A recent study by Alex Wood and Brendan Burchell from the department of sociology at Cambridge delivers more evidence about what many of us have suspected. Supermarket ‘super flexible’ working arrangements are not good for staff. In fact they impair mental health and will no doubt prove to be one of the greatest ‘stress generators’ to be found in the workplace today.
These working practices arise because managers are expected to arrange and rearrange shifts to meet predicted shopping demand at different times. Most managers think they can schedule staff – its just another admin chore right? and therein lies the problem, they can’t. In fact around 70% of managers are particularly bad at it. Where the scheduling problem is trivial around 30% of managers do get it right . When you enter the territory of rotating schedules, and matching variable staff supply with demand the ‘success’ factor goes downhill fast.
In our experience there are three immutable truths when it comes to scheduling supermarket – or any – staff for that matter:
- A consistent well designed staff supply mapped to a core demand profile over the long term, will significantly outperform the ‘chopping and changing’ used to match a predicted demand – any control is illusory.
- Demand patterns are robust, which means long term schedules can be created reducing short term changes. Schedules around a week guarantee a turbulent workplace environment the manager will be unable to shake off.
- Without a computer aided resource management system that can deliver something like this as a matter of routine means it’s just guess work:
There is one more final factor. Increasing numbers of consumers care more about who they give their hard earned money more than they do for just about anything else including price.