Lately I have seen so many people and companies try to “update” the core principle of effective workforce management and staffing: right people, right place, at the right time. I keep asking myself, WHY? Why does it need updating, why does it need change, and why isn’t it working (because isn’t that why you change something…because it doesn’t work?). I am all for innovation and change, I am the first person that likes to shake things up and try something different, but I only do it when something requires innovation and improvement. Some of the new versions of the classic mantra include:
- Right people, right place, doing the right things
- Right skills, right geographical area, providing the right things
- Reasonable People, In the right space, at the convenient time at the right cost
- Qualified people, at the appropriate place, providing the right services
I am having a hard time seeing any difference in what all these new changes mean versus the good ole concept of right people, right place, right time. In breaking down the elements of the RP, RP, RT concept, we see that the underpinnings will change over time due to changes in the workforce, customer buying habits, and the overall use of new technology. The core concept, however, remains valid. This is particularly true in retail and hospitality, and for any business that is scheduling every day to meet customer needs and tasks for their locations.
I have a very recent example of why I think the RP, RP, RT is still the most relevant way to think about your business. I was in a pub in South Lake Tahoe on a Sunday to watch a football game on TV (for our U.S. readers, it is a Sunday in November so you know it is American Football Sunday, and ironically I’m in an Irish pub watching it). Every NFL game is on the TVs and their signage outside says they have drink food specials during the games all day. Four of us walk to the hostess stand where there are no other customers. We look into the bar where the games are on and there are 10 open tables, however we are told there will be a 25-minute wait. And the tables in the bar are not first-come first-serve, so we need to wait. So, since I have spent the last 30 years in the retail business and specifically in Workforce Management, I know exactly what has happened and it is simple. They are understaffed, during the key time of their business, on a key day, with all the wrong people. They had plenty of people to help bus the tables but only three waitstaff and one person behind the bar (which was the manager). Isn’t this truly an issue of not having the right people, at the right time, doing the right thing?
St. Peter’s Stiftskeller claims to be the oldest restaurant in the world. They claim to have opened around 803 AD in Austria. For them, the right people over the last 1215 years hasn’t changed in order to maintain and promote their image. They have always been about the experience, fine wine, and impeccable food – and they require their workforce to exude a similar level of excellence. The names have changed, the faces have changed, the generational names have changed but they have never faltered from having the “right” people in their restaurant to deliver what they require to meet the needs of their customers.
The concept is the same if you are running a T-Shirt shop on the beach anywhere in the world — you need the right person projecting your image. You want them excited about the product and showing that T-shirts are their life. So, this would not be the same type of employee you would hire at St. Peter’s Stiftskeller. This leads me back to my original thought – isn’t this just having the right people for your brand?
Right place means where the employees are in the building during the hours of operations. There you go…just a golden nugget for you to drive your business. But seriously, this is sometimes hard to determine based on data you might have available that you use to staff your team. For instance, if you review the transactions at my Irish Pub, you will see that most people probably paid approximately three hours after they had been in the restaurant. So that would mean you needed staff three hours earlier than the actual sale transaction took place. This is usually the case in most retailers, restaurants, and hospitality where you have a large portion of time that needs a level of customer service before the actual sale.
I know this isn’t a huge “aha moment”, but it is still shocking how the right place is usually missed in Workforce Management and scheduling for our customers. We also try to control labor and cost by having the right people cover more than one right place in the location. Having someone as my server, bussing the tables, running drinks and food, and cashing me out can cause a ripple effect of poor customer service. Making customers wait ends up diminishing the brand and the perceived customer service level. So, Right Place is a server on the floor where they belong doing their job, alongside the busser doing their job where they belong throughout the restaurant.
Not only do the right people need to be on the floor when the customers are there, but they have to be there at the right time. Again, with my Irish pub, do you want your customers walking out because you can’t seat them and losing that business to a competitor? Of course not, so it is essential to know your business well enough to know when your right times are. As I said earlier, your transactions show you are busy three hours after your customers have been there, so if you just use the data without the complete story you would have very unhappy customers.
Technology and data can be powerful if you know what you they mean to your business. Analytics, dashboards, and reports are essential to running your business, but they will not provide you with an advantage if you don’t understand your overall strategy. There must be training and education for your store associates, and specifically for your leadership team in the stores. They must know how to read the data and make the right decisions for their business. You must trust them and that they will know when to adjust. However, the key to all of that is that you build the right adoption strategy to ensure the managers know what their data means and how the technology supports it. You can never allow the technology to run your business – your employees need empowerment to run their business and the technology should only support it.
Back to my Lake Tahoe Irish pub story. My group went to stand in the bar area to watch the game during the 25-minute wait, while one of us Googled other restaurants near us showing the football games. Then the RIGHT SERVER, came up to us and told us to sit down in the bar and that he would help us. He said it didn’t make sense to have us leaning on empty tables when he could just help us. Having that RIGHT SERVER, at the RIGHT PLACE, and at the RIGHT TIME for us meant he got a huge tip and we walked away happy and full after our football team won.