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Assessing COVID-Related Workforce Costs

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“Unprecedented” and “uncertain” were words we heard a lot this past year, and for good reason. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many unique challenges, and business leaders have had to make some pretty tough choices as a result. Cutbacks, furloughs, downsizing, closures. Businesses large and small have had to adapt to survive, but now that recovery is on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about more than just triage and survival. What are some lessons learned thus far, and how can they be applied toward future business? Were there hasty decisions you made in the moment that now seem less than ideal? As you move forward, it’s important to assess COVID-related workforce costs and other impacts to your business, so that you can start making solid plans for recovery and beyond.

Have an eye toward recovery and re-openings

The first instinct of many businesses over the past year was to move quickly. Many owners and operators were under pressure to move fast to avoid closure or worse. Now that things have slowed down some, it’s time to assess your workforce costs and cost levers and to think about recovery plans more carefully. You’ll want to assess your costs with both the short and long term in mind, as this will make your business more resilient. Don’t just think about where you want to see your business next quarter or even next year. Where do you want to see your business five years from now? You’ll need a thoughtful plan of action to get there.

The truth is, many factors contribute to resilience. Adopting dynamic business strategies, investing in the workforce, making your operations more agile, creating value for your customers, effectively adjusting to tax and regulatory reforms, and developing your capital can all make your business more resilient. For this post, though, we’re going to focus namely on COVID-related workforce costs. Labor is one of the biggest controllable expenses in the retail industry, so it’s important to get it right. For those in the restaurant industry, it’s also one of the most difficult challenges in the business right now.

Understand your workforce costs and cost levers

The more you understand your workforce costs and cost levers, the better you can plan for the future. Workforce costs can include a number of things beyond just straight labor and wages. When you’re looking at the numbers, don’t forget about payroll taxes, paid leave, and other forms of compensation, such as bonuses, discounts, or job perks. Fees paid out due to fair workweek and secure scheduling violations can also eat away at your expenses if you’re not careful. Fortunately, labor compliance fees are often avoidable if you have the right system in place.

Make sure you have a good idea of your talent pool and the functions they perform. Work-ready, loyal employees are an invaluable asset to any business, and losing them should be your last choice. But many business owners may not have had a choice at all this past year. If you’re having trouble re-hiring employees, or finding fresh talent, it might be time to start thinking about alternative strategies. Look for ways to redeploy or cross-train your employees into areas with increased demand, for example. Or, consider instituting a referral or incentive program to attract new hires.

Other workforce costs to consider

If you made hasty but less-than-ideal decisions early on during the pandemic, it might also be time to start thinking about course-correction. Many business owners, when confronted with the drastically increased demand for online ordering and delivery, hastily chose solutions that promised get the job done fast. But those same business owners have come to find that they aren’t getting the job done well. The chosen solution doesn’t integrate with their labor management platform, for example, so they’re unable to schedule pickers or delivery drivers very efficiently. Or it doesn’t integrate with the POS, so they’re missing vital pieces of data that could help them better forecast their sales.

In these cases, an affordable, centralized labor management platform with seamless POS integration could go a long way toward ensuring future business resilience and profitability. Every hour or dollar that you spend trying to cobble together your existing tools is an hour or dollar that you could have saved by implementing a system that can already handle everything.

Here are some other areas to think about as you move toward recovery:

  • Changes to compensation to attract or retain employees.
  • More efficient work schedules, to make sure the right staff are scheduled at the right times.
  • Hiring freezes, and whether to lift them or shift them to different areas of the business.
  • Other expenses, such as those spent toward facilities, business travel, real estate, etc.

How TimeForge can help your business

TimeForge has a number of tools that can help you retain staff and run a more efficient business. Because TimeForge is a centralized workforce management platform and covers the full employee life cycle, it helps with numerous pain points and cost levers.

For example, TimeForge provides several team communication tools that help keep staff engaged and on the same page. Honest, open, regular, and clear communication with your workforce is and has been critical during the pandemic. It’s important that you continue communicating with the staff you’ve been able to retain. You want to keep them informed and make sure they know they’re appreciated. It’s also a good idea to keep in touch with workers you’ve had to furlough or let go. Expending a little bit of effort to stay in touch could pay dividends later when business activities pick up.

Another way TimeForge helps is through employee satisfaction and retention. TimeForge provides mobile apps, shift swaps, time off requests, and all the other conveniences that employees and managers expect.

Employee retention has always been an important factor in controlling workforce costs, but if you’re currently facing a labor shortage – as many restaurants are – retention becomes critical. Employees these days expect conveniences like the ability to check their schedules and hours from their mobile phones. They expect to be able to swap shifts or request time off. If they don’t get these things, they get fed up, and they find an employer that does offer them. Without these features, businesses lose out to their competitors who are also recruiting from the same talent pool.

Give us a call or schedule a live demo, and we’d be glad to discuss with you all the ways TimeForge can help you control workforce costs and prepare for recovery.

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