The Next Level of Labor

By Tammy Mastroberte, Contributing Editor | June 08, 2012

Managing the workforce is a high priority for all industries, and labor is one of the top expenses on the balance sheet. While technology continues to aid management with payroll and scheduling, today’s systems are providing much more — from employee portals and performance tracking to mobile timecards and productivity analysis.

“Operators can manage labor at a much deeper level than before,” says Sara Oliver, director of labor management at Fairmont Hotels in Toronto (www.fairmont.com), who is using the Watson R.M. workforce management solution (WMS) from UniFocus (www.unifocus.com). “We can now drill down and pull reports on the job, task or assignment level.”

One of the newest capabilities in workforce management is mobile apps, giving employees the ability to clock in and out, change their schedules and more using a smartphone. It also allows managers to approve timesheets, schedules and requests on the go. Kronos (www.kronos.com) offers a workforce mobile application that Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn. (www.starcasino.com) is considering for future implementation. The property currently uses other workforce management products from Kronos.

“If I have a manager at a conference, he can approve timecards, and because the phone offers GPS, we know if employees are clocking in from home, or if they are actually on site,” says Gretchen Stalboerger, payroll administrator at the company, operating four restaurants, a spa, casino and hotel.

Mobile is also top-of-mind for Brian Pearson, CIO at Stacked Restaurants (www.stacked.com), with three locations in California. Using HotSchedules (www.hotschedules.com), the company already allows employees to view their schedules, make change requests and view payroll stubs online, but is looking at the vendor’s mobile app as a more efficient employee interaction tool.

“It’s essentially empowering employees, and not forcing them to come into the restaurant or call the manager to request changes,” notes Pearson. “Employees feel more in charge.  They can go to the app, swap shifts and more. Time is the most important commodity to this generation of employees. Being flexible with that time is how companies will retain line level employees.”

Stacked also uses the communications piece of HotSchedules to make sure employees sign off on any changes across the chain. The company can set the system to show employees a notice they must acknowledge or accept before viewing their schedule.

“Now we have something reliable, and can measure that we had x percentage of employees acknowledge reciept of the information,” he explains.

Optimizing labor through forecasting and analysis
Predicting labor and analyzing productivity are critical insights for any restaurant or hotel property. Software systems can build a history based on sales, season and more, and help companies optimize
their workforce.

“Instead of having department managers decide, our system creates a standard so we can consistently staff throughout the year,” explains Fairmont’s Oliver. “You also find savings when you start to look at that level of detail.”

Stacked Restaurants uses forecasting when creating a schedule, and experienced managers set up templates so those with less experience can have a guide, depending on sales projections and forecasts. The HotSchedules system also allows the chain to use an auto scheduler based on
employee rating.

“We are looking at this with great interest from the operations side, because we can give each employee a rating of 1, 2 or 3 and generate a schedule based on it,” Pearson notes. “The rating is based on who can excel with a busy schedule or station versus a moderate one.”

Pearson also runs reports every day on both labor and food, checking how staffing compares to sales and guest count. Reports show details such as guests arriving at 8 a.m., but no sales until 11:30 a.m., or sales are done at 11:30 p.m., but staff is there later cleaning up, he says.

“We look at that every day,” Pearson explains. “If you are not managing it every day, you are in a different business. We look at how we are doing today versus comparable days, can manage labor in five-minute increments. It’s so important to keep that awareness and insight.”

At Shooting Star Casino, the company applies analytics to the slot machine system to average the machine play per hour. This helps determine what labor should be, notes Stalboerger.

Checks and balances in monitoring the workforce
The newest software addition at Shooting Star is the HR payroll system from Kronos, which also includes a performance management module. It tracks reviews, wages and more.

All employees, whether restaurant, casino, spa or hotel, are also set up on an accruals system that tracks vacation and sick time, and shows employees their current balance in real time. There are three different plans in the system which vary based on full time, part time, hourly and salary employees.

Kronos also allows them to apply grades to a salary for each position based on qualifications, Stalboerger says. Every position is graded, and every couple of years the grades are updated to keep up with the
changing market.

“As each position is created or amended, we compare with the market and put in our specifications for each grade and attach it to a position,” she explains. “There is a minimum and a maximum for each position. If it is $12 an hour maximum, the pay won’t go over that so everyone is treated fairly based on
their qualifications.”

Pearson also monitors the wages of employees quarterly or semi-annually, reviewing salaries and comparing highs and lows, to make sure everyone is in alignment, he says.

“Most companies offer bonuses to managers based on some labor component,” says Pearson. Providing them with this tool helps keep everything in line.


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