Time tracking: beyond the badge

A photo of Chris Loxley, Vice President of Sales with the text, "Time Tracking: Beyond the Badge" next to his photo

By Chris Loxley

According to McKinsey & Company, inefficient store labor can inflate retailers’ operating costs by 5-10%. However, many retailers are stuck with outdated time-tracking systems that can’t identify the root causes of inefficiency.

Think of time tracking in retail, and you probably picture store associates clocking in and out. That’s a piece of the puzzle, typically handled by a badging system. Retail leaders need insights into more than just total hours worked. They need to understand how much effort goes into resets, refreshes and other merchandising activities. This is where traditional time tracking falls short.

Let’s explore innovative strategies beyond traditional time tracking that enable a more efficient, data-driven approach.

Navigating labor complexity and allocation

The mix of hourly and full-time store associates, dedicated merchandising teams, third-party labor and even suppliers themselves stepping into stores to work complicates labor allocation and tracking. Merchants, CPG companies and different labor teams contribute time and money, expecting precise reporting on how their investments in labor support store operations.

Efficient merchandising hinges on accurately matching planned labor with actual usage. Retailers often use innovation centers to plan and test tasks, establishing baseline hours for labor allocation. The process involves allocating millions of hours across hundreds or even thousands of stores for various tasks, from SKU cut-ins to seasonal sets. Retailers align these estimates with each store’s labor allocation and categorize the type of task to ensure a balanced and efficient workload distribution.

Even with sophisticated labor allocation strategies in place, retailers have a significant blind spot: the primitive methods that track the actual time spent on merchandising tasks.

The pitfalls of guesswork and self-reporting

Labor time reporting often relies on guesstimates, stretching teams too thin and misusing resources. Retailers struggle without concrete data on how long tasks take, leading to haphazard and often reactive planning rather than a proactive approach.

The problem gets worse with self-reporting. Associates might report less time to look more productive or more time to hide inefficiencies. This situation shows a clear need for a system that accurately tracks the time spent on tasks and deals with the risk of human error in self-reporting.

A lever for empowerment and efficiency

Adopting a comprehensive time-tracking system transforms retail merchandising by enhancing precision, improving accountability and enabling informed decision-making. By implementing clocking in/out and tracking the start/end times of merchandising tasks, retailers can base decisions on data, leading to more accurate budgeting and scheduling. This strategy directly improves project cost evaluations, staff productivity and operational efficiency, empowering leadership and field teams. Through iterative learning, retailers can fine-tune processes over time, leveraging past lessons to drive greater accuracy and effectiveness.

For leadership, this approach:

  • Informs better planning and forecasting, enabling a clearer view of operations.
  • Uses data for A/B testing to refine process efficiency and drive performance improvements.

For field associates, this approach:

  • Sets clear, reasonable expectations for tasks, providing a structured framework for daily activities.
  • Identifies training needs, helping associates who require extra support to improve and succeed.

Precise time tracking and accountability make every minute count, creating a more streamlined, productive and empowered retail environment. 

Ready to take the next step in retail efficiency? Reach out to us to explore how our field tools, including time-tracking solutions, can be tailored to your unique needs.

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