When it comes to workforce management, many retail and hospitality organizations struggle with functional silos. Finance, HR, Payroll, IT and Operations each have their own area of responsibility within the workforce management process, but all these functions need to work together to achieve common enterprise goals. Without continuous communication and collaboration, it’s easy for each function to operate in isolation and fall out of alignment — especially when business processes or requirements change. When silo-driven breakdowns occur, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep labor costs and productivity on track.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges associated with functional silos. As retail and hospitality companies have been forced to pivot operations during closures and phased re-openings, the need for alignment has never been more critical. In this blog post, I describe the issues that can arise from functional silos and share best practices for aligning the organization to optimize workforce management and drive enterprise goals.
Cross-functional interdependencies abound
There are many areas of the organization involved in workforce management. Finance creates the labor budgets based on the established labor model. Human Resources defines policies and enforces compliance with labor laws and regulations. Payroll calculates and processes employee paychecks. IT configures the workforce management technology to meet specific business requirements. Operations forecasts, schedules, and deploys labor to consistently meet service levels. While this division of responsibilities may be straightforward, finding a way for these groups to work together seamlessly can be complicated.
All these functions are interconnected, so if changes happen in isolation, things get messy quickly. With so many cross-functional interdependencies, there needs to be an established protocol for communicating changes and their impact across the workforce management process. For example, if a retailer decides to change the hours of operation at select store locations, Operations needs to keep Finance in the loop so they can adjust for the increase or decrease in planned labor spend.
Throw in the COVID-19 curveball
Retail and hospitality companies have had to adapt quickly in response to coronavirus. While stores were closed, many retailers shifted their focus to e-commerce, offering services like BOPIS or curbside pick-up, in some cases for the first time. As locations gradually re-open, businesses are now dealing with occupancy restrictions, social distancing mandates, and expanded cleaning routines — all of which impact workforce management. Organizations with functional silos are facing even greater challenges as they pivot operations to the ever-evolving “new normal.” When individual functions forge ahead and implement changes in a vacuum, the organization ultimately pays the price, typically in labor budget overspend or productivity losses.
Let me share a couple of examples.
Pre-COVID, a big-box retailer was offering BOPIS with customers picking up orders at the customer service counter. With the arrival of COVID-19, BOPIS pickups shifted to curbside or loading dock to better facilitate social distancing within stores. However, because the labor model was not adjusted to reflect this change, orders coming into the point-of-sale system as BOPIS were generating forecasted labor hours in a job on the front-end (customer service counter) instead of the backend (curbside or loading dock). The schedule created based on this forecast resulted in overstaffing on the front-end and understaffing at the backend, so Operations scrambled to manually update the schedule and ensure proper staffing. Close collaboration between Finance and Operations could have alleviated the need for rework by aligning the labor model with the new operational processes.
- Now let’s consider a hospitality example. To prepare for reopening, a restaurant chain altered the layout of its kitchen to allow for social distancing between employees. The revised layout required large-scale changes in food preparation processes, which impacted labor standards by adding minutes to the time required to prepare and plate each entrée. Due to functional misalignment, Finance failed to allocate enough labor hours and Operations ended up overspending their labor budget to maintain service levels.
3 Best practices to break down silos
Based on my experience as a Kronos Solution Consultant, I recommend three best practices that can help your business break down functional silos for strategic organizational alignment that drives more effective workforce management:
Create a workforce management governance team that includes key stakeholders from all relevant functions. Through regularly scheduled meetings and ongoing collaboration, this team fosters consistent awareness and communication among functions, so nothing falls through the cracks. Even more important, it helps ensure that your workforce management decisions are aligned with enterprise goals.
Adopt the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model for governance team-approved projects. Map out where the buck stops (Accountable), who is doing the work (Responsible), who needs to be asked before proceeding (Consulted), and who needs to know once the work is done (Informed). The RACI model helps ensure clear delineation of roles and better cross-functional communication to eliminate surprises and fuel better outcomes.
Document end-to-end workforce management processes — from budgeting to execution to analysis — for any given week. When every step is clearly documented and completely transparent, it’s easier to gain visibility into breakdowns if and when they happen.
Are silos getting in the way of moving your business forward? Kronos offers expertise in breaking down barriers to workforce management success through proven best practices and industry-tailored technology solutions. Let us know if we can help!