Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Justin Fox of Bloomberg wryly notes that "Retailers
Discover That Labor Isn't Just a Cost." This is an observation
seen others make about employment in general, but I had not considered the full
ramifications. Fox does, and for a type of job many might be inclined
to think of as short-term:
One big set of targets are the scheduling systems that have allowed retailers to ever-more-closely match staffing to customer traffic, but in the process wrought havoc with many workers' lives by making their schedules so unpredictable. Jodi Kantor gave a face to this last year with a compelling New York Times account of the chaotic life of a single-mom Starbucks barista.For contrast, Fox considers the "good jobs" strategy of Costco, but notes that this isn't any more universally applicable. This is buttressed by an economics study that showed that a retailer saw its best sales with an optimal mixture of full- and part-time help within a work force. This makes sense: Some workers want jobs for the long haul, and others don't. (And conversely, some jobs need more familiarity with a business than others.) It's good to see that fascination with technology-driven scheduling wizardry is being replaced by a search for a more ... multidimensional ... solution to labor investment.
Kronos supplies Starbucks' scheduling software, and [Charles] DeWitt was quoted in the Times article describing its workings as "like magic." So it was a little surprising to see him on stage last week at O'Reilly Media's Next:Economy conference, nodding pleasantly and occasionally chiming in as a Starbucks barista, a labor activist and a journalist described the horrors inflicted by scheduling software. [format edits]