With individual store managers juggling roster scheduling and in-store sales, Musti Group’s workforce planning had become costly and inefficient. How could the company better manage its personnel?
Utilizing IBM® SPSS® Modeler and IBM Watson Analytics™, Peoplegeeks helped Musti Group dive deep into its data—uncovering new ways to streamline and simplify workforce management.
€3 millionpotential annual benefits if optimized workforce planning is applied across the group
70%potential time saving on recruitment would help store managers focus on customer service
Increasedworkforce flexibility could help align staff resources with the busiest sales periods
Business challenge story
Growing a bigger pawprint
When you’re opening new stores and expanding your business, it is essential to ensure that you have the right number of staff on hand at the right times to drive sales and provide flawless customer service. Following a period of rapid growth, Musti Group, the fourth-largest pet supply chain in Europe, discovered that its workforce planning and management processes were no longer scaling effectively to meet the needs of the business.
Kati Talasto, HR Manager at Musti Group, elaborates: “We had around a hundred store managers in Finland manually planning the work schedules for the staff at each of our stores. As a result, our workforce had become inflexible; staff were dedicated to a single store, and there was no sensible way to schedule them to work at other nearby branches.
“Managing staff schedules and recruiting new hires locally generated a huge administrative burden for store managers as well as complexity for our HR department, which took up valuable time that could have been spent serving customers on the shop floor.”
While the inflexibility of its workforce planning was easy to identify, the HR team at Musti Group suspected that other factors were also increasing the cost and effort of managing the company’s 1,400 staff.
Kati Talasto continues: “For example, we theorized that employing a large proportion of our staff on zero-hours contracts was increasing our total staffing cost. It seemed likely that we were wasting too much time on recruiting new staff, renewing small contracts, and covering other employment related activities. But we lacked the means to analyze data to be able to prove this.”
The HR team also had a hunch that staff working on zero hours contracts—who typically have less sales experience—were not achieving the same sales figures as more experienced staff members, limiting the company’s overall sales potential.
“If we could measure and test our hypotheses, we would be much better placed to make smarter decisions on workforce management,” says Kati Talasto. “So, we set out to find a partner who could provide the analytics capabilities to help us enhance our workforce planning processes.”
On the hunt for new insight
Musti Group decided to join forces with Peoplegeeks, a change management and human resources consultancy that specializes in connecting people analytics with business value.
Working closely together, the Musti Group HR team and the Peoplegeeks consultants collected and analyzed three years of sales receipts, employee data and scheduling data from 119 stores to determine the most effective way to organize its workforce.
Kati Talasto explains: “After hearing about Peoplegeeks’ track record of helping other companies evolve their HR function and people management, we knew they were the perfect partner for us. The Peoplegeeks team delivered expert guidance throughout this journey, and brought cutting-edge analytics tools to the table that gave us the insight we were looking for.
The team analyzed vast amounts of data—including 50 million receipts and 2.6 million man-hours—using IBM Watson Analytics.
Pauli Dahlbom, Director at Peoplegeeks, explains: “The wonderful thing about Watson Analytics is that, unlike spreadsheet-based methods of analysis, it lets you have a real dialog with your data. It doesn’t just give you a way to test your hypotheses—it automatically detects hidden patterns and correlations in the data, and actively suggests interesting questions that you should ask. That’s a massive advantage when you are getting to grips with a new and complex dataset.”
Kati Talasto adds: “We were able to quickly identify our busiest times of day and year, compare the quantity and quality of sales generated by zero-hours contract staff versus more regular staff, and understand which types of contracts work best for the company and our employees. The intuitive and informative visual representation of data within the solution’s interface also made it easy for us to engage with the results and present them to the key decision-makers.”
Next, the team utilized IBM SPSS Modeler to build hourly sales forecasts from three years of store data and applied machine learning techniques to determine optimized hourly level shift plans for each store.
Peoplegeeks then connected the new forecasting models to Musti Group’s scheduling system, enabling regional HR planners to automatically create accurate rosters that match the hourly level sales forecasts at each store.
“The accuracy of IBM SPSS Modeler is outstanding,” continues Kati Talasto. “Our old workforce planning forecasts could only provide very generic insight into predicted sales on a daily basis. With IBM SPSS Modeler, we now have rolling sales at each store, and this forecast is done on an hourly level, which is critical from a scheduling perspective. This new sales forecast model also proved to be more accurate than our old budgeting process, the overall accuracy has improved from 4.6 to 2.9 percent on average. Moreover, as we feed more data through the solution, the models will continue to learn and become even more accurate.”
Unleashing a new breed of business
From the insights that it unearthed working with Peoplegeeks and IBM solutions, Musti Group built a business case to demonstrate ways the company could dramatically increase the flexibility of its workforce, eliminate unnecessary admin for store managers, and make huge cost savings.
Kati Talasto says: “Our executive suite were impressed by the business case that we put together with Peoplegeeks. We showed how data-driven workforce planning would empower us to operate more effectively, and were given the green light to run a pilot at five stores in Northern Finland—the beginning of a journey that will enhance the way we hire, organize and manage staff across the company.
“Previously, staff were only able to work in one store, because workforce scheduling was completed locally by store managers. Now, we are able to run our planning on a regional basis, guided by the information we receive from the IBM Analytics solutions.
“This has greatly improved the flexibility of our workforce, enabling us to allocate shifts for our staff much more intelligently. We can ensure that we have the right number of employees on hand to serve customers during the busiest times of day in all our stores.
“What’s more, because our scheduling system now automatically allocates shifts based on the demand forecasts it receives from IBM SPSS Modeler, we have reduced the amount of time spent on creating staffing plans and can potentially cut over 6000 man-hours from the workforce management process each year.”
With Watson Analytics and IBM SPSS Modeler supporting its decision-making, Musti Group has also updated the contracts it offers to employees so they align better through the seasonal changes in workforce demand by region.
“We have optimized the contract types that we offer our employees in two ways. First, we can offer our staff longer contract hours, which reduces the total number of contracts we need to manage. Our employees are happy with this change too, as it boosts their earning potential and gives them increased security of income.
“The second change we made was to reduce the number of annual contract leveling periods from four down to two. In Finnish law, employers are required to set timeframes over which they will guarantee that their staff will work the minimum number of hours that they are contracted to work. Watson Analytics helped us find the optimal date for the most cost-effective leveling periods for us to set each year.
“This showed us that we were able to offer longer contract hours while still reducing costs. In fact, we anticipate that we will save EUR 70,000 each year on contract management alone. In total, we predict that data-driven workforce planning will help us add up to EUR 3 million to our bottom line annually, if we apply these practices across the whole group.”
Inspired by the insights it gained into managing its workforce, Musti Group also engaged Peoplegeeks to investigate how the company could strengthen its hiring processes and attract the best talent.
“When we reviewed our hiring processes, we discovered that we were potentially screening out suitable candidates from our search, because we were focusing on candidates’ written skills and résumé rather than their soft skills,” explains Kati Talasto. “Using analytics, we identified the traits that our best salespeople have, and designed a test to identify these traits in new hires. Since implementing this test, we have seen the quality of new hires increase significantly.”
The new process also lightens the burden on store managers considerably, cutting the total time they spend on each new recruitment from 16 hours to just four and a half. This frees them up to spend more time interacting with customers on the shop floor—and since store managers are Musti’s most effective group of salespeople, the company expects to see a positive impact on sales, too.
Kati Talasto concludes: “Working with Peoplegeeks and IBM solutions to drill down into our data has truly revolutionized our workforce management processes—revealing new efficiencies, strengthening the flexibility of our workforce, and putting us in a strong position to maximize sales and revenues.”
Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, Musti Group operates approximately 260 shops across the Nordic region, and employs approximately 1,400 passionate pet professionals. The group serves Finnish customers through its Musti ja Mirri shops, Swedish pet lovers through the Arken Zoo and Djurmagazinet chains, and Norwegians through its newly established Musti shops.
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