Grocers and suppliers are working together to bring work force optimization to a new, high-tech level.
Grocers are streamlining their labor functions by leveraging technologies designed to make life simpler for management as well as employees.
Case in point: Hannaford Supermarkets, in Scarborough, Maine, and Kronos Inc., in Chelmsford, Mass., have worked together for nearly a decade, according to Jeremy Stevens, Hannaford’s manager of labor productivity, who oversees the team that administers the Kronos scheduling tool.
“Labor represents the largest controllable expense for grocers,” says Liz Moughan, director of Kronos’ retail and hospitality group, “so analyzing labor information to answer key questions about how to deploy labor is an obvious way to control labor costs, improve productivity and maximize profitability.”
Stevens says Hannaford works with project managers and applications consultants at Kronos to implement scheduling in new areas, upgrade Hannaford’s software, or develop new or modified functionality. “At times, we have had a consultant from Kronos on site for extended periods of time to help us maintain a very aggressive pace as we rolled out optimized scheduling to each of our retail departments,” he notes. “Kronos frequently comes to us to test new ideas, and we frequently approach Kronos with thoughts around our future needs as well.”
Store by Store
Moughan says Hannford leverages the work force analytics solution from Kronos, which provides grocers with the ability to analyze work force scheduling data alongside foot traffic and POS data — store by store — to gain insight into the correlation between staffing and store promotions and sales.
“Essentially,” she explains, “what the tool helps deliver are instant insights for informed, fact-based decisions so grocers can maximize sales conversion rates by aligning labor costs to sales volume, gain store performance visibility across the entire enterprise and ensure a consistent customer experience across stores.”
Stevens points out that Hannaford recently implemented Kronos forecasting in pharmacy locations. “When we are done developing and implementing a scheduling solution in pharmacy,” he says, “we will use Kronos in every department.”
This “wall-to-wall” optimized scheduling will allow Hannaford to gain sales benefits from executing on service strategies, from having the right person with the right skill set at the right place and the right time, and from having fresh products in place in accordance with its presentation guidelines, notes Moughan.
Stevens says the grocer is “very pleased” with the impact of the Kronos scheduling tool on its business. “The forecasting solution allows us to plan more granular volume categories without creating a burden for the scheduling managers,” he observes. “By forecasting and scheduling the production of specific volume categories and the completion of specific tasks, we are able to ensure that we have the right associate on the right job at the right time.
“We strive for high levels of customer service, specifically at checkout and at the deli. Kronos is one way that we can ensure more consistent execution of our service strategy. While we always want to do better, Hannaford customers give us credit for achieving great customer service. Kronos is one of the tools we use to help us earn these high marks.”
Moughan notes that, like many grocers, Hannaford had been posting handwritten department schedules, a time-consuming manual process that doesn’t guarantee that the right associates will be in the right place at the right time. By teaching staff how to build automated, precise schedules after implementing the Kronos optimized scheduling solution, the grocer has been able to deliver further labor savings and overall operational efficiencies, she says.
While Hannaford isn’t currently using the latest interface from Kronos, “we expect to start using it after our next upgrade,” Stevens says. “I think the main benefit of that interface is the ease of use and enhanced alerts that allow a scheduling manager to easily correct any scheduling issues that might arise.”
Schedule creation has improved with Kronos, according to Stevens, because Kronos offers scheduling managers an optimized starting point, and helps managers complete a schedule because it manages availability, time-off requests and training for them. Once these elements are entered into Kronos, all a manager has to do is make sure that the forecasted labor demand is covered appropriately and that any requests are reflected in the schedule.
Kronos’ ability to pull customer traffic in 15-minute increments by department and store enables managers to optimize scheduling to meet standard practices and service strategies, Moughan says. “This is really about competitive advantage,” she notes, “as leveraging customer traffic data improves scheduling and customer satisfaction.”
By using this 15-minute information, Hannaford is taking work force management to a higher level, she adds, because department managers, using the information in conjunction with Kronos’ optimized scheduling tool, can also staff based on historical traffic patterns, and this data can be helpful to determine appropriate staffing across different departments such as front end, deli and seafood.
The next-generation Kronos user interface (UI) that Hannaford will deploy, Moughan says, is firmly grounded in the idea that users shouldn’t have to choose between deep functionality and ease of use. The navigator achieves this in two ways, she explains:
- ➤ Instant engagement, which means that the software is inherently intuitive, matching the ways users naturally think and interact. From within the navigator, managers can view critical business information such as employee scheduling coverage, employee work hours, time-off requests, and other key work force performance information and requests.
- ➤ Guided decision-making, because the navigator has the intelligence not only to identify issues, but also to recommend solutions to common work force challenges. By providing users with a set of options, the navigator allows them to choose the most appropriate courses of action to manage their work forces effectively.
Mobile technology — the use of tablets — opens up a new level of convenience that doesn’t currently exist at Hannaford, Stevens says. “On the associate side, Kronos mobile can allow associates to make time-off requests from their own phones without talking to a manager, having that manager commit that request to a notepad, and then managing that request manually at a later date,” he notes. “Using a Kronos mobile solution, managers will be able to address scheduling issues, like filling a sick call from the sales floor, by simply tapping the shift and sending a message to other available associates. We expect this to streamline the process and allow managers to spend more time on the sales floor developing associates and engaging customers.”
Moughan adds, “By leveraging mobile applications in the way it manages its work force, Hannaford can allow associates to easily access timecard and schedule information on their smartphones. This is particularly important to younger associates and helps boost employee satisfaction, making Hannaford a preferred employer.”
Stevens asserts that Hannaford considers Kronos to be “a valuable partner, and we continue to find value in the solutions they offer.”
Moughan concludes, “Customers such as Hannaford continue to inspire us to stay focused on our innovation goals by transforming their work force from a cost of doing business to a competitive advantage.”
“By forecasting and scheduling the production of specific volume categories and the completion of specific tasks, we are able to ensure that we have the right associate on the right job at the right time.”
—Jeremy Stevens, Hannaford Supermarkets
“Labor represents the largest controllable expense for grocers.”
—Liz Moughan, Kronos