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Office Depot ups the ante on workforce management


The omnichannel experience continues to raise the bar on the customer experience at Office Depot — all while taking a toll on labor.

By transitioning to a new integrated workforce management (WFM) solution that relies on analytics and reporting, the office supplies company now has visibility into customer demand, as well as store-level issues — factors required to optimize labor in an on-demand selling landscape. For example, omnichannel retailing is speeding up the window customers require to procure merchandise — and the specialty retailer is obliging.

Office Depot enables shoppers to purchase merchandise in-store, buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS), or receive items that are shipped to or from specific stores, all in the name of getting it in their customers’ hands quicker. However, these options require the chain to have optimal labor on hand to keep inventory accurate and deliver superior service.

While the chain did have a WFM solution, which was initially based on a robust technology stack, it only accessed information from point-of-sale and a data warehouse, making decisions reactive rather than predictive. And once the company merged with Office Max in 2013, the chain found itself saddled with competing WFM and time and attendance solutions, and spreadsheet-based tools to manage forecasting and labor standards.

These solutions made it impossible to align skilled store associates with customer demand — or to respond to their needs.

“We needed to know where the sales were happening at store-level, and we needed those with the best skill set on the floor,” Mark Lachniet, director of labor management, Office Depot said during a press event at the annual NRF Convention and Expo last week.

Additionally, it was increasingly difficult to ensure that its 28,000 hourly associates were in compliance with local labor laws. “We needed more insight to stay within our payroll budgets and comply with local regulations, which are increasingly growing complex state-to-state.”

The chain went into evaluation mode, ready for a solution that would improve field leadership line of sight to provide the right skill set at the right time; simplify and improve scheduling, and also feature task management reporting. From a corporate level, the ideal solution should deliver monthly sales and payroll forecasts, annual sales and payroll planning, automated scheduling, and improved reporting.

The chain chose an integrated platform from Reflexis. “With insight three weeks into the future, managers responsible for schedules can analyze data in 15-minute intervals,” he said. “Advanced analytics also helps us to better allocate payroll and labor hours, and reduce overtime payroll expenses. Optimized schedules also help us drive incremental sales through increased conversions.”

From an employee perspective, the solution is also mobile-enabled, giving associates the ability to view their schedules, “clock” in and out, make shift requests and view their profile and benefits balances.

The chain piloted the solution in 23 stores in March 2016. Office Depot completed its chain-wide rollout within nine months — the last 600 stores went live earlier this month.

While Lachniet said it was too soon to share specific results, he reported that their first two-week payroll level declined, and the chain will continue to use analytics to ensure they have the right associates available on the floor to drive conversion.

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