Back to blog overview

Workforce Optimisation: Why it should be top priority in retail

by Joanne Zhang, WFM contributor on May 9

Workforce optimisation is a game-changing science that could have major impact on the way workforce is managed. It keeps employees happy, improves customer service and reduces costs.  That’s accomplished by automatically forecasting demand, creating shifts and filling these shifts. This is particularly interesting for retail, where a lot of stores, employees, complicated legislations and personal preferences have to be coordinated. Luckily, algorithms make this work easier. In the end, workforce optimisation algorithms help retailers gain more happy customers and thus more sales.


We’ve all been there. Walking around in a store with a question. Seeking help, but having no one to help you. Or waiting for your food longer than you’re comfortable with in a restaurant. Providing the desired level of service is crucial for retail companies. Sometimes, retail companies focus too much on cutting costs, which leads to fewer employees walking around in supermarkets, stores and restaurants even when it’s really busy and filled with visitors. When customer service meets or exceeds expectations, customers will be happier. And happy customers return.



Retail is a business where the focus lies on the balance between revenue and labor costs. Employees can be cost-intensive assets to companies, but their happiness and engagement are key to customer happiness. Happy employees provide better service levels, which leads to happy customers and that will lead to more sales and thus revenue. Workforce optimisation algorithms can play a big part in that employee and customer happiness. To keep customers happy for instance, foot traffic or customer demand needs to be matched with employees who can fulfill that demand. The trick is knowing how much demand to expect in the future, especially when you have seasonality, trends, promotions, and other events.  Algorithms forecast demand based on historical data, and tell you how much you can expect to sell and how many visitors you can expect to have in a selected scheduling period. With that information, workforce optimisation algorithms generate shifts to meet the demand, while balancing service level and costs. If you want lower costs, you would schedule fewer employees. If you want higher service levels, you would schedule more employees. Workforce optimisation is all about helping you balance service level and costs savings.


Additionally, workforce optimisation accelerates the scheduling process. Rules and labor laws are automatically taken into account when employees are assigned to shifts. Algorithms in workforce optimisation give suggestions on who to assign when, without breaking rules, while also keeping in mind the preferences of employees. Some employees might not want to work on Saturdays, while others don’t mind working on weekends. Workforce optimisation can easily manage these employee preferences with automated shift creation, leading to happier employees.


In addition, workforce optimisation is dynamic. Workforce management plans usually have rosters for a certain week or month. When changes occur, for example the stores are visited more than usual because of the weather, it often takes a significant amount of time and effort for the planner to adjust the roster manually. Algorithms can do this automatically, faster and better. In fact, they can do it within seconds. Algorithms can create shifts for one store, for one week within 0.04 seconds. They can fill 482 shifts, choosing from 61 employees in 0.8 seconds. This only enables lowering scheduling costs even more.


Workforce optimisation helps retail companies to make labor planning more efficient, employees happier and customers more satisfied. It allows you to balance service levels with costs savings and thus revenue. Therefore, workforce optimisation should be a top priority in every retail business’ agenda.


Want to know more about what we can do for your business and our intelligent algorithms? Contact us today at to stay ahead of the pack.