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Survey: Unplanned employee absences disrupting store operations

Employee absenteeism is wreaking havoc on store operations across the globe.

For every 10 hours of in-store labor budgeted, more than one hour is wasted due to staffing misalignment caused by unplanned employee absence, according to a survey of 800 global retail managers by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. The top three operational downfalls of absenteeism (defined as shifts that are scheduled but unexpectedly not worked) cited by respondents are staff productivity (58%), customer satisfaction (47%), and store revenue (42%). Interestingly, absenteeism has an above-average impact on staff productivity in the U.S. (69%).

The Global Retail Absence survey, conducted with Coleman Parkes Research, found that retailers are understaffed 25% of the time due to last-minute absenteeism. Retailers in the U.K. (44%) and the U.S. (41%) are hit hardest on the weekends. In Germany, the highest rate of absence typically occurs on Mondays.

For the most part, retailers are given just one to three hours’ notice when an employee is not going to show up for work. The impact of filling these shifts on short notice means that one in four retailers are working with staff that have the wrong skills at least half the time, according to the report.

In other survey findings:

• An average 6% of labor hours each month are worked to cover issues such as unplanned absence but have not been formally scheduled. This causes unnecessary stress for 57% of U.S. retailers.

• Nearly half of retailers worldwide (48 percent) find it challenging to deal with administrative issues resulting from associates working additional shifts and/or incurring overtime to cover unplanned absence, and 42% feel a big impact on labor costs.

• The perpetual issue and corrosive effects of absenteeism have led the vast majority of retail organizations (88%) to proactively over-schedule additional labor each day to cover for anticipated absences.

• Retailers regularly find themselves with either too few or too many associates during periods of low- and peak-demand, and some admit to being understaffed (31%) or overstaffed (22%) at least half the time.

• The most common (69%) workforce management challenge for retail mangers across the U.S. is building schedules that meet customer, business, and employee demands.

• Only 55% of retailers worldwide have technology in place to manage unplanned absences. In comparison, 76% have an automated solution to manage time and attendance, and 73% use technology to manage planned absences, such as time-off requests.

• Three out of five retailers say scheduling technology has a positive impact on productivity within their teams.

• Retail managers are confident that effective absence management technology can help reduce absenteeism: globally, retailers anticipate an 18 percent decrease in unapproved absence rates after implementing a new absence and shift-swapping solution.

• Quantifying the benefits of absence management, retailers additionally expect a new absence and shift-swapping solution to reduce labor costs by nearly 3%.

“The corrosive effects of absenteeism can swiftly knock retailers’ plans off course and erode performance potential,” said Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos. “How you minimize and manage absence is critical to staying on target, and it starts with understanding employee preferences, considering their availability, and making it easy for them to modify their schedule or swap a shift as needed. After all, employees who work schedules built around their preferred hours and availability and who are empowered by self-service workforce management technology will be happier, have fewer instances of absence, be more productive, and have a longer tenure.”
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