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    “In India We Tend to Engage Our Store Agents Very Poorly but Measure them Very Diligently”


    What is Kronos all about?

    We are a niche player specialising in workforce management. To simplify that, it is the operational side of human resource (HR). Today thousands of organisations in more than 100 countries use Kronos to control labour costs, minimise compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity. Almost 20-25 percent of our global revenues come from retail.

    We are comfortable working with all types of retailers present in every category or format. Out of the top 10 retailers in the world, 9 are our customer. Wal-Mart is the only retailer in the US who is not our customer because Wal-Mart has the specifi c intent of developing everything by themselves. However, in India, it is our customer which can be attributed to the Indian dynamics to people Management.

    What is kronos task management solution?

    It is wonderful to have a historical single-source group of employees – with information about the name of the employee, his designation, skill sets, salary drawn, etc, which is what core ERP platforms do. It translates information related to the way employees engage themselves daily as well as their 24×7 activities at the retail store levels, ensuring that they are at the right place and at the right time doing right things for the company’s top and bottom lines. Kronos Task Management    Solution is a single solution. It is an integrated, real-time 360 degree view of the employee spread around four dimensions. Let me talk a little bit about these four dimensions. First is the time dimension as we all work for a certain time. Second is the absent dimension as we also get paid for certain times we are absent, not all the time we are absent. It is important as sometimes employees go on leave without informing their employers, thereby jeopardizing the business operation. The fi rst two dimensions lead us to the availability of employees. The third dimension is scheduling, i.e., placing the right person at the right time, by matching skill sets, likes and dislikes so on and so forth. The fourth dimension revolves around activities and tasks. So Kronos from a people perspective works across these four dimensions. The word “Kronos” in Greek means “time,” so it has evolved from the time dimension and has gone further in optimising the engagement of Employees.

    We at Kronos believe that in retail, task management is the way to move forward. Our view is that task to schedule is absolutely critical for store execution. Schedule is nothing but linking skills, preferences, availability of people to placing them correctly to do things for customers. Hence, this task element linking to the integrated view is absolutely at the heart of operational excellence in Stores.

    What has been your experience with retailers in India?

    Kronos helps bring in complete standardisation, visibility and control through deployment of its automated workforce management tools. The store manager gets realtime workforce visibility at the store on the four dimensions, along with other dimensions related to compliance and policy management. He can therefore spend more time in enhancing customer experience rather than running and looking for replacements in case of unplanned leaves. Getting visibility across these dimension is a precursor to the next level – optimisation. So in the Indian context today, you need to connect the dots fi rst to get visibility before you can actually optimise. The question remains of the ways in connecting the dots, i.e., manual interventions, excel spreadsheets, other capture devices, Etc.

    There are innumerable systems inter-operating at the execution level which people try to connect to make a story. However, it will not be an exact story. That’s what Kronos has changed dramatically. We completely cleaned up the space to give visibility to our clients, so whether it is PVR or Croma, we have just helped them connect the dots and get this visibility. Now we want to move them to the next level of optimisation where they are able to understand employees and start optimising for their top and bottom lines as well as to help employees engage better.

    Today most companies have put card readers to track time, some use manual leave cards to apply for leave. We carry out time and motion studies for our clients to help them optimise. Once a retailer told me that his stores are doing exceptionally well in meeting sales targets and he regularly incentivises his store manager. However, after doing time and motion studies, we found that for the same number of footfalls, the store was missing 30 percent of sales. The reason was very simple. The trial room was positioned wrongly. There were very few trial rooms at the bay where more people came to try. As a result, a number of customers, who actually wanted to buy, walked out of the store as they did not want to wait in a long queue outside the trial room. There were other instances where the customer had bad experiences. A typical case is where a customer is looking around for customer service representative but unfortunately there is no one to address her queries. Another blemish is when a customer service agent suggests you to buy a product when you do not need his Advice.

    Indian market is largely at an automated level. There is a lot of momentum in the organised retail segment with retailers busy expanding their footprint. A lot of companies are coming to us looking for optimisation, whose success depends on how well they are connected to the foundation layer in terms of visibility.

    Dont you think you are transgressing employees’ freedom?

    It’s exactly the reverse. I also get fl exibility to have modifi able policies around managing the four dimensions I had spoken about earlier. Things become rigid when there is no platform for fl exibility. I don’t allow you to work from home because I don’t know what you will do at home. If I could give you fl exibility and your working style from home is reasonably known to me, then I would give you that fl exibility. So fl exibility is a natural correlation to how objective and how visible you are with what people do and then allowing for tolerances within that for different categories of employees depending on how you want to handle different employee groups. Indian market is very unique. We tend to engage our managers very well, but we engage our store agents very poorly. We tend to measure store agents very diligently.

    How do you help Indian retailers optimise?

    We can do optimisation at whatever foundation layer the retailer is on, provided we have data regarding the operations of the store, employee details including their skills and there is a right matching process between availability of resources with their primary and technical skills of Employees.

    We are very clear that we want to grow in the retail sector with our clients such as PVR Cinemas, Croma and a few other MNCs, who are not our customers in other markets and with whom we are working in India at the automation layer. Managing retail will become an acute problem in India. Our revenue productivity is far lower than most of the developed markets. The way we are staffi ng, we will create problems in terms of managing them, with disproportionate number of people in our stores to address the same revenue. Culturally too, we are very different from our Western counterparts. We have been conditioned to get serviced in a much elaborate way. As organised retail will mature in India over a period of time, our stores will also evolve. Right now, our stores are overstaffed and retailers do not mind as they do not want to lose customers. However, the trends will shift as more MNCs come in. In order to attract the best supervisors and agents, they will offer more salary. They will also bring better retail practices in India that will enhance the skills of employees. As a result, the demand for skilled personnel would increase which will push-up salaries further. This will create problem for Indian retailers because in order to survive, they will have to optimise. So we want to stay with them because we know that the Indian market is going to get deeper and deeper.

    How is the retailer benefited?

    With the type of solutions that we provide, the benefi ts are long lasting. That’s the reason why we have been so successful in India. A 70–90 percent scheduling accuracy can shift customer experience by 30 percent. That is the intangible benefi t.

    Tangible benefi ts accrue by keeping a tab on unexcused absenteeism by getting better visibility to availability. When someone has requested for leave and I have approved it, that is excused absenteeism. I am fi ne with it since I have a planned replacement and my store operations are running smoothly. The problem arises when a schedule employee fails to turn up for work and I don’t have a planned replacement. That is unexcused absenteeism. If say, for example, I can cut down my unexcused absenteeism from 5 to 2 percent, I can plug cost leakages and that is my saving. Again when there are manual interventions in the system, there will be cost leakages. These could be due intentional errors. I like you so when you take leave, I ask you not to apply for it. It could also be interpretational error because I don’t understand the rule. Sometimes it could be translational error if fi ve people are reconciling and compiling data from a single spreadsheet. These cost leakages contribute to, in global parlance, about 2-3 percent of payroll costs. In India we have seen much higher numbers. So from a payback perspective, a typical payback from Kronos Workforce Management System accrues to anywhere after fi ve months from going live. It works very simple. You have employees doing a set of things and a set of employee costs. You don’t know exactly what’s going on. We give you better visibility of what is going so that you can optimise your operation. That’s how it works. We are strongly against retrenching people. We suggest retailers to try use their people well.