Absenteeism Corrosive to Employee Engagement: Store Managers
According to the second installment of the Global Retail Absence survey, “What Came First: Retail Absenteeism or Low Engagement?” issued by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc., while four out of five retailers worldwide (78 percent) said that employee engagement is important to organizational success, many noted the corrosive effect that rampant unplanned absence has on staff productivity (58 percent), manager stress (55 percent), and team morale (46 percent).
What’s more, it’s a vicious cycle: More than half of respondents agreed that poor employee engagement led to higher rates of absenteeism. Retail managers in the United Kingdom (63 percent), United States (63 percent), and Germany (61 percent) felt most strongly that poor employee engagement has a major effect on unplanned employee absence. More than half of retailers worldwide (52 percent) saw a direct correlation between poor employee engagement and increased staff turnover, with retailers in the United States (61 percent) and United Kingdom (55 percent) seeing the strongest connection.
Retailers worldwide said that absenteeism has a big impact on customer satisfaction (47 percent) and store revenue (42 percent) – the top two metrics retailers use to gauge productivity. Despite the fact that retailers also noted that a greater focus on work-life balance (62 percent) and workforce scheduling technology (59 percent) would positively affect productivity, almost half of all retailers worldwide (43 percent) aren’t using an automated solution to manage individual work preferences and availability. Without such a solution in place, retail managers in the United States (50 percent), Canada (42 percent), and the United Kingdom (40 percent) said that they encountered the most difficulty in managing employee preferences, citing this as a top workforce management challenge.
In regard to this issue, one-third of retail managers (34 percent) said that managing shift-swap requests is one of their biggest workforce management challenges. France (59 percent) and the United States (53 percent) were leaders in the use shift-swap technology, but in other parts of the world, adoption lags, particularly in the United Kingdom (44 percent) and Canada (40 percent).
Retailers remained optimistically open to change, however, with many expecting that an innovative shift-swapping solution would have a positive effect on employee and store productivity (67 percent and 65 percent, respectively), work-life balance (64 percent), staff motivation (58 percent), morale (55 percent), turnover (53 percent), and customer experience (50 percent).
“When making allowances for unplanned employee absence by over-staffing or over-scheduling – as 88 percent of retailers worldwide do – you react to the problem rather than correcting it,” says Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos, a provider of workforce management and HCM cloud software solutions based in Lowell, Mass.
“This reactive nature creates unnecessary work for managers and poses a risk to customer satisfaction. Best practice suggests retailers leverage advanced scheduling software to improve labor forecasting and proactively enable associates to pick up, drop or swap a shift, giving them more say over when and how often they work. When automated with intelligence, this practice dramatically reduces the number of last-minute call-outs, no-shows and vacant shifts, and effectively removes the need to schedule additional labor to cover for anticipated absences.”
“The business impact of absenteeism can be felt at all levels – from individual store results to the corporate bottom line,” notes Pauline Bennett, retail labor and planning manager at U.K. grocer Sainsbury’s Supermarkets. “Sainsbury’s is addressing the issue by analyzing its root cause through labor analytics. We look at what factors can be driving unplanned absence – Is consistent understaffing leading managers to overwork employees? Do colleagues feel they lack flexibility in their schedules? – and work to address those factors one by one. With the ability to track absence patterns at each location, store managers can take swift action to reduce absenteeism, improve employee morale and meet the forecast – turning a would-be problem store into a model store.”
Part one of the survey looked at the impact of absenteeism on store operations, while part two explores how absenteeism degrades employee engagement – and results more absence – uncovering opportunities for intelligent scheduling technology to solve the problem.
The survey was conducted with U.K. firm Coleman Parkes Research, which analyzed responses from 800 retail managers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.