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Opinion: How Digital Workplaces Simplify Grocers’ Compliance with Union Regs

Local governments across the country are advocating for union-backed policy reform in employee scheduling, due to the business and personal effects of fluctuating scheduling practices. With this push, many misconceptions have sprouted around automated technologies’ impact on base schedules and seniority-based scheduling procedures.

It’s true that inconsistent work schedules and the use of on-call scheduling can reduce employees’ earnings and quality of life. But rather than exacerbating these concerns, digital workplace solutions present a groundbreaking opportunity, helping employers easily conform scheduling policies to union regulations and ensure all employees are provided schedules that engage and motivate them. These solutions also afford the opportunity to increase earnings and establish a superior work-life balance.

High employee turnover traditionally comes with the territory in the grocery industry. In 2016, the turnover rate for grocery employees escalated to almost 50%. With millions of employees nationwide, it’s impossible to source this industry trend to one underlying reason. But outdated and ineffective scheduling clearly plays a role, contributing to personal conflicts and added stress for 10% of U.S. workers overall.

Recently, automated scheduling has caught the attention of unions. These tech solutions aid grocery stores in streamlining scheduling procedures and predicting labor costs, but they’ve also prompted unions to speak out about what they perceive as technology’s precarious role in scheduling processes.

Unions also remain skeptical of technology’s ability to factor seniority into scheduling routines—without the right controls and steps in place, freshman employees could skip ahead of long-term staffers in shift selection. This turmoil could cause long-standing employees to feel their time at your company isn’t valued and jump ship.

Contrary to the outcry from food workers’ unions, digital workplace solutions actually make it easier to include seniority in supermarket shift scheduling through priority order scheduling functions. Through improved communication and clear processes, this technology empowers employees and boosts scheduling transparency, granting more power, independence and opportunities to workers.

Using Digital Workplaces to Optimize Scheduling
The automated scheduling and enhanced transparency within digital workplaces make it easier for grocers to comply with union regulations. Increased employee autonomy helps reduce turnover and boost job satisfaction, creating a freedom that increases enjoyment of their work and personal lives. Here are three key ways digital workplaces help align grocery-industry scheduling practices to union regulations:

Promoting Stable and Predictable Shifts
Unions are concerned about on-call scheduling. Digital workplaces minimize the need for last-minute shift changes, facilitating an open shift marketplace that simplifies schedule swapping. With increased communication and employee visibility, grocery store managers can better forecast and fill open shifts.

A complete buy-in and adoption of digital workplace software quickly eliminates last-minute scheduling problems. Digital workplaces extract natural human bias and error from the equation and give employees the autonomy to select their own shifts. The software removes one item from managers’ already full plates.

With digital scheduling, managers don’t need to constantly oversee the shift signup process. Plus, built-in rules enable the technology to simplify compliance with predictive scheduling regulations, making managers’ jobs easier while reducing the need for on-call scheduling.

Streamlining Seniority Scheduling
Many union contracts dictate that organizations consider seniority in the scheduling process. In the past, this required circulating paper scheduling forms around the store floor in order of seniority, or reaching out to individuals one by one. Either way, these approaches were inefficient, forcing managers to chase down the right people and weigh competing preferences.

Today, digital workplaces include priority functions that factor in seniority when opening up new shifts. Through this technology, more senior employees can automatically receive the opportunity to select hours before recent hires. With scheduling features that consider seniority, digital workplaces not only ensure compliance with union rules, but also modernize a clunky and outdated process.

Establishing Paper Trails
Regulation compliance is crucial, but it means nothing without proper documentation. Fortunately, digital workplaces take care of both aspects. These programs help alleviate conflicts and confusion between employers and unions by creating an easily accessible archive of schedules and hours worked for each employee. Digital workplaces serve as a paper trail for employee and employer actions, containing records of when staff members accept, refuse, and change shifts. These logs can later be reviewed to assess compliance.

By generating a digital repository of scheduling activities, digital workplaces assist grocers in evaluating practices and increasing transparency throughout the scheduling process. In the event that questions come up or someone inquires about a company’s approach, the answers exist in an easy-to-navigate location.

By enhancing employees’ access to information and control over their personal schedules, digital workplace solutions boost independence on and off the clock. And by establishing a digital paper trail, unions and employers have greater visibility into all scheduling activity. In the end, technology enables grocers to forge a simpler path to union compliance and cultivate a more satisfying work environment for managers and hourly workers alike.

Mike Zorn is VP of workplace strategy at WorkJam.
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