Managing and Motivating Hourly Employees

In the U.S. right now the hourly employee is a part of the labor segment frequently discussed, but often misunderstood.

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Along with talking about hourly wage employees, in general, we’re hearing a lot about minimum wage workers as well. Hourly and minimum wage employees across the country are participating in strikes and demonstrations, demanding a higher wage.

Both groups are worth studying within the sphere of talent management, especially when it comes to figuring out how to most effectively manage and motivate this key segment of the workforce.

The U.S. Labor Force Right Now

In October 2015, the nonfarm payroll employment increased by 271,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.0 percent. The U.S. BLS went on to report the primary job gains occurred not only in professional and business services, but also health care, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction.

Almost all of these industries are heavily dependent on hourly employees, and that includes health care. In retail and food services, there’s also a large percentage of minimum wage employees.

The October BLS report went on to say the following:

In October, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 9 cents to $25.20, following little change in September (+1 cent). Hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent over the year. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 9 cents to $21.18 in October.

Back in 2012 the Huffington Post highlighted the large percentage of Americans being paid on an hourly basis. In 2011, 59.1 percent of American workers received hourly pay, which represented a 1.5 percent increase since 2008. The data came from a report in the Economist, which also noted that American employees being paid by the hour has been steadily rising since the 1970s.

American employers have been reluctant to hire salaried employees, as economic uncertainty is still a pervasive part of the U.S. economy. Employers are opting to seek out contract and hourly workers instead, which often leads to part-time scheduling, stricter schedules, less job security and fewer benefits than a salaried employee might receive.

Within the larger discussion of hourly employees is the issue of minimum wage workers. Hospitality tends to have the highest percentage of workers earning hourly wages at or below the federal level.

Managing Hourly Employees

With hourly employees making up such a large percentage of the workforce, discovering how to most effectively manage these employees is incredibly important. Turnover tends to be extremely high for workers paid by the hour, and that can create a logistical and financial nightmare for businesses, particularly small enterprises.

Another reason hourly employees should be at the forefront of your talent management strategy?

These are most often the employees interacting with the public. They’re often charged with customer service and they provide the face of your company, whereas higher paid and salaried employees tend to be behind the scenes. Why wouldn’t you want to focus on cultivating these brand ambassadors?

These employees tend to have work styles, motivations and work approaches that are unique from salaried employees, which may require a different approach to management if you want to lower your turnover rate and also maximize the potential of hourly workers.

  • Talk to your employees about scheduling, rather than making them feel as if they’re forced into something that doesn’t work well for them. For example, many of your hourly employees may actually want to work more hours than what they’re being given, and if you can identify this you may be able to maximize the potential of high-performing employees. You should also provide some sense of freedom in how employees work with one another on scheduling. Rather than forcing them to stick to a certain schedule, consider letting employees work things out among themselves, so they feel as if there’s a sense of trust on the part of their managers.
  • Ensure all hourly employees are properly trained. When you take the time to thoroughly train any employee, including hourly, they’re more likely to feel as if you’re investing in them and their future in your business. One of the biggest reasons for problems on the part of hourly employees is a lack of training, so simply by providing them with accessible e-Learning you can eliminate many of these issues before they happen. The more thoroughly trained an hourly employee, the more equipped he or she will feel to do their job and the more confident and willing to take on additional responsibilities.
  • Create teams that pair more experienced high-performing employees, with newer or less experienced workers. This will create opportunities for mentorship and support that will allow the high-performing employees to feel as if they’re contributing, and it will give a sense of support and guidance for those employees who may be struggling or just don’t have the experience level yet.

Motivating Your Hourly Workers

Along with general management issues, the question often is how to motivate hourly employees, particularly if giving them a raise isn’t an option?

What many business leaders find interesting is that while money is, of course, important,  it’s far from the only way to motivate employees.

  • Demonstrate a sense of purpose and include hourly workers in that vision. Just like salaried employees, hourly workers want to feel like they’re part of something greater. When you’re training and developing employees focus on the long-term trajectory of your business, and show hourly employees how they can be part of that.
  • Create training that’s based on mastery. Your hourly employees will feel accomplished if they’re able to participate regularly in training that allows them to feel as if they’re really gaining a strong skillset. Consider offering certificates or recognition milestones within training when hourly employees complete a module or course. It costs nothing beyond the initial training costs, but it can go a long way toward motivating employees.
  • Ask your employees what motivates them. So often employers struggle to find the secret to motivating their employees, but they miss the most important step, which is going straight to the source. Issue regular surveys asking employees what’s important to them, what they’d like to see as rewards for great performance and what they’d like to see changed in the workplace.

Do you manage or employ hourly workers? How do you keep them happy while ensuring they produce the best quality of work possible?

November 16, 2015   Updated :September 19, 2016      
  • Employees are more likely to stay motivated when they feel valued. Investing in ongoing training opportunities shows employees that they are important and they are more likely to feel confident and happy in their positions.

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