Schnucks lets associates pick their own stores and shifts

Discussion
Photo: Schnucks
Oct 11, 2022

Mimicking on-demand working, Schnucks has introduced a “Schnucks Flexforce” option at select St. Louis-area stores that lets associates select both their shifts and preferred store locations.

Workers log onto Schnucks’ scheduling app to view and claim open shifts as well as to opt-in to receive notifications when shifts are available.

“Much like rideshare and food delivery service employees, Flexforce teammates will be able to seek and claim shifts at the time and location of their choosing,” Laura Freeman, Schnucks’ chief people officer, said in a statement.

Flexforce represents a new classification of Schnucks’ hourly associates. The flexibility is designed to expand the grocer’s pool of candidates amid a tight labor market. Stacy Brandt, Schnucks’ VP of store operations, told Supermarket News, “It helps us to stay relevant and flexible for the modern workforce.”

Flexforce offers workers the same benefits and perks that traditional Schnucks teammates get. Existing associates can also pick up shifts on the app.

Even before the pandemic, retailers were increasingly giving associates the ability to swap shifts and pick up unfilled shifts via scheduling apps, but staffing shortages have prompted retailers to offer even greater flexibility.

Amazon.com last fall announced that workers in certain roles, ranging from warehouse to delivery, can cancel a shift “in as little as 16 hours” before it begins or can swap shifts at the last minute.

In September 2021, Target said its enhanced app supporting on-demand scheduling “has quickly become a popular option among team members who are full-time students, retirees, and those who want to work less frequently.”

An NBC News article from earlier this year found that Walmart, Meijer and Big Lots were complementing their staff with gig workers.

Retailers have to increasingly compete with corporate workers being offered the flexibility to work from homes.

As noted by Fast Company and other sources, some of the negatives of generous flexible scheduling include an interruption in work flow for staff versus regular schedules and managers spending an inordinate amount filling shifts not picked up. Charles Mitchell, co-founder of the staffing firm All About People, told Fast Company, “Being understaffed can lead to costly gaps in service, and disappoint otherwise loyal customers.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Schnucks Flexforce and the potential to bring more of an on-demand working option to retail selling floors? How confident are you that the benefits to stores from flexible scheduling offset the drawbacks?

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12 Comments on "Schnucks lets associates pick their own stores and shifts"


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Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

If all you need is bodies this is great. It brings the idea of workers as interchangeable cogs to the forefront. This would not work for stores where you have to sell and give training on how to engage shoppers, as accountability would be impossible.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

Schucks Flexforce is a great way to attract and retain employees. Employees like the feeling of being in control of their schedule and it helps them balance their work with their personal life. The challenge is filling the less desirable shifts. Offering higher wage rates for those shifts may help balance the supply and demand for employees.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

Love the idea of higher or lower wage rates depending on the shift to help ensure all spots get filled.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I doubt the union will take that well.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

In the end, you need to staff your stores — so anything that gives your staff flexible options is a win. The key to making this work is a harmonization of people, process and technology. You need flexible and repeatable common processes supported by workflow technology that will allow you to compete in this tight labor market. 

I do think Schnucks is doing the right thing by using gig workers and flexible shifts, but this should only be used as a temporary stopgap measure during the labor shortage. First, they need to be careful that they don’t alienate full-time workers, especially those who have been with Schnucks for quite a while. Service will be better from people who know “their” store. And, for customers, there is always something appealing about having familiar faces helping you out.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

This is great – right up until the time that the produce bins are empty and nobody’s there to sell you seafood.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

We’re speaking at a conference today where attracting talent is a big issue. The number of things owners are doing to attract and keep talented associates is off the charts, but that’s the world we live in today.

Schnucks Flexforce has the potential to be a scheduling nightmare, but I do like the choices it gives to associates. When I ran stores we relied on a group of associates called “floaters” who could move from department to department. They were skilled in customer service but did not always know the merchandise they were selling as well as the associates permanently assigned to a department. Floaters could be an issue for department heads who relied on associates with specific knowledge and sales skills. But again, this is the world we live in. It’s all about flexibility and giving workers what they want and/or need. I hope that Schnucks has increased its associate training programs.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I like this. But, the retailer should have a default position to meet needs.

Dynamic pricing, or in this case, wages, could be added to the system.

Brian Cluster
BrainTrust

I applaud Schnucks for testing new ways to best attract employees and schedule their store in this challenging recruiting environment. This approach would likely require very good data on what employees are trained on, what are their preferred stores and business rules. Maybe a hybrid approach would be best where most employees are scheduled for their core hours and then there would be extra hours to pick up if they are interested.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

On-demand working might help Schnucks recruit and manage its workforce. However, what will suffer is workforce teamwork and consistency of the connection to the customers. There are jobs like stocking that this may work for, but any job supporting the customers will likely be degraded in terms of customer support. In the long run, the benefits of on-demand working will not offset the drawbacks.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Anything Schnucks (or any other retailer) can do to give their employees flexibility and choices is a good thing. What other options can retailers offer their employees?

Suzanne331
Guest

This is a smart strategy and long overdue. Retail has notoriously been extremely inflexible with scheduling, and as a result has excluded many with other obligations. With virtual training modules and the right standards, this is a smart move and win for Schnucks.

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