Using Big Data to Manage a Supermarket's Workforce


Companies in the grocery industry face unique challenges in managing large and diverse workforces that are often spread across many geographic locations. In addition, given that the industry employs a relatively higher volume of lower-wage workers and often experiences greater employee turnover, grocery chains are no stranger to employment lawsuits, and this trend shows no sign of letting up. How can the industry address these challenges? Big data analytics provide an effective tool for companies to better manage their workforces, while minimizing legal risks.

Using Big Data to Improve HR Strategies

In an environment where companies can access more data about employees and applicant pools than ever before, supermarket leaders have the ability to use technology to guide employment-related decisions. Data publicly available through social media accounts and other means can be analyzed in conjunction with a company’s internal data to guide decisions related to selection and hiring, performance management and promotion, and employee termination. For instance, an analysis of recent activity on LinkedIn can shed light on which employees are most likely to leave the company.

Grocers can also analyze data to guide the development of policies that will increase employee productivity. For instance, they could experiment with instituting a regular social gathering for employees at a subset of their stores and then examine data on productivity, morale and turnover in the months following. They may find that the gathering led to a more positive working environment where employees felt greater engagement at work, at which point, they could roll the policy out to other stores.

Using Big Data to Minimize Litigation Risks

Big data also presents an opportunity to better manage the litigation process. As an example, our firm developed a technology platform called Littler CaseSmart that captures data on all of a company’s administrative agency charges and single-plaintiff employment litigation matters. By analyzing this data, companies can identify factors that are triggering litigation and proactively manage risk. For instance, grocers may find that a certain employment policy is implicated more often than others, signaling that additional training on the policy or changes to the policy itself are in order to ensure legal compliance going forward.

Data analytics also allows companies to use predictive modeling to anticipate the costs associated with fighting a lawsuit. Understanding the likely legal costs involved, as well as the impact from softer costs stemming from the impact on employees or your brand, allows for an informed decision on the best way to proceed with a particular case at inception.

Ensuring Legal Compliance

In taking advantage of all that big data has to offer, grocers have to be extremely cautious not to run afoul of laws that dictate its use. It's important that companies use data analytics in a manner that doesn’t violate laws related to employee background checks and privacy, that they meet relevant data security obligations and that they avoid activities that may give rise to employee discrimination claims.

There is no question that the world of big data has arrived and that companies will continue to be impacted in ways that cannot be dreamed of today. By balancing the opportunities to more effectively manage their workforces and minimize litigation risks with the need to comply with relevant laws, grocers will be best positioned to leverage big data as a competitive advantage.

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