Retail sector welcomes new WFM event

More than 50 workforce management, productivity and technology specialists from leading retailers joined us in Birmingham for a new event, Planning & Productivity | the WFM forum.

REPL Group organised the invitation-only forum in partnership with our friends at ReThink Productivity, with the aim of giving retail professionals a dedicated space in which to tackle some of the key issues around modern workforce planning and management.

Together delegates spent the day exploring ideas, solutions and industry best practice, including learning from the experience of some of retail’s biggest WFM implementations.

Networking also proved an important and popular part of the day.

Back to basics

The event was kicked off by Peter Jones, former Retail Director of Home Retail Group, who drew on his vast retail experience to set the context of WFM past and present – and to remind us all of the importance of returning regularly to the basics of retail.

As Peter put it: “When you strip away the systems and management initiatives, what you’re left with is essentially the business of buying, then selling. To sell anything, you need the right person in the right place at the right time, and that’s where WFM should come in.”

Andy Incles, Head of Labour Planning at Marks and Spencer, kicked off a series of sessions focusing on work study and labour standards, guiding the audience through the retailer’s journey from outdated payroll and T&A technology to sophisticated labour standards linked to all-new systems.

A work study panel discussion then addressed everything from recommended renewal intervals for labour standards to the challenges of managing the gap between what payroll is saying and what the productivity model says.

Implementing WFM

After lunch, Adrian Peace from The Co-operative Group shared his experience of implementing WFM and productivity management systems, first at Somerfield and then The Co-operative Group – with the differences between the two highlighting the fact that “workforce management is about the business itself, its culture and its people. It’s not something that comes from above, from outside.”

Adrian then took his place in a WFM panel discussion addressing subjects including the challenges of top-down scheduling vs local flexibility, customisation vs bespoke solutions, and building benefit cases on service improvements rather than cost savings.

Other sessions through the day looked at implementation best practice, the hospitality industry experience, and the very real links between workforce management and the customer experience.

A glimpse of the future

Closing the day, REPL’s Chris Love then gave delegates a glimpse of the future. Starting from an analysis of Generations X, Y and Z and their different attitudes to work and technology, Chris showed how new and emerging technologies such as GPS, AR and beacons are already changing everything from employee strategies to the in-store experience.

And he finished with the first public demonstration of Google Glass linking to REPL’s next-generation internal communication tool for retailers, FocalPoint.

Commenting on the day, Chris said: “We created this event with ReThink because we felt there was a real need for a space in which retailers could focus exclusively on the challenges around workforce management, productivity and scheduling.

“The reaction on the day and all the feedback since shows that this really was the case. We were delighted with the energy, insight and engagement which the forum provoked and look forward to creating similar opportunities for the sector in the future.”