during the pilot — and they always, inevitably do — Kronos was quick to help the United team resolve those problems,” says Crews. “That also helped us to build confidence with the team.”
What really helped, according to Crews, was Ammons’ developing a spreadsheet that allowed all of the departments — not just the front end — to enter their schedules and align them to their forecasted goals, and then look for opportunities to manage those schedules over time based on information from the Kronos system. “Managing their schedules in that way and the visibility it created really helped us down the road to achieve the successes we were able to achieve with that front end optimization tool,” says Crews.
Over with Overtime
Reducing overtime is one area in which the Kronos system helped United tremendously. “We do a lot of sharing among departments,” says Ammons. “You may have a person working on the front end, and then that same person working in produce on another day. We want to give them 40 hours in a week, which makes them happy, because we all know that happy people work better. With the old system, if you really didn’t communicate with each department, sometimes it was hard to track how many hours they’ve worked in each department until it was too late.
“With the visibility of the system,” he continues, “if a department manager puts them in their schedule, and then they are pulled to the front, the system will take into consideration how much they worked in that department and then plan where they need to be and when they need to be on the front, up to the allotted number of hours you want them to work.”
When more bodies are needed, the Kronos system lets them know, and not just for holidays, but for local events as well. “We’re the home of the Texas Tech Red Rangers, and when it’s football time, it’s a big time, in this city, and we see that in our sales,” says Crews. “We have indications of prior-year gains, so we can determine that at certain times of the year, we will see increased guest traffi c and increased sales, so therefore we need to manage the number of team members we have on the front end to have good throughput and service levels.”
The system also tracks moving holidays such as Easter, as well as other custom events such as food stamp activation days, which are important for those United stores in lowincome Markets.
Hourly Optimisation
United is also able to optimise its workforce by the hour, an important tool for its foodservice and deli areas, which are much busier during afternoon and early evening than other departments. “The tool makes our managers think more in terms of hourly schedules,” says Crews. “Our foodservice and deli areas have more hours than on the front end, and it was hard to manage this manually. Now they look at the coverage reports, and if they see that between noon and 1, they did $2,000 in sales, they need to make sure that they had the right amount of help during that time.”
It also makes it a lot easier to do payroll at the end of the week, Crews says. “Instead of taking six hours, like it did when we manually handled payroll, it takes just two to three hours,” he says. “That allows the manager to spend another four hours on the sales floor on a Sunday, instead of the back office.” So from the front end up through the manager, the Kronos system ensures optimal staffing for the store operation as a whole, according to Crews. “Everyone is where they need to be, all the time.”