Think about your local store. It is likely to be a microcosm of broader society – multiple generations, each with different lifestyle needs and wants, and different economic drivers. And like any society, open to disruption.

Pre-pandemic, many of the tensions in the retail labor market that are evident now were still present then. The gig economy was growing, with increasing demands for more flexible workplace schedules. Competition for skilled labor was driving up wages, causing drift between employers. And, of course, a multi-generational workforce with different approaches to work was exposing the limitations of inflexible labor models. Ultimately, it was retail customers that were suffering, as shelves were not filled adequality and deliveries were slower than desired.

The increased market volatility that COVID-19 brought was the perfect storm for the retail labor market. Brick and mortar stores faced either an excessive demand and stock outs, or rolling closures during lockdown, while customers rapidly shifted to online channels. In the U.S. alone, online sales grew by a staggering 37%. In-store customer picks became mainstream. The weekly shopping trip, once thought a relic of retail past, returned. DCs suffered from high rates of absenteeism, while operational models shifted from store delivery to customer delivery.

Of the many things that COVID-19 has taught us, one of the most important is how to deal with a global workplace shortage in a chaotic marketplace. Inflexible, linear labor models were exposed, clearly demonstrating the need for real-time visibility to demand and the ability to flex in the face of volatile supply and the requirement for new skills and operational models.

As we hopefully see the pandemic recede in 2021, the need to address the residual dynamism of the market will not go away. Online sales are still predicted to grow. Re-patriated supply chains will require evolving models, possibly relying on leaner cores with a view to reducing future payroll risks. A younger workforce will continue to balance flexible work around education, lifestyle and even travel. Flexible scheduling will quickly become the norm, based around servicing short-term and on-demand needs.

The partnership between Blue Yonder and Trax Flexforce is a significant step into the future for retailers, delivering an on-demand workforce into a stable platform that addresses the challenges of legal and market compliance within time and attendance and labor scheduling in a way that adapts to the preferences of the new worker. In short, it delivers a simple answer to a very complex question.

With 1.4 million workers in their ecosystem, 99% coverage across the U.S., 24/7 support and plans for global expansion, Flexforce is the ideal agency to power Blue Yonder’s scheduling capabilities. Site managers can simply allocate shifts or hours to store staff or to Trax Flexforce. The elasticity of Flexforce means scheduling issues can be solved quickly and efficiently, while matching algorithms will find the right worker based on performance, experience and workload.

A key outcome for retailers is access to a huge pool of skilled and flexible talent able to fill shelves, staff curbside pick-up, pick and pack same-day deliveries, and reset in-store merchandising. Simultaneously, employees should expect higher levels of moral and engagement which, according to an IDC study, double the likelihood of retention.

Together, Blue Yonder and Trax deliver a new, more effective way of staffing your sites in an innovative and market-leading way. During the initial phase of the European COVID-19 lockdown, one retailer was able to reduce delivery times from 12 days in March to just 28 hours in April by accessing a flexible, on-demand workforce. That’s a win-win outcome bound to delight your customers by building a resilient mobile workforce.

If you would like to be among the first to benefit from the synergies of the innovative partnership between Blue Yonder and Trax and gain a competitive edge in the labor market, please contact us today.