Training ... What a ConceptKnowledge@Wharton published an article today that, among other things, serves as a reminder of the importance of including training in efforts directed at raising employee productivity.
The article looks at the recent adoption of RedPrairie's workforce management software by Ann Taylor Stores Corp. This software enables Ann Taylor to make sales assistants' assignments in a way that has the most productive people in terms of average sales per hour (most important), units sold, and dollars per transaction on the floor during the times of heaviest traffic.
As described by RedPrairie, their software can take not only sales productivity and store traffic patterns into account, but also employee preferences and skill levels. Appariently, Ann Taylor has not given the latter variables much weight.
Stephen Hoch, a marketing professor at Wharton, argues that the software as implemented at Ann Taylor "potentially creates a hostile working environment." Hoch
acknowledges that technology-based information can be valuable to managers, but only if the value is clearly understood throughout the company. Without consistent buy-in, technology-driven management tools will result in adversarial relationships across all staff levels.It is important to note that RedPrairie assumes that at least some of its clients will want to integrate workforce management software with training because the company offers learning management applications.
Information technology is not a way to overcome weak management, he suggests, noting that human capital management systems must be sold to workers as a valuable tool for all employees and should be accompanied by training sessions. "It should motivate everybody, not just the best sellers. It would be nice to couple it with training to bootstrap people who are not as effective as the top performers."
The Wharton article cites an article in the September 10 edition of the Wall Street Journal that reports employees at Ann Taylor "say the system has resulted in sharp cutbacks in hours for some employees and has diminished morale." I will have an eye out for follow-up reports indicating whether Ann Taylor persists with its current rather employee- and customer-unfriendly implementation of its workforce management system, or, alternatively, moves in the direction of beefing up training and having managers apply the software with a degree of flexibility that promotes high employee performance over the long run.