Ikea has begun the roll-out of an employee scheduling application to match staffing levels to store trading patterns.

The Kronos application schedules staff automatically, based on historical trading data, projected sales figures, labour standards and employee availability. It has been integrated with a Kronos time and attendance system that Ikea uses already.

The system is being used for checkout staff at all stores and sales staff at three stores. It will be extended to all other departments by August 2008.

Ikea project manager Jo Smith said that it has been very easy to measure the benefits that customers will see at the checkouts, because the retailer can use EPoS data to analyse transaction times and staff productivity.

Ikea said that queue times are shorter, there have been improvements in the productivity of checkout staff and it is easier to spot any problems with under- or overstaffing.

Staff have also welcomed the system, because it gives them greater flexibility and better notice of their scheduled hours. Smith explained: “Staff know their shifts up to four weeks in advance. Some like not having to work the same shifts every week, but those that want to still can.”

She added that, because staff can talk to their managers and change their availability for particular weeks, it also means they can schedule their day off for special occasions, rather than having to take a day’s holiday.

Some unnecessary shifts have been removed to help achieve schedules that mirror the unique trading environment of each store. Ikea has also been able to move staff between departments more easily, such as checkout and returns, when required.

Under- or overstaffing can be spotted immediately where the optimised schedule has not been followed to the letter, so the manager can take action straightaway.

The same system is also being deployed by Ikea at its US and Canada stores.