3 Questions for … Christoph Saalmann, Reflexis
26. March 2020 | 3 Questions to…, Retail Technology

Inventory management, shelf stocking, staff scheduling: workforce management and HR communication often mean a lot of hard work and effort on the part of retailers. According to Christoph Saalmann, Senior Sales Executive – DACH at Reflexis, this is easy and convenient and only takes a single platform.

Man stands in front of large display at the EuroShop 2020; copyright: beta-web GmbH

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What trends do you see in employee communication?

I have worked in this industry for over 20 years. Right now, I notice that companies are looking to improve employee satisfaction. In the past, you sat down in the cafeteria or sparsely decorated employee lounge with a specific purpose. Today, there is an increased focus on great team workflow and a positive work environment that makes employees feel good. Many accommodations and spaces are now better equipped, roomy, chic and trendy and invite employees to recharge and spend some time there, prompting them to feel valued and enjoy their work.

I also think that business communication will increasingly utilize the convenient use of smartphones.

How can you optimize retail workflow?

Retailers should pay attention to two areas. The first one is store communication, which includes not just in-store communication but also networking of multiple stores and the retail company’s headquarters. The other area pertains to communication with and among employees. This includes workforce scheduling, time and attendance and task management of each employee and might pertain to retail shelf stocking, setting up an ad display at the checkout or adjusting the freezer system. These tasks can be assigned by the supervisor, order management or in-store smart devices.

Another key aspect in this context is work-life balance. Employees should be able to review their overtime hours and available vacation time and have the chance to swap shifts with their colleagues. We developed software that enables associates to manage their work and schedule via their smartphone – this is a very convenient way of organizing, especially for the younger generation that grew up with this technology. Ultimately, employees see their to-do list in a prioritized manner. No task is forgotten once they have finished their list. The goal of any task and communication management system like ours is to minimize efforts for everyone, including the store manager. Otherwise, he or she will have different systems and accounts for employee time and attendance, vacation scheduling, weekly reports, and order management. We make sure that everything works using just one system and one screen.

What role do new technologies play in all this?

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) is also apparent in workforce management, our area of expertise. AI allows you to identify behavior patterns. One example of this is scheduling: Employee A and employee B regularly swap shifts. An AI-based system can spot this and suggest using the two colleagues in a different capacity.

AI is especially important in forecasting. Store managers can find out about peak workload periods, assess when there are increased sales, and analyze the number of customers at the store and the number of items being sold at any given time. In other words, what are the tasks I have to accomplish at any given time? AI can analyze data and make connections between factors that are sometimes not obvious to the human mind and thus make better predictions about the future. Forecasting and planning are crucial and maximize a retailer’s competitive advantage.

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