Twitter to fund social media lab at MIT

October 1, 2014 | By Staff Writer

Twitter is giving over every message ever tweeted to the data scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s famed Media Lab. The social media giant is also giving $10 million (throughout a five-year period) to fund the new Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM), which will be based at the Media Lab.

The new initiative aims to build new tools that will analyze and enable communication on social platforms. Twitter will provide full access to its real-time, public stream of tweets, as well as the archive of every tweet dating back to the first.

“With this investment, Twitter is seizing the opportunity to go deeper into research to understand the role Twitter and other platforms play in the way people communicate, the effect that rapid and fluid communication can have and apply those findings to complex societal issues,” said Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter.

A main goal for the lab will be to create new platforms for both individuals and institutions to identify, discuss and act on pressing societal problems, MIT said in a statement. Though funded by Twitter, the lab will have complete operational and academic independence, according MIT, with students and staff working across many social media and mass media platforms.

Staples launches nationwide tour to boost employee productivity

September 30, 2014 | By Vivian Lee

Staples has kicked off a nationwide tour called “Refresh. Recharge. Refuel.” The tour aims to encourage office workers across the country to take a break from the daily grind by visiting a large-scale, popup break room stocked with free snacks, coffee and other beverages.

As part of the tour, Staples will host public break room events in 10 major U.S. cities including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, San Diego and Los Angeles.

In a survey of office workers and managers it conducted, Staples found the following:

Workers in the Northeast (58%) feel more burnt out than their colleagues across other regions of the U.S.
Workers in the West (27%) aren’t taking lunch breaks.
In the Midwest, workers feel guilty about getting up from their desks to take a break (28%).
Workers in the South (90%) say they need breaks to boost productivity.
Despite regional differences, the survey underscored the importance of taking breaks as employees work longer days. An overwhelming majority of workers (86%) acknowledge that taking a break would make them more productive. In fact, 58% of respondents said a well-stocked, comfortable break room would encourage breaks.

“This tour demonstrates the power of the break room in keeping employees refreshed and recharged,” said Chris Correnti, VP, Staples facility solutions. “The Staples “Refresh. Recharge. Refuel.” Breakroom Tour will provide a welcome diversion and deliver just the kind of break workers need, so they can return to work ready to make more happen.”

The marketing campaign enables Staples to position itself as the go-to source for companies across the country to stock break rooms and thus generate traffic to its stores and online as well as via Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division that services larger organizations.

The break room events will feature:

Free snacks, coffee and other beverages along with break room games, prizes, product samples and entertainment.
An interactive photo tent allowing workers to capture their energizing break with coworkers.
Appearances by special break room guests at select locations.

Walmart launches exclusive GoBank checking account

September 24, 2014 | By Vivian Lee

Walmart already offers a prepaid debit card, credit card, check cashing and money transfers, but it’s expanding its financial services to include an exclusive checking account called GoBank, with Green Dot Corp., a prepaid-cards specialist.

The checking account is linked to MasterCard debit cards. GoBank, which will be available nationwide by the end of October, doesn’t charge overdraft fees or minimum balance fees and waives the monthly membership cost of $8.95 with qualifying direct deposits of $500 a month.

“Many so-called ‘free’ checking accounts aren’t really free because they have high overdraft fees. In fact, an independent study by Bretton Woods estimates that consumers pay approximately $218 to $314 per year for a basic checking account,” said Steve Streit, founder and CEO of Green Dot Corporation and chairman of Green Dot Bank. “No other checking account makes it this easy and affordable to manage your everyday finances. GoBank is breaking down the barriers to traditional banking and brings the benefits of a FDIC-insured checking account that’s loaded with features to a large segment of Americans.”

GoBank, a full-featured checking account, is offered as part of Walmart’s checking alternatives category.

“Walmart customers want easier ways to manage their everyday finances and increasingly feel they just aren’t getting value from traditional banking because of high fees,” said Daniel Eckert, SVP of services for Walmart U.S. “Adding the GoBank checking account to our shelves means our customers will have exclusive access to one of the most affordable, inclusive and easy-to-use checking accounts in the industry. GoBank gives our customers yet another option as to how they manage their money. When our customers have options, they win.”

GoBank comes with a range of features that include instant person-to-person payments, pay-anyone bill pay and innovative budgeting tools. Neither a ChexSystems score nor credit bureau rating is used as the basis for determining customer eligibility. Instead, GoBank uses proprietary underwriting techniques to allow almost any consumer who passes ID verification to open an account.

Additional features and benefits of GoBank include:

Quick Account Set-Up: Setting up a GoBank account can take just minutes after purchasing a starter kit for $2.95. After set-up, customers can immediately use their starter debit MasterCard for purchases until their personalized card arrives in the mail.
Transparent Fee Structure: GoBank’s $8.95 monthly cost is waived in any month with qualifying direct deposits totaling $500 or more. Other fees include a 3% foreign transaction fee and out-of-network ATM fees (typically $2.50 for an out-of-network ATM plus any fee the ATM owner may assess). The full overview can be found at
Early Paycheck Availability: GoBank also offers early payroll direct deposit so customers can get their paycheck deposited earlier than their normal payday if their employer notifies GoBank of a deposit in advance.
Advice on Spending from “Fortune Teller” feature: “Remember that time you won the lottery? I don’t either.” This is a response a customer might see from GoBank’s “Fortune Teller,” if they try to spend beyond their budget. “Fortune Teller” crosschecks the price of an item with a customer’s planned income and expenses, and if they can’t afford it, they’ll be advised in real-time to pass on the purchase.
Customers can instantly send money to each other at no charge via email or text message.
The Money Vault is an integrated bank account, with deposits insured by the FDIC, where customers can easily put money away. In real time, they can move money into the vault for safekeeping or out of the vault to be accessed with their debit MasterCard.

Managing Older Workers

Contributor: Allan Hoving
Posted: 10/24/2010 12:00:00 AM EDT | 1
Many older workers are convinced that age discrimination is a major factor in hiring, promotion, layoffs. But is it mostly just in their head, or is age discrimination real? According to Peter Cappelli, Wharton professor and coauthor of Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, “age discrimination is certainly real; it is huge. To the extent we can measure these things, it is bigger than discrimination against race and gender. It’s also a much bigger group of people.” The following is an edited transcript of a recent interview.
What are the recent trends regarding age discrimination?
Age discrimination claims were 19% of all claims in 1998 and 26% in 2008. And they probably have gone up, because in downturns we get more age discrimination claims because a lot of them are associated with being dismissed or laid off for age-related reasons.
The most interesting studies on this are ones where they sent people for identical job interviews and one group of people was older and the other was younger and everything else about them was identical. Some of these they just did it with sending resumes out. And you get very negative responses to the older people when the resume is absolutely identical as compared with younger people. And when they go, physically, to a real interview, the results get even worse.
The interesting thing is that the evidence we have on actual job performance suggests that on every dimension of job performance, other things equal, older workers do better. Absenteeism is lower, turnover is lower, job performance is better, interpersonal skills are better. On every dimension, older workers do better.
So granted, age issues in the workplace are real. Given the difficult economy and longer life expectancies — and a Baby Boomer generation that isn’t likely to retire gracefully — with all of these factors, integrating older workers is a reality that organizations are going to have to face.
Right. And what’s driving this is really just greater life expectancy. The current generation is going to live about 10 years longer than the previous generation. And most of those years are actually healthy years, so it’s not just that they’re older; they’re older without having nearly as many age-related infirmities.
And one of the reasons why people work longer is because you can’t support a 20-year retirement. The odds now are that if you and your spouse hit 65, at least one of you, there’s a 50% chance you’ll make it to 90. And that’s a long time to support retirement if you’re going to stop working, say, at age 62.
Older individuals have always wanted to keep working; they wanted to taper off gradually. Very few people wanted to just stop and do nothing at all. But they were systematically frustrated in their ability to get other jobs, part-time work, contingent work. When you ask them why they want to work, it’s not for money. Even those people who say they are set for life, they don’t need the money, want to keep working because of the social engagement it provides.
The subtitle of your book is How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order. Are you really addressing the younger manager?
Yes, that’s the issue, that’s really what’s different: the inversion of the organizational order. Previously, you assumed that your boss would always be somebody with more experience than you; almost always older but certainly somebody who’d been around your job longer than you, or the organization longer than you. Experience was associated with higher-level jobs.
We know that executives have gotten younger over the last generation. But the big issue is these older individuals who come back in, and not surprisingly, they discover that their supervisor is younger than they are.
And there are two issues there. The first is: the younger supervisors are frankly often afraid of managing somebody with more experience than they have. They don’t know how to tell them what to do. “This person knows more than I do about the job.” And therefore they are reluctant to hire them. They won’t say that, but they’ll find attributions and excuses to not hire them. And when they do hire them, when they do come in, they often find it difficult to tell them what to do, to hold them accountable. They just ignore the older workers sometimes. So that is the heart of the problem.
In the book you give advice on how to get the best out of these older workers. Can you give us an example?
The place where you see the best models for this is in the military, where they had this issue for a while: a second lieutenant out of the service academy or an ROTC program, 22 years old, is put in charge of a sergeant who’s in their mid-40s and who has been in the service for a couple of decades. And that creates a lot of problems, especially when the lieutenant tries to boss around the experienced enlisted people.
So they’ve worked on this and basically taught the second lieutenants how to engage especially the sergeants. In the Marine Corps they have a phrase for this, really: “You’re a partner with the sergeant and you’re making decisions jointly.”
But it’s really trying to get away from a way of management which never works very well, frankly, this kind of top-down command idea: the idea that “You should do what I tell you because I’m the boss, and particularly it’s because I know more than you do about this.” Getting away from that requires a way of managing which engages employees more, engages their input, asks them for their advice more, involves more goal-setting than traditional managers might be comfortable doing.
There’s nothing wild about this approach to management, though. It’s seems to work well for everybody, but for older subordinates it’s especially important to do.
Contributor: Allan Hoving

Bullying’s a problem that cuts across all job and salary levels

Bullying’s a problem that cuts across all job and salary levels
by Tim Gould September 19, 2014

Seems like bullying is an equal-opportunity torment.
Recent CareerBuilder research shows that 28% of workers have felt bullied at work — and nearly one in five (19%) left their jobs because of it.
And while bullying seems to affect certain minorities and workers with lower incomes more frequently than other groups, the study found that workers in management roles, those with post-secondary education and other workforce segments are not immune to bullying.
In other words, anybody can be a potential bullying victim.
Minorities continue to face challenges in being treated fairly and equally in the workplace, according to the study. Forty-four percent of physically disabled workers have felt bullied at the office. Thirty percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers shared this sentiment.
Comparing genders, female workers were significantly more likely to experience bullying at work (34%) than their male counterparts (22%).
Comparing racial segments, 27% percent of African American workers and 25% of Hispanic workers said they have been bullied at work compared to 24 percent of Caucasian males.
Happening right under our noses
Of those who reported being bullied at some point in their careers, nearly one in four (24%) said the bullying is taking place right now, in their present jobs. Surprisingly, bullied workers in management roles were the most likely to report this.
While high school graduates who have not received any further education had a higher tendency to feel pressured by a bully, nearly one in four workers (23%) who have been bullied and have bachelor’s degrees or higher reported that the bullying is taking place in their present jobs.
The percentage of workers earning less than $50,000 annually who said they are being bullied was nine percentage points higher than those earning $50,000 or more.
Breakdown by position, education, salary
Of those who reported being bullied at some point in their careers, the percentages that said that they are currently being bullied break down as follows:
Job Level
Management (manager, director, team leader, vice president and above) – 27%
Professional and technical – 21%, and
Entry-level/administrative and clerical – 26%.
Level of Education
High school graduate – 28%
Associate’s degree – 21%, and
Bachelor’s degree or higher – 23%.
Compensation Level
Earning less than $50,000 – 28%, and
Earning $50,000 or more – 19%.
Who Are the Bullies?
Of workers who felt bullied, 45% said the main culprit was the boss, while 25% said the person was higher up in the organization, but not the boss. Forty-six percent pointed to a co-worker.
More than half (53%) of workers who were bullied said the aggressor was someone older; 25% were bullied by someone younger.
Most of the situations involved one person, but nearly one in five workers (19%) who were bullied said the incidents took place in a group setting where more than one person partook in the bullying.
What is bullying behavior, anyway?
Study respondents were asked exactly what kinds of bullying behavior they’d suffered. Here’s a sampling:
Falsely accused of mistakes he/she didn’t make – 43%
Comments were ignored, dismissed or not acknowledged – 41%
A different set of standards or policies was used for the worker – 37%
Gossip was spread about the worker – 34%
Constantly criticized by the boss or co-workers – 32%
Belittling comments were made about the person’s work during meetings – 29%
Yelled at by the boss in front of co-workers – 27%
Purposely excluded from projects or meetings – 20%
Credit for his/her work was stolen – 20%, and
Picked on for personal attributes (race, gender, appearance, etc.) – 20%.
Dealing with an offender
In a recent post, we outlined Christine Comaford’s six-step plan for a conversation managers must have with workplace bullies:
Set the stage. Managers should explain why the meeting’s been called and the outcome they want to achieve
Lay out the observable behavior. It’s crucial that managers describe specific instances where the bully acted out or said something inappropriate
Describe the impact. Bullies likely don’t understand the damage their behaviors are doing to both their co-workers and the company
See if the bully agrees with you. Does the bully now see the problem and acknowledge it needs to stop?
Create a plan. Work out a set period of time (maybe 30 to 60 days) where the manager will meet with the worker once a week to check on progress. The key here: Be specific. Managers should be clear on which behaviors need to stop. Also, supervisors must state the consequences if a turnaround doesn’t occur.
Make sure you’re on the same page. Does the bully understand everything? Also, managers should make it clear they want the bully to succeed and continue the working relationship.

Workforce Planning Makes for a Smarter Reduction in Force

Contributor: Nicholas Garbis

The economic crisis has organizations in a race to cut costs, which includes a major reduction in force. I have wondered about the handling of the reduction in the workforce and how it fits with concepts of strategic workforce planning.

Background and Level-setting on Strategic Workforce Planning

Strategic workforce planning is a process where scenarios are created based on the three to five year (or longer) business strategy, translated into a workforce “demand” (quantity by role/level/skill set/competency) and compared to a forecasted workforce “supply” (based on rates of termination/retirement and current skills/competencies). The difference in the demand and the supply is the “gap.” This is calculated for each future year, and specific plans are created to address the gap—most common being efforts to find the new talent while slowing the reduction in the current “supply.” Occasionally, the strategic workforce planning results in a need to modify business strategy to bring the workforce “demand” into the realm of the achievable (e.g., not enough internal/external talent to staff a proposed expansion).

Strategic workforce planning is a process that is more akin to financial planning than any other HR processes—which is why it is often most successful when it is done with the business units (not from central HR). At higher levels of sophistication, strategic workforce planning includes financial modeling on the various costs of the various strategies for closing the gaps.

It is not applied everywhere. Strategic workforce planning is most often done on a limited number of roles within an organization. Criteria for applying strategic workforce planning to a role (e.g., engineers, actuaries, nurses, etc.) might be those roles with a high cost-to-hire, roles with a long learning curve or those roles that are “pivotal” to the business (where a vacancy is disproportionately disruptive to the operations/profitability of the business).

“Roles” are not people; they are groups of jobs or job codes. If the names of individuals are in your plan, it is probably a succession plan or destination plan. Both of these are highly valuable, but they are not strategic workforce planning.

Strategic Workforce Planning and the Reduction in Force

Where strategic workforce planning is in place, reductions in force are what one would expect them to be: a crisis situation that requires immediate adjustment to a strategic plan. This is not different than the way business strategy is changed to reflect the sudden appearance of an unexpected situation (e.g., new competition, change in material/land costs, sudden economic downturn).

Right now, the current economic conditions are leading to reductions in business revenue forecasts, and there is a scramble to deliver expense reductions. In a knowledge/service economy, labor expense is one of the largest expense items that an organization can impact in short time period. However, in a knowledge/service economy, the workforce (the labor expense) is the key catalyst of value creation.

Without strategic workforce planning in place, I question the ability for an organization to execute a reduction in force effectively. It can be like clear cutting in a forest—executed rapidly with lots of collateral damage and limited attention paid to future business sustainability.

Reduction in Force Gone Wrong

The worst type of reduction in force I hear about is the type where everyone who wants to leave is able to take a package and go. But the absolute worst is when more people leave than what was desired/forecasted. This “peanut butter” approach—spreading the reduction in force evenly across the organization and/or roles—is like a retailer closing store locations based on the first letter of the city they are located in. It just doesn’t make good business sense.

A reduction in force has even become a way of doing business—shedding 5 percent or 10 percent of the workforce every few years even as they grow as a business. To my eyes, this “reduction-in-force-saw” approach indicates that an organization is sorely lacking in human capital management disciplines including basic headcount management (no bloating), performance management (managing out low performers along the way) and strategic workforce planning (aligning HC strategies with business strategies).

Enabling Smarter Reductions in Force Within Critical Roles

If an organization has done strategic workforce planning for a specific set of roles, they will have a context in which to process and understand the sudden change in business revenue and the resulting reduction in workforce “demand.” The response to get out the “reduction-in-force-saw” will be tempered by a strategic perspective—the current state of the critical roles (i.e., are they in oversupply or undersupply), how various revised business scenarios change the workforce “demand” and revise the levels of oversupply/undersupply.

It also makes sense to revisit the “supply” side assumptions, as termination and retirement forecasts should reflect new conditions in the labor and financial markets.

If there is an oversupply, do the reduction in force, and do it right. Keep the best talent and apply reductions from the bottom performers up. Communicate it well and make some investment in preserving your employment brand along the way. Develop a way to stay in touch with the re-hireable folks impacted by the reduction in force.

If there is still undersupply in a critical role, a reduction in force within this role could send the business off track for years—possibly resulting in bankruptcy as one electronics retailer recently demonstrated. In this case, look for other reductions and efficiencies in the workforce. Cut the low performers who are unlikely to make a turn-around and consider reductions in pay (rather than headcount) for some of the low/medium performers in these roles. The reduction in force should be aimed elsewhere, away from a critical role that is in a state of undersupply even when the scenarios are adjusted.

Contributor: Nicholas Garbis

Pension Funding: The Long View

Contributor: Richard Berger
Posted: 10/19/2010 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0

The past few years have not been fun for defined benefit plan sponsors. When the new Pension Protection Act (PPA) funding rules went into effect in 2008, employers struggled to understand and comply with them. Plan assets headed south in 2008, contributions went up and funding ratios dropped in 2009. Pension relief measures allowed some tactical management of contributions, but 2010 arrived and the final rules are in effect. Now is a good time to step back, to review the situation and set a long-term course of action.

For starters, plan sponsors must now comply with funding rules that were never intended to make their lives easier or more predictable. The new rules are actually designed to leave a tidy corpse, ready to be euthanized by the plan sponsor, or entrusted to an extended life in the care of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) established in 1974 by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Many plan sponsors have frozen their plans, and once a plan has been frozen, odds are that its days are numbered. These pension lame ducks will only reach the finish line when the assets are sufficient to settle all benefit obligations, either through purchasing annuities for promised benefits or offering lump sum payments. Right now, the finish line is out of reach for most plans, because the prices for lump sums and annuities are high, and plan assets have only partially recovered from their plunge in 2008. There is no quick exit for frozen plans, so plan sponsors must focus on the medium to long haul. Frozen or not, the funding problem remains.

A moving target

In financial economics, “the law of one price” means that identical securities should have identical prices. If they deviate from that price, it creates an arbitrage opportunity to buy low and sell high, and thereby earn a sure profit. Because the future expected cash flows (benefit payments) from a pension plan are like bond payments, this arbitrage principle has been interpreted to mean that the value of pension liabilities should be determined like the market price of a bond.

You might argue that funding a pension plan based on market rates is a lot like flying a plane from New York to Seattle, hugging the ground, climbing steeply at the Continental Divide and diving again after crossing the mountains! Yet the PPA funding rules accept this view of pension liabilities, and the IRS publishes monthly discount rates that are based on high quality corporate bond rates. These discount rates are used to compute the value of your plan’s liabilities. Month by month, pension liabilities move with the corporate bond market. As a result, those who try to fully fund a pension plan are aiming at a moving target.

Traditional pension strategy has been to invest, say, 60% in equities and 40% in fixed income and other investments (or maybe to split asset classes 50/50), refined for maximum return for a given level of risk. Those who continue to follow this strategy may do well, particularly if equity markets and bond interest rates rise. But what if equity markets fall, while interest rates hold steady or decrease further? And who can fully understand what actual deflation, a real fall in the price level, would mean?

The traditional strategy could turn out badly, with higher liabilities, assets lagging, dropping funding ratios and rising contributions. Because of this danger, plan sponsors may be strongly inclined to modify their investment strategy to lessen the risk. This would likely imply a shift in allocation to appropriate fixed income investments, which move in closer coordination with plan liabilities.

The downside would be that these investments have lower expected returns, with less potential for growing out of underfunding through superior returns. Many plan sponsors will be reluctant to abandon hope that the underfunding can be cured by asset performance. The only other way to remedy the underfunding is by increased contributions.

Tradeoffs – what do you do?

If your pension plan is not frozen, new participants are still becoming eligible, and new benefits are still being earned each year. In that case, you can adjust your benefit formula to take into account the higher costs that may be incurred with a safer investment strategy. If your plan is already frozen, you have to determine the tradeoffs between risk and reward, safety and cost.

In either event, you need to evaluate the interaction between future returns and future bond yields, to quantify your exposure. Until your plan is terminated and all benefits are settled, you cannot entirely avoid risk. You will be better served by knowing the risk, and taking steps to address it, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Beyond simple projections for next year’s budget, plan sponsors need to examine longer-term forecasts to understand what is feasible and what the downside risks are to continuing the traditional investment strategy. A simple deterministic projection (for example, assuming that assets earn a given percentage per year and discount rates remain the same going forward) will often reveal how long it will take to put a frozen plan in a position to be terminated, or what the long-term costs of a continuing plan will be.

Such projections can provide a simple sanity check, to understand what is possible or likely. An asset liability study, which models market behavior of assets and liabilities, can give valuable information about risks and the costs of the traditional investment, versus predominantly fixed income allocations. Forecasts are not tools to predict the future, but can be very useful for evaluating the implications of alternative scenarios.

The last few years have forced defined benefit sponsors to improvise and react to rules and events. Now is a good time to take the longer, active view so that you can take the initiative, instead of simply reacting to what tomorrow brings.

Contributor: Richard Berger

Optimizing Restaurant Labor Costs


Meeting the Challenge of Optimizing Restaurant Labor Costs

Labor management technology: it’s not just mobile shift scheduling apps.  Here’s what you need to know…Brought to you by CrunchTime!


By Paul Molinari

Juggling restaurant staff schedules can be a stressful and time consuming process.  Even the best managers sometimes rely on a combination of sticky notes, bulletin boards and spreadsheets containing an ever-changing list of employee contact information, time-off requests, and schedule changes. It’s a big challenge to manage all of this information while making sure the restaurant is properly staffed at all times.  After all, it’s the staff on hand that can make or break the guest experience.

Enter Labor Management technology solutions.  A quality back office system will include an integrated labor management solution where the entire staffing process is streamlined and systematically controlled with easy-to-use functions that automate and optimize labor schedule requirements based on a number of critical factors — all from a single platform.  Make no mistake, you’ll find no app for this in the App store.  Why? Because this is a big, honking business problem with a lot of complex moving parts and only an integrated enterprise-class back office solution sophisticated enough to understand your entire business will optimize the labor component of your restaurants.  Mobile is a vitally important component, but it is only one piece of the solution.

Labor management is all about labor optimization

To truly optimize labor you need to consider the following:

  • Forecasting Capabilities
  • Mobility
  • Real Time Access to Information
  • Collaboration Tools
  • Silo Busting
  • Labor Rule Enforcement
  • Integration to other systems

At the heart of labor optimization is having a solid forecast that accurately projects the ebbs and flows of your business days.  Forecasts should allow for a number of business drivers (sales, guests, transactions, menu mix) to learn and get smarter from historical data, but should also consider fixed tasks, holidays, LTOs, and other special events that impact the business day.  Next, you need to be able to build smart staffing demand templates that will translate your business drivers into a reliable staffing demand.  Finally as you build your schedules, you should have visibility into skill levels, certifications, pay rates, availability, budget information, and labor rules.  Sounds easy.  But then stuff happens.

As the day begins, sales may be off the mark, employees may not be able to cover their shift, weather could impact different day parts, LTO may not be predictable, or a media buy might have an unanticipated effect.  This is where mobility can really make a difference.  Having real-time access to evolving intraday sales trends, the timeliness and availability of your staff can empower your manager to make sound decisions on-the-fly as they run their shift.

Further, right from their mobile device or desktop, managers can view a schedule, approve staff requests, and communicate messages to relevant team members about shift openings or important updates.  Mobility also facilitates collaboration with the restaurant team members who can easily offer, pick-up and swap shifts right from their own smartphones, tablets or desktop computers.  The manager should not have to get involved until it is actionable by her.  While this is awesome and helps streamline scheduling, have no doubt, there are other critical aspects to consider when optimizing labor costs.

Labor scheduling can’t be in a silo – it affects everything…

An integrated enterprise solution should also include integrated dynamically generated task lists that ensure accountability to every core task of your restaurant operations.  You cannot silo labor scheduling because every core task in your restaurant can affect the delicate balance of ensuring that you have the right person at the right place at the right time.  So, if your suggested ordering system is off and someone needs to run to the grocery store to get supplies or if your daily prep plan underestimated demand and the kitchen gets backed up, then you will have team members running around performing tasks that are critical to your operation (like running to the store), that are not considered in your staffing plans.

Having the ability to optimize the restaurants staff size and quality for every shift is what sets Labor Management apart from Labor Scheduling.  Right-sizing your staff will reduce the costs associated with over and under-staffing. Using smart staffing templates will create labor schedules based on sales and guest-traffic forecasts, as well as past consumption and traffic patterns.

Good labor management solutions will have Performance Management capabilities, too.  These allow operators to reward top performers and coach more effectively by tracking employee performance, attendance, and task completion.

OK, but what about overtime?  Better solutions will provide visibility to overtime during the scheduling process and will alert your management team well before it occurs.  If you are relying on systems to tell you about overtime as it is about to occur you are going to lose the battle.  Your team needs to know about OT far enough in advance to do something about it.  Finding out in real-time is not always helpful.

Navigate labor law and regulation compliance

Best practices are essential when it comes to labor law and regulation compliance, but navigating those laws and regulations can get confusing – and, um, laborious.  Make sure the labor management solution you choose can help enforce compliance with local, state, federal and company labor laws, including break laws, minor laws, and overtime guidelines.  Going even further, the solution should be configurable to enable the company to enforce best labor practices in every location anywhere in the world – in any language.  Finally, a secure labor solution will also create full audit trails for all critical transactions.

So, there you have it.  Labor management isn’t only about shift scheduling apps and it isn’t only about making sure your employees have an easy way to request time off or trade shifts.  No, labor management is really all about labor optimization and helping the company consistently find a perfect balance of staffing requirements-to-sales projections, day-in and day-out.


Dick’s firing on most cyclinders.

Dick’s Sporting Goods overcame weakness in its golf and hunting businesses to generate much better than expected second quarter same store sales and made further inroads in e-commerce.

The nation’s largest sporting goods retailer said second quarter same store sales increased 3.2%, far better than the decline of 1% to 3% the company had forecast. The comp increase was even stronger without a significant headwind from the company’s underperforming golf business. Same store sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods stores increased 4.1% while same store sales at Golf Galaxy locations declined 9.3%. Total company sales increased 10.3% to roughly $1.7 billion and were aided by the addition of new stores and an e-commerce penetration rate that increased to 6.3% of sales from 5.6% of sales the prior year.

“As anticipated, the golf and hunting businesses continued to experience negative comps. However, excluding these two categories, the remainder of the business delivered a 7.8% same store sales increase,” said Dick’s chairman and CEO Ed Stack. “We saw significant strength in several areas, including categories that have received more space within our stores, such as women’s and youth athletic apparel. The headwinds in our hunting business continued in the second quarter. However, as we look at the entirety of our outdoor business, strength in other outdoor categories offset the declines in hunting, and our total outdoor comps were flat for the quarter.”

Profits declined to $69.5 million, or 57 cents a share, including a $20.4 million charge related to restructuring of the company’s golf business, compared to $84.2 million, or 67 cents a share, the prior year.

“We have consolidated our Golf Galaxy merchandising, marketing and store operations into Dick’s Sporting Goods. In addition, we have eliminated specific staff in our golf area within our Dick’s Sporting Goods stores,” Stack said. “These changes are necessitated by the current and expected trends in golf. We will invest these cost savings into other aspects of our store operations and into the growth areas of our business.”

One of those areas is the company’s newest concept known as Field & Stream. One of the new outdoor stores was opened in the second quarter, but seven additional locations are planned for the third quarter. In addition, plans call for the opening of 24 new Dick’s stores in the third quarter as part of a full year plan to open 46 stores. One Golf Galaxy store is expected to open.

Looking ahead, Dick’s said it is cautiously optimistic about sales in the third and fourth quarter, forecasting same store sales growth of 1% to 3% for the third quarter and full year. However, to realize those sales, Dick’s said increased promotional activity to appeal to cautious consumers would pressure margins and advertising expenses and negatively impact earnings by four cents a share.

Dick’s ended the second quarter with 574 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores and 85 Golf Galaxy stores.