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Innovative ways to engage hourly workers

July 26, 2017

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

According to the Department of Labor nearly 60% of U.S. workers are hourly.  While there may be advantages to hourly positions for organizations, they experience an extremely high turnover rate.  Hourly positions tend to have lower pay, less job security, stricter schedules, no or reduced benefits, lack of bonus structures, and fewer opportunities for promotion.  So how do we keep hourly employees motivated and engaged?

Often times organizations and leaders focus their engagement efforts on professional, salaried employees, but the hourly employees are the ones in the trenches.  They keep the company operational.  Below are some ideas for engaging your hourly staff.

  1. Understand Your Hourly Employees – Engagement programs are often based on what leaders know motivate salaried professionals.  But there is a big difference in what motivates “professionals” versus “job holders” according to a Wilson study.  The study found that a top priority for professionals was to gain power and increase responsibility.  However, hourly employees were found to shy away from more responsibility and favor work/life balance instead.  Additional income is not a main driver for hourly employees.  They are driven by job security and motivated by “purpose, mastery, and autonomy.”
  2. Make Work Meaningful – A sense of purpose and meaning is a key motivator for hourly employees.  Connect the dots for your hourly employees – show them how their work contributes to the overall organization or the community at large.  Interestingly, in a recent Gallup study on factory worker motivation, it was found that this type of worker is motivated less by the organizational mission and more by the opportunity to give back to the community. Factories that embraced the need for a “local” mission saw employees exhibit greater engagement and ownership in their work.
  3. Build Relationships – As with salaried employees, the employee-manager relationship is essential to maintaining engagement.  The hourly population is more likely to leave for another job that offers even a slight pay increase, if there are no other motivating factors.  Make yourself available.  If you have workers on various shifts, make it a point to come in at different times periodically.  This will demonstrate support to those workers you don’t see very often.  Get to know your employees.
  4. Give Them a Seat at the Table – When developing company strategy it’s often the salaried, knowledge workers that are brought to the table.  While they bring necessary expertise, don’t forget about your hourly workers who are actually executing the work on a daily basis.  High-level decisions often impact them the most.  These workers have firsthand knowledge on how day-to-day operations can be improved.  They are living it.  Don’t miss out on their valuable input.
  5. Utilize Gamification – Gamification can motivate, engage, and help to retain hourly workers.  In the book Loyalty 3.0, gamification pioneer Rjat Pharia outlines several key intrinsic motivators: autonomy, mastery, purpose, progress, and social interaction.  These motivators drive participation and increase employee engagement.  Notice that several of these motivators are the same ones identified in the Wilson study mentioned earlier. Gamification clearly identifies the value that the company places on specific attributes, skills, certifications, etc.   Goals can be created to inspire and motivate hourly employees.  It shows employees exactly where they stand compared to their peers.  This can lead to increased motivation, therefore increasing customer satisfaction and business results.  As an example, LiveOps added gamification to its employee online portal and saw drastic results:
  • 80% of agents opted into the program
  • Average time to handle customer inquiries was reduced by 15%
  • Service levels increased by 10%
  • Sales performance improved by 8-12%

T-Mobile saw similar results when they implemented a gamification system for their customer service reps.  They saw 31% improvement in customer satisfaction scores and a 40% improvement in call deflection.

To achieve true employee engagement, it must go beyond salaried employees.  Organizations must realize the important role that hourly employees play and find ways to express that appreciation and keep them motivated.  Good hourly workers have the potential to become great long-term employees – whether remaining hourly or moving up into salaried positions.

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