You’re in a dimly lit store. As you peer through dusty aisles and near-empty shelves, you conclude it’s deserted. Perhaps it’s closed for cleaning? (It sure needs it). As you turn to leave, you feel a tap on your shoulder. You spin around – it’s a zombie employee! Run!

Okay, maybe we’re being a bit dramatic – but underperforming workers are a common retail management problem, and at their worst, they’re not unlike zombies. Employees who neglect work through time fraud, absenteeism and underperformance leave stores messy and unattended. And while the result may not be an actual apocalyptic wasteland, sloppy displays and lethargic employees leave stores in shambles and customers scrambling to competitors. When you’re managing remote work, it can be hard to keep up with day-to-day performances. Let’s take a look at how to address common mobile workforce issues.


There’s definitely something creepy about a deserted store. How does it happen? Often with mobile workforces, it’s caused by employees who skip a shift and claim they showed up. Cleaning up after time thieves is a pain – retailers and merchandisers may have to pay another employee to complete the neglected tasks, and third-party labor companies may have to answer to clients who paid for work that was never completed.

Pinning down time fraud culprits can be difficult when you’re not there to check up on things yourself. With workforce management software, however, managers and merchandisers can require employees to check in and out of shifts with GPS to ensure they showed up and stayed until the end. Some software can even alert managers in real time when an employee is absent or goes off-site to help them cover the shift right away.

Quality Assurance

Zombie-esque employees who show up for a shift only to lurk in the back, shirking their duties, hardly accomplish more than employees who don’t show up at all. How can retailers and merchandisers ensure quality retail execution when they’re not on-site to supervise?

Visual retail verification is one of the most reliable ways to check mobile employees’ work. Some retail execution software enables employees to take photos of their completed tasks and send them to managers for verification. For intricate displays, we recommend starting off with a planogram to clarify expectations.

Tracking Employee Performance 

Let’s say you’ve got an important retail event coming up. It requires friendly, personable employees who pay close attention to detail. How can you be sure you’ve staffed people who will ensure the event’s success (rather than no-shows and underperformers who may turn it into a zombie wasteland)? 

Natural Insight’s retail workforce management software enables companies to rate employees on a five-star system after each shift. Managers often base ratings off of GPS-validated check-ins and visual verification: if an employee checks in, sends photos of each task completed accurately and checks out on time, they receive a five-star review. This helps retailers and merchandisers keep track of top-performers and those who may need remediation or closer supervision. When it comes to important events and complex tasks, managers will know who to staff first.

In addition, tangibly tracking employee performance helps hold each staff member accountable for their work. In fact, studies show that regularly providing employees with performance feedback helps them improve over time. Some companies use employee ratings to hold friendly staff competitions or to inform rewards systems. One of our clients even developed a self-auditing system, where new employees secret-shop staff while on the job to gather additional performance data. 

Combat Zombie-ism with Workforce Management Software

Retailers, merchandisers and third-party labor providers with large mobile workforces need to be sure that employees show up to shifts, complete assigned work and meet quality standards. Workforce management software like Natural Insight helps keep employees on track and managers in the know, even when they can’t be on-site.

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Caroline Lane photo
Caroline Lane is the Director of Marketing at Natural Insight. Prior to joining Natural Insight, Lane was a senior marketing manager with Aquicore, an energy management software system for real estate portfolios. Lane was one of the company’s first ten employees hired and was responsible for building Aquicore’s marketing strategy from the ground up. Lane also previously worked at Renault - Nissan where she helped the automobile manufacturer penetrate more than 14 Asian and African countries. She has a Masters of Science in Management from EMLYON, one of Europe’s top ranking business schools located in France.