Raise your hand if you have ever caught your retail staff lazing around playing Angry Birds when they were supposed to be working. Okay, everyone. You can put your hands down. Every business wants to keep employees productive, and retail is no exception. The problem is: there’s often downtime when no one is shopping, and so employees often think they can take a break. But what happens when a customer walks in and sees your employee smacking gum and talking on her cell phone? It’s a turnoff, to be sure. Don’t expect your retail staff to be proactive about finding something to do. Instead, give them something to do. Use a Daily Checklist The best way to keep your staff busy is to give them plenty of responsibilities. Create a checklist of duties to perform when there are no customers in the store. If you use shift scheduling software, you can always include your checklist, or specific tasks, with each employee shift. This list might include: Refilling stock Cleaning windows and dusting Rearranging displays Cleaning the bathroom Taking inventory Some of these will be “nice-to-haves” for slow days, while others you should require, such as making sure the store is clean by closing. Have each employee sign off on what she’s done so you can hold her accountable should she do a subpar job. Set Clear Expectations Because 23% of retail employees are aged 16 to 24, you shouldn’t assume that they know their job responsibilities – it’s your job to set explicit responsibilities. If you haven’t specifically said they can’t be on their mobile phones when things are slow, you can’t berate them if they do so. From the beginning, make it clear what is unacceptable behavior (talking on their phone, using apps or texting) and what are grounds for immediate dismissal. Let them know, too, what you expect them to do when work is slow. Talk about how important appearance is, and illustrate what it looks like from the giant store window when an employee is slouching on the job. Give Open and Direct Feedback While turnover in retail is among the highest of any industry, realize that many of your employees will be interested in making a career out of retail. For that reason, you should spend time observing each employee and taking notes on both her strengths and her weaknesses. Sit her down every quarter and review her performance together. If she could be more productive, make recommendations on how, and ask for her input. She might be interested in visual merchandising and might make an excellent window dresser, so consider her talents and interests in the equation. By setting expectations, providing adequate training, and being diligent about paying attention to your employees, you can better engage them and increase their productivity on the job. Images: ”Female pharmacist working in pharmacy with digital tablet and medicine / Shutterstock.com“ __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. Today it is read by over 140,000 business people each month (unique visitors, Google Analytics, December, 2013). See our review of 2013 for more information. An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator. Want to get your business featured on Tweak Your Biz? Check out #TYBspotlight.