A Buyer's Guide

A Retail Workforce Management Software Guide


    Retail Workforce Management (WFM) Software can transform labor operations and the employee experience simultaneously. However, if you're still using a legacy workforce management solution, it could be blocking you from doing what's right for your employees and advancing your operations. That's because legacy WFM solutions were never about the workforce. They were created for the sole purpose of optimizing costs and measuring productivity. There's been a significant evolution in workforce management in the past five years. Today, the most advanced solutions, like Legion WFM with AI at its core, can help maximize labor efficiency and the employee experience simultaneously through the power of intelligent automation.

    What is retail workforce management software?

    Gartner's Market Guide for Retail Workforce Management Applications defines workforce management as the software and services used to help retailers optimize the in-store workforce and improve the effectiveness of store managers and associates.

    What modules are typically included in retail workforce management software?

    Modern workforce management platforms typically include core workforce management modules, including labor budgeting, demand forecasting, labor optimization, employee scheduling, time and attendance, and reporting and analytics, as well as modules designed to improve frontline employee engagement, including an intuitive mobile app that allows employees to pick up shifts at other locations and swap shifts, modern communication tools, flexible wage access, and employee performance and rewards tools.

    How has the rise of omnichannel impacted WFM software for retail?

    The pandemic has also changed customers' buying behavior. A survey by McKinsey & Company found that during the pandemic, 75% of U.S. consumers tried a new shopping behavior, such as buying products online that they previously bought in-store. Of these consumers, 60% said they planned to continue the new behavior after the pandemic.

    Today, retailers may have numerous channels for purchasing items, including in-store, online pick up in store, drive-through, home delivery, and phone orders, all of which must be staffed appropriately. According to Gartner, the physical store has become multifaceted and, in many cases, a fulfillment hub for online ordering. Increased in-store activity has led to a significantly increased focus on improving store productivity while decreasing overall costs.

    How have changing frontline employee expectations impacted workforce management?

    Frontline employees' expectations have changed dramatically over the past several years. Employees increasingly demand gig-like flexibility and control over their schedules and wages. They expect to be able to use the same conveniences and modern tools that they enjoy in their personal lives as in their work lives as well. They want to feel connected to the culture and a higher purpose while allowing time for personal priorities and happiness.

    According to a recent survey, the top three reasons an hourly employee would leave their current job are a lack of schedule flexibility and control, poor communication tools, and an inability to get paid early. This is difficult to provide without using a retail workforce management software.

    How has the ongoing labor shortage impacted workforce management?

    The ongoing labor shortage means that retailers must be able to optimize the utilization of their workforce. That means staffing their most effective sellers at peak periods for conversion-based retailers and sharing workers across their locations to fill critical gaps in the schedule and provide employees with location flexibility. Sharing an existing workforce means fewer open roles and more opportunities for employees to increase their earning potential through swapped and added shifts – all of which lead to a more engaged workforce.

    How has WFM software for retail evolved?

    Retail workforce management software has evolved dramatically over the last decade to address the changing retail landscape. Solutions have evolved from on-premise solutions focused solely on optimizing labor efficiency to AI-native SaaS solutions that are intelligent, intuitive, and employee-centric. Retailers can now maximize labor efficiency and employee engagement simultaneously with these modern tools.

    How has AI impacted retail workforce management software?

    AI has transformed labor operations and enabled unprecedented automation of core workforce management tasks. AI has made it possible to:

    • Increase efficiency and create precise demand forecasts by location and by item across all customer touchpoints.
    • Instantly create optimized schedules that automatically matches business needs with employees’ skills and preferences and improves manager productivity.
    • Improve employee retention through greater schedule flexibility and control.

    Intelligent automation clearly allows managers to be more responsive to employees' needs and requests while spending less time on those requests.

    Why should retail workforce management software be intelligently automated?

    Intelligently automating core workforce management tasks leads to improved decision-making and execution. Managers can automate day-to-day tasks and focus on what matters most, like interacting with customers and hourly employees. Intelligent automation leads to improved productivity and efficiency and can directly impact employee satisfaction.

    Harsh economic realities have driven retailers to search for ways to cut costs. However, the ongoing labor shortage means retailers can't afford to reduce frontline resources or benefits. Retailers must find a way to maximize labor efficiency and employee engagement simultaneously.

    Retailers can improve engagement and retention through the power of intelligent automation. Here are a few ways retail workforce management software helps with this:

    • Employees get greater schedule flexibility and control through self-service tools they can use to swap shifts and claim shifts — even at other locations.
    • Requests for time off and schedule changes can be automatically approved or denied based on business rules.
    • Employees get faster responses to their requests, while managers spend less time processing them, thanks to the power of intelligent automation.

    In the Gartner Market Guide for Retail Workforce Management Applications, Gartner advised retailers to identify and invest in transformational capabilities that have the potential for the most significant positive impact on costs and store employee experiences, such as AI-enabled labor forecasting to increase scheduling productivity and accuracy.

    For retailers, AI-enabled labor forecasting means having the capability/functionality to provision labor to match expected demand and generate schedules that optimize costs and work efficiencies connected to revenue-generating activities. According to Gartner, retailers who fail to capitalize on AI and automation capabilities to optimize their workforce will face higher operational efforts and costs. "Conversely, when driven by AI, labor planning can consider a variety of data to allow retailers to be more specific and strategic."

    Some examples of how AI-driven labor planning enables retailers to be more strategic include:

    Planning for peak periods

    AI-powered demand forecasting enables retailers to create optimized labor plans and schedules for peak periods such as holidays, back to school, and an after work or school surge. It can also predict the impact of local events such as high school football games, concerts, or other events that generate store traffic spikes.

    Weather conditions also impact forecasting. Some example scenarios that retail workforce management software can predict:

    • A rainy day may lead to increased traffic in the drive-through and lower foot traffic in the store.
    • A severe winter storm could also impact demand as customers stock up on candles, batteries, and grocery staples.
    • A beautiful sunny day at the beach could lead to more sunscreen and ice cream cone sales for local retailers.

    Without using intelligently automated retail workforce management software, this type of forecasting is often left up to guesswork.

    Driving conversions and top-line revenue

    According to a study by NRF, 97% of consumers have backed out of a purchase because it was inconvenient to them and 40% of in-store shoppers say checkout was were convenience is most important. If a store is understaffed, customers may skip the long line and leave without making a purchase, resulting in lower sales for the store.

    Another way to look at the impact of understaffing is to consider the cost of employee turnover. If a store is consistently understaffed, it may lead to burnout and turnover among existing employees, who may become overworked and unhappy with their job.

    A recent study by McKinsey found that U.S. frontline retail employees are 1.3x more likely than employees in the broader U.S. economy to leave their jobs, and almost 50% are considering leaving the retail industry. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the cost of replacing a single employee can range from 50% to 200% of that employee's salary.

    If a store is understaffed and experiences high turnover, it may incur high costs in recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.

    Optimizing resources with workforce sharing

    Precisely predicting demand enables retailers to identify where they may have staffing gaps. When retailers use retail workforce management software, they can share employees across locations to meet that demand and optimize available resources. For employees, this means greater earnings potential, flexibility, and choice to work across locations.

    See how Legion's Retail WFM Software can work for you

    What to Look for in a Retail Workforce Management Software Solution

    AI-native WFM solution

    Buyers must beware of "AI-washing". Some vendors will use AI as a buzzword instead of a foundational element of their workforce management solution. Gartner and Forrester agree that AI-native solutions have a distinct advantage over solutions that have tried to add AI after the fact.

    Questions to ask to determine if a solution is AI-driven

    How does the solution utilize AI?
    What kind of AI techniques does the solution use?
    Does the vendor have any patents around its AI capabilities?
    What optimization techniques are used?
    Does the vendor have a dedicated data science team? If so, how big is it, and what is their background?
    Describe the level of support available from the data science team.
    Has the vendor’s AI been recognized with any awards?

    Ease of integration and support for the ecosystem

    Workforce Management must exist in a broader ecosystem; thus, seamless integration is vital. A standardized, template-based approach to integrating with market-leading systems such as top payroll providers and HCM providers is critical for integration to work smoothly and reduce risk and IT burden.

    Questions to ask:

    Does the vendor have an approved integration between Workday HCM and their solution?
    Does the vendor support API-based integrations?
    Does the vendor regularly use API-based integrations vs. flat file integrations?

    AI-powered demand forecasting

    Retailers must select a product that utilizes mature data science to achieve the most accurate demand forecasting results. The most advanced solutions use patent-pending techniques for deep learning for Time Series Forecasting, such as recurrent neural networks, long short-term memory networks, transformers, reinforcement, and active learning to react proactively to data changes. For more information, please read “AI-Powered Demand Forecasting: A Buyer's Guide”.

    AI-powered labor optimization for retail

    Optimizing scarce labor resources is imperative for retailers, and scenario planning can be critical. Retailers must optimize their resources by balancing customer demand, budget constraints, staffing rules, and labor model requirements. A good retail workforce management software will deliver intelligent automation and provide detailed controls to achieve this.

    Questions to ask:

    Does the solution support the automated creation of granular, down-to-the-minute task-based labor modeling across all channels?
    Can the solution automatically compute optimal labor hours based on precisely forecasted demand and customer labor standards?
    Can the solution automatically account for flexible workloads, such as restocking or inventory, in the labor plan?
    Can the solution automatically optimize labor by skill and day?
    Does the solution integrate external data from WMS, POS, task management, and other systems seamlessly?

    Automated, optimized, employee schedules for retail

    Providing options for employees to increase or decrease their hours, allowing them to work at other store locations, and giving them more control over how their work gets done is critical. The most innovative frontline retail employers are "investing in technology to automate activities, freeing up time and energy for more meaningful roles in the store."

    By using retail workforce management software, you can automate and simplify mundane activities to improve productivity, increase engagement, and stem the tide of workers leaving the industry.

    Engagement is more than a buzzword; it can demonstrably impact your business. Gallup's ongoing engagement survey found that companies with highly engaged workforces are 23% more profitable and 18% more productive.

    Questions to ask:

    What percent of automated schedules match business needs with employee skills and preferences?
    Does the employee-scheduling solution learn from manager edits to continuously improve schedules?
    Does the solution support the use of badges to reflect skills, certifications, or seniority?
    Can the solution schedule employees by skill for each day of the week?
    Can scheduling rules be configured to schedule employees with specific skills or attributes first?
    Can employees automatically be scheduled across locations?

    Time and attendance for retail

    Automating time and attendance tasks is critical for improving manager and payroll efficiency. Teams should be able to focus on the exception versus spending time managing the expected. Time card exceptions can become a thing of the past through intelligent automation.

    Questions to ask:

    Does the solution enable the intelligent automation of timesheet approvals, corrections, and premium calculations?
    Does the solution contain schedule-aware timesheets that automatically assess schedule change premiums and highlights time clock-to-schedule variances?
    Can timesheet approvals be fully automated?
    Can time off request processing be fully automated?
    Can the solution be used without purchasing additional hardware (time clocks)?

    Compliance management

    Compliance management is a critical task for retailers. The fines for violating labor laws can be in the millions. However, managing compliance can be extremely difficult. Labor laws change rapidly and vary by city, county, and state. Ensuring compliance is nearly impossible without workforce management that enables intelligent automation to deliver compliant, predictable schedules while consistently managing and enforcing all labor laws.

    Questions to ask:

    Does the solution include pre-loaded compliance templates?
    Can the solution manage compliance automatically with auto alerts, audit trails, and attestation?
    Can fair workweek premiums be automatically applied?
    Can you view how schedule edits impact compliance in real time before publishing it?
    Can you see the cost impact of compliance penalties and premiums in the schedule before publishing?
    Are all employee self-service actions (e.g., swaps, covers) automatically validated against compliance regulations?
    Does the solution provide intelligent matching/​reconciliations of time clocks to schedules to highlight compliance violations?

    Actionable insights and reporting

    Identifying key trends and gaining actionable insights across locations is critical for retailers. A robust reporting and analytics solution is critical to any modern workforce management platform.

    Questions to ask:

    What kind of reports are provided out of the box?
    Can customized reports be easily created?
    Can data be exported into BI tools?
    Does the solution offer a real-time view of attendance?
    Does the solution provide reports that help monitor employee engagement with the tools?

    Employee performance and rewards

    Measuring and recognizing employee performance is vital to greater engagement with the frontline. Today’s employees expect frequent feedback on performance. A modern workforce management system contains a wide range of data points that can be used to provide quantifiable feedback that encourages positive behavior or enables a conversation around areas of improvement.

    Questions to ask:

    Does the WFM solution contain capabilities to assess and recognize frontline employee performance?
    What data points are available?
    Can the system automatically track and recognize employees for positive behavior patterns?
    Will the system automatically track attendance behaviors that may require coaching for improvement?
    Is it easy for managers to use?

    Frontline employee experience

    Frontline employees increasingly demand a modern experience that aligns more closely with their personal lives. For many Gen Z employees, this means instant gratification, more flexibility, and more control. And it’s hard to achieve that without retail workforce management software.

    For this demographic, driving to work and checking a schedule posted in the breakroom to see if they have been given any hours to work is unimaginable and unacceptable. Employees expect easy-to-use, self-service tools available with a few clicks on their mobile devices.

    Questions to ask:

    Is there an easy-to-use mobile app?
    What is the app store rating of the app?
    Is the app free to employees?
    Does the app require a separate login and password?
    Does the app require training?
    Can employees get early access to their wages through the app?
    Does the app enable communication with HQ, Managers, and other employees?
    Does the app contain capabilities for building a culture like newsfeed-type posts?
    Does the app support the ability to conduct polls or surveys?

    Time to value (adoption)

    Retail workforce management software should not take years to implement. Modern solutions should offer implementation services that enable the first set of locations to go live in weeks, followed by a rapid rollout to additional locations.

    Questions to ask:

    What is the average time to value?
    What is the expected ROI, and over what period?
    What support and tools to look for to help drive the adoption of the solutions? Are there:
    • Best practice guides
    • Resources to support adoption
    • Support beyond launch
    • Embedded role-based training
    • Tools to measure/monitor adoption

    How to Quantify the Value of Retail Workforce Management Software

    Cost savings: WFM automation can result in labor cost savings of up to 5-10% by optimizing staffing levels and reducing manual processes. This can lead to significant savings, especially in industries with large workforces or high labor costs. A recent study from Forrester Consulting found that a company of 10,000 employees from a legacy system could expect a 13x ROI.

    Improved forecasting and scheduling: WFM automation can improve forecasting accuracy by up to 20%, ensuring better alignment of staffing levels with demand. This can help to reduce idle time and improve utilization rates. Forrester found that Legion delivered a double-digit improvement in forecast accuracy. Retailers in the study achieved 95% forecast accuracy.

    Increased productivity: Automation reduces the time managers and supervisors spend on schedule creation and maintenance by 50%. The Forrester study found that companies would save 5 hours per manager per location per week through automated scheduling. A luxury retailer, SMCP, found that managers increased sales by 22% following the implementation of Legion. The managers spent less time creating and maintaining schedules at their desks, and more time on the floor training their teams and interacting with customers.

    Compliance and risk management: Organizations that use automated WFM systems can reduce the risk of non-compliance by up to 50% and avoid potential legal or financial penalties associated with labor law violations.

    Enhanced employee engagement: Companies that use WFM automation can see a 5-10% reduction in employee turnover rates due to improved schedule predictability and fairness. Forrester found that with Legion WFM, a retailer with 10,000 employees moving from a legacy system could expect to save more than $14.3M over three years.

    Data-driven decision making: By tracking KPIs, WFM automation enables organizations to identify areas of improvement and optimize processes. For example, a 10% reduction in overtime costs can translate into substantial savings for large companies with high overtime expenditures.

    Scalability: WFM automation allows organizations to scale more efficiently, reducing the time and effort required to manage an expanding workforce. Studies have shown that automated systems can reduce the time spent on administrative tasks by up to 40%.

    When presenting these quantified data points to your leadership team or CFO, be sure to tailor them to the specific context of the organization. Cite relevant industry benchmarks or case studies to support the figures and emphasize the potential return on investment (ROI). By incorporating quantified data, you can provide a more compelling case for the advantages of WFM automation.


    Workforce management that’s intelligent, automated, and employee-centric has the power to transform labor operations and the employee experience. Legacy WFM solutions actually get in the way of retailers’ ability to do what is right for their employees and to achieve operational goals. Legacy solutions only address labor costs and cannot meet the needs of modern retailers or the demands of their frontline employees. If you’re still using a legacy solution, it’s time to embrace the power of intelligent automation.

    Legion Workforce Management

    Legion delivers workforce management that's intelligent, automated, and employee-centric. Legion maximizes labor efficiency and employee engagement simultaneously. Legion’s AI-powered Demand Forecasting precisely predicts demand by location across all customer touchpoints every 15 minutes. Legion automatically creates optimized schedules that match business needs with employee skills and preferences. Employees get gig-like flexibility, modern tools, and instant access to earned wages. To see Legion WFM in action, request a demo.

    About Legion

    Legion Technologies delivers the industry’s most innovative workforce management platform. It enables businesses to maximize labor efficiency and employee engagement simultaneously. The Legion WFM platform is intelligent, automated, and employee-centric. It’s proven to deliver 13x ROI through schedule optimization, reduced attrition, increased productivity, and increased operational efficiency. Legion delivers cutting-edge technology in an easy-to-use platform and mobile app that employees love. For more information, visit https://legion.co and follow us on LinkedIn.

    See how Legion's Retail WFM Software can work for you