The holidays seem to roll into the retail world earlier every year.
Step into a mall or big-box store, and visions of sugarplums start dancing in your head even before the ghosts of Halloween can fade into the woodwork. Along with pulling the evergreen trees and tinsel out of storage, an essential element of holiday preparation for retailers is meeting their holiday hiring needs. Nobody wants to be caught short-handed on Christmas Eve when the crowds surge in.
Thankfully, advanced analytics and a strong connection between the supply chain and finance departments can make this preparation much easier. Let’s unpack this approach and explore a few practical tips to use advanced analytics to help ensure that holiday hiring doesn’t trip you up.
Making Sense of the Data
The data that makes it possible to accurately project holiday hiring needs isn’t new, but the capabilities to process it quickly is. The rise of advanced analytics (like artificial intelligence and machine learning) makes it possible to run large, fast calculations and explore a vast array of scenarios. And it’s not just about the stores. Effective holiday hiring plans reach all the way up the supply chain to the warehouse, where a successful holiday season hinges on ensuring that you have the staff in place to fulfill orders quickly and accurately. So where do you begin?
The Foundation of Demand Sensing
Demand sensing is a foundational element to getting staffing plans right, and advanced analytics play a huge role. When companies have a clear vision of demand heading into the busy holiday season, they can make much more accurate staffing plans from the warehouse all the way to the storefront. In order to understand the trends that shape holiday season sales, one needs a much deeper understanding of the ever-changing buying behaviors of today’s consumers. Advanced analytics, leveraging external data such as changing consumer tastes, buying habits of millennials, and micro-macro-economic trends can help companies better plan for the holiday season.
Today’s fast-paced market changes on a dime, and there are a myriad of factors involved to be analyzed and for plans to be adjusted accordingly. Weather events and natural disasters can affect demand (for example, what happens when winter turns mild and no one buys those winter coats?). Social media sentiment and buzz can generate a spike in demand (such as when a celebrity wears your brand in public and it becomes a hot item). Advanced analytics can process massive amounts of data in short periods of time and bring patterns to the forefront, making true demand sensing not just attainable but the new normal.
Scenario Plans and Finance
Scenario planning is essential to making complex plans (like holiday staffing). Robust planning capabilities make it possible to analyze the various scenarios, and helps ensure that every warehouse and retail store has the right people in place at the right time, which is essential to solving the holiday hiring conundrum. Intelligence and insights from advanced analytics can be used to run a variety of complex scenarios, far beyond what the planners of old could manage with spreadsheets and point solutions.
A core element of scenario planning involves one of the most important working relationships in supply chain: its connection with finance. Every adjustment to supply-chain plans should be analyzed for financial impact, and vice versa. A strong connection between supply-chain planning and financial planning enables scenario planning based on understanding the financial implications of all decisions. Value-based decisions make a real impact on the bottom line and the top line.
Don’t Forget the People
Advanced analytics might seem like it’s all about the robots, but in the end, it’s about making people’s lives better by improving planning processes that are often laborious and manual.
In the context of holiday hiring, it’s essential to connect human resources data to supply-chain and finance data to make the right decisions. Companies need to ask themselves how much they’re willing to pay seasonal workers, and they need to ensure that they’re making the right choices in a tight labor market. Many companies are pushed to make tradeoff decisions on whether to pay more overtime or hire more workers. These are complex decisions driven by demand and supply plans, and they resonate throughout the supply chain. Such decisions need complex calculations and market intelligence, and insights enabled by advanced technologies, such as machine learning, can play a huge role.
To make sure you don’t end up shorthanded this holiday season, use the power of advanced analytics to make intelligent, informed hiring decisions and reap the benefits of happy holiday customers.
Vivek Soneja is global head of supply chain for Anaplan.