How Flexibility Can Drive the Great Retention of Frontline Workers

Workplaces that employ hourly workers aren’t always known for flexibility. But technology, powered with artificial intelligence and machine learning, can help workplaces be more attractive to frontline talent. Enter flexible scheduling for frontline workers.

The Great Resignation defined the labor landscape of 2021. With workers quitting their jobs in droves, employers are facing a competitive landscape when attracting top talent—especially in industries with frontline workers. Hospitality and retail, for example, have the highest quit rate, and as a result, attracting and retaining talent in those sectors is challenging.

But as we go further into 2022, companies with a workplace model that supports a worker-first culture have a better chance of turning the Great Resignation of frontline workers into the “Great Retention.”

“We have reached a tipping point where businesses need people now and are continually challenged by how to find and keep them,” Accenture expert Yaarit Silverstone writes. “Employers will remain at a loss unless they will meet the evolving expectations of workers.”

All the more reason why companies with frontline workers should analyze how they’re faring in an area that makes an organization a worker-first workplace: flexibility.

Rethinking Flexibility for Frontline Workers 

Once thought of as a perk, flexibility is becoming a must-have for all, from the corporate employee to the frontline worker. The pandemic inspired employees to prioritize greater work-life balance, and because of the ongoing labor shortage, workers have the leverage to demand it.

Companies must take notice—or continue to lose in the competition for talent.

That’s why companies with frontline workers must reconsider how they approach flexibility. Traditionally, flexibility has been considered nearly impossible in industries where workers must physically show up for their jobs. But job flexibility isn’t just about hours or location. As Accenture’s Silverstone writes, “Flexibility isn’t just about work hours. It’s about options.”

Flexible scheduling gives hourly workers control over their schedules, which includes updating scheduling preferences, swapping shifts, or adding more hours.

By giving workers control over when and how they work, organizations can empower their workforce with the flexibility to update their scheduling preferences based on their needs—i.e. as caretaker or other domestic obligations change, scheduling around class or other jobs, swapping shifts, or adding more hours. And companies are finding that flexible scheduling (sometimes called worker-first scheduling) can improve the productivity and retention of hourly employees.

And, this type of scheduling is an example of “innovative flexibility,” which is thinking about flexibility more holistically. It’s the direction that companies must move toward if they want to put the Great Resignation behind them. 

Technology Empowers Organizations and Workers

Frontline workers have rarely enjoyed the flexibility their back office counterparts have come to expect, but a dramatic labor shortage is driving new expectations. Intelligent technology can now enable the flexibility these workers crave, while helping the business maximize the workforce.

Empowering hourly workers with more flexibility requires planning on an organizational level, with artificial intelligence (AI) playing a key role.

Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization is an intelligent, worker-first scheduling solution that leverages AI to match labor demand with worker qualifications, availability, and preferences to automatically optimize schedules for both workers and the business. By analyzing data across the organization, Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization helps managers optimize schedules to meet both the labor demands of the business and numerous business parameters—such as labor regulations— and worker scheduling preferences. 

Organizations are leveraging Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization to deliver a better work experience for employees, empowering them to manage their schedules, adjust and add shifts, and more—all from a mobile device. In turn, managers can have quick access to a worker's information, allowing them to better and more efficiently manage their teams, schedules, time, and payroll.

Health club chain Life Time Inc. uses Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization to manage daily labor costs for its 20,000 employees across 150 clubs in North America, ensuring that managers are maximizing schedules, particularly as location hours and demands flex with local mandates related to the pandemic. This allows Life Time to monitor costs and adjust schedules as necessary, while prioritizing worker need and preference.

“Most guests work out at the same time,” says Gregory Gilbertsen, senior national manager of human resources at Life Time. “So we're able to see a great snapshot of when our clubs are being utilized the most, and where we might need more workforce scheduled during those hours.”

Managing the 2022 Workforce: Integrated Workforce Planning

The demands on frontline and hourly workers are constantly evolving. In retail, for example, workers can be called in for a shift on short notice or be asked to work extra shifts to cover increasing customer demand. Organizations need to ensure they’re supporting employees and delivering experiences that meet their needs.

Flexibility is becoming a must-have for all, from the corporate employee to the frontline worker.

The unpredictability of customer demand can also lead to cost inefficiencies for the business, where organizations pay overtime for workers due to last-minute scheduling changes, or lose sales revenue because stores are not adequately staffed.

While flexible scheduling empowers workers with more control over when they work, it also helps companies create better outcomes for integrated workforce planning—synching workforce plans with all other business plans.

Life Time Inc., for example, also leverages Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization with Workday Prism Analytics to compare several sets of data—such as worker schedules, sales patterns, and revenue—to uncover when a shift was scheduled and when workers clocked in. When labor gaps are identified, Life Time can factor the needed headcount into its recruiting model, helping to improve reporting and forecasting.

“In order to address the tight labor market and better recruit and support our frontline workers, we need to empower them with more control over how and when they want to work,” said Jignesh Patel, director, technology, Life Time, Inc. “With Workday Scheduling and Labor Optimization, our more than 20,000 employees and managers can access, build, and manage schedules all in one system, allowing us to meet the needs of our workers and the business. We believe this differentiated experience is helping both attract and retain our talent, enabling us to continue delivering great member experiences across our 150 health clubs.”

The pandemic upended long-held beliefs and practices about workplace flexibility, and now, flexibility is an expectation across all sectors. As a result, companies that take a worker-first approach are more adept at attracting—and retaining—their frontline talent while also meeting the needs of customers and business objectives.

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