July 5, 2017

20 Tips for Managing Hourly Employees and Keeping Them Engaged


With the significantly smaller amount of attention that is paid to motivating and engaging hourly employees and part-time workers, you would think that they make up a minuscule percentage of the American working population.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to research conducted by Workforce 2020, the current workforce is composed of in between 20 and 33 percent hourly and part-time workers with expectations that this figure could grow to 50 percent over the next three years.

Then why do HR professionals seem to focus so much more attention on keeping salaried workers happy when hourly employees have proven to certainly be no less important to hundreds of thousands of businesses around the globe?

Popular strategies that focus all of a business owner or manager’s attention on retaining their full-time workers and neglecting hourly employees can certainly backfire in both the short and long term.

It’s important to recognize that part-time and hourly workers are a very significant and integral part of the workforce and that they should be treated as such. In order to maximize the efforts and productivity of hourly workers, employers need to develop concepts for integrating them into the rest of the workforce better and keeping them happy and engaged while at work.


Why It’s Hard to Engage Hourly Workers

The biggest problem when it comes to engaging hourly workers is the fact that it is significantly harder for HR professionals to build relationships with them. Part-time workers can often switch work locations and they are most often working a different set of hours week after week.

That’s why just about everything related to managing hourly workers is much harder when compared to taking care of full-time “desk workers” who work the same shifts every day. Scheduling hourly employees is harder, communicating with them is more difficult and keeping them engaged can sometimes feel impossible.

Why is that? Because it can be very hard to establish a rapport with them due to the nature of their employment. Hourly workers almost always work rotating shifts at different times of the day and night, which can make it hard for managers and HR professional to get to know them and interact with them regularly. Hourly employees often work at a number of different locations as well, which can make establishing regular contact with them even harder.

A recent study regarding the motivation of retail employees by MLC showed that a majority of employees did not equate satisfaction and motivation at the job with how much money they made. Rather, they were more interested in feeling connected with the company and feeling important and appreciated.

Why You Should Make the Effort to Engage Part-Time Workers

While keeping your hourly staff engaged can take a lot of effort, it’s effort well spent. Keeping your staff engaged helps to check just about every box you can think of when it comes to high-quality workforce management.

Engaged workers won’t arrive to work late on a regular basis because they enjoy coming to work. Workers who feel engaged are more productive because they see that their efforts are appreciated. In turn, engaging your hourly employees will not only increase employee job satisfaction, it will drive growth and improve retention.

All of these positive influences that come from keeping your workforce engaged translate into increased revenue and cost cutting, which obviously makes for a better bottom line. That’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

Hourly Employees

What You Can Do to Engage Your Hourly Employees

Managing hourly and part-time workers comes with a specific set of challenges and the methods and programs you are using to engage and retain your full-time workers are not going to necessarily work for hourly employees, simply because you’re dealing with a very different worker profile.

When putting together your engagement program for hourly employees, think about what’s most important to them. Many of them are students or parents, which means that they have tons of other obligations outside of work. Many might even have second jobs they’re juggling.

Put yourself in their shoes and try to identify the best ways to keep them happy and engaged when working for you. Here are a few good places to start.

1. Offer Greater Predictability

Unfortunately, a lack of predictability is one of the defining traits of being an hourly worker. Not only do their shifts constantly change, so do their wages. They could be working shifts during your business’s busiest hours one week and during slow hours the next, leaving them scratching their heads as to why they’re making a lot less money for working the same amount of hours.

This is especially true for people who work in the restaurant and bar industries, where a good chunk of their income tends to come from tips. Even though offering your hourly workers absolute predictability is all but impossible, it’s important to make an effort to do so whenever you can.

For example, you can at least make sure that they are getting an equal number of hours during busy and quiet hours each week instead of giving them all busy hours one week and then all slow hours the next.

2. Let Them Know About Shifts in Advance

This study shows that more than 50 percent of retail workers find out what their schedules are going to look like less than a week in advance and 20 percent know when they are working less than three days ahead of time.

Not knowing when they are working creates huge problems for hourly workers because this lack of information makes it incredibly hard for them to plan the rest of their lives out. When employees are unable to plan around their upcoming shifts, their work-life balance is compromised. This obviously leads to a lot of frustration and anger for many hourly workers, who have many other responsibilities outside of work.

By creating work schedules for your hourly employees well in advance and immediately notifying them every time a new schedule is published or an existing schedule is edited, you are giving them the time they need to plan out the rest of their lives and balance the obligations they have outside of work with their schedule hours.

3. Introduce Fun to the Workplace

Studies like this one have proven time and time again that hourly workers prefer having a job they love that pays them less to working a job they hate for more money. A majority of part-time employees want to work somewhere that’s fun – a place where they enjoy being around their colleagues and working with them.

As a manager, you should be doing your best to try and make your business a fun place to work. Encourage positive workplace relationships by organizing team building events, give your employees a nice break room filled with snacks and maybe even some games, brighten up your workplace visually. There are many things you can do to make your work environment enjoyable and they don’t have to be expensive at all.

4. Encourage Healthy Competition

While there are always several part-time workers who might be motivated to stay with your company for the long run and build a career with you, the fact of the matter is that most hourly workers don’t see their current jobs as careers.

So while encouraging employee development and making managers out of part-timers is definitely a great goal to aspire to, you should still be tending to the needs of your employees who don’t necessarily want that.

Most hourly employees prefer immediate motivators, such as bonuses and rewards. There’s nothing wrong with introducing a little bit of friendly competition among staff either. This study shows that pay-for-performance bonuses can definitely work when it comes to engaging and motivating your hourly employees and boosting productivity.

Generally, hourly workers are more motivated by regular bonuses than by the prospects of getting a raise every year or two based on their cumulative performances.

5. Use Technology

Obviously, the options available as far as technology that can help you run your business more easily are constantly growing. Best of all, many of these solutions are very affordable for even the smallest businesses and can even help you to save money in the long wrong.

Of course, online employee schedule software can help you a lot when it comes to managing the time of your hourly employees better and giving them more independence in the process. But that’s certainly not it.

Another great option to consider is getting some type of point of sale software to help your business out. Using this type of tool can help you to determine what your peak and slowest hours are so that you can manage and schedule your hourly employees accordingly.

6. Give Them a Say in the Scheduling Process

Giving your hourly employees a voice in the scheduling process can help a lot when it comes to engagement. Firstly, it shows them that you care enough to ask them about their work preferences.

But it helps you as well. By asking your hourly employees what hours they prefer to work, you are actually helping yourself by having all of this vital information at your fingertips before beginning to plan your schedule. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to make schedules that work better for you and your employees, which will help to keep them happy and help you avoid having to change the schedule last minute.

You can even allow them to trade shifts among themselves. This gives them independence and shows them that they are trusted, but at the same time, it also decreases the amount of work you have on your plate.

7. Focus on Strong Communication

Make sure that you’re doing your best to keep all of your hourly employees in the loop. There is a much greater chance that your part-time workers are feeling a disconnect with the workplace compared to full-time employees. Sometimes they might not be there when big announcements are made or they might not be available to participate in team building activities that are scheduled with full-time employees in mind.

Sometimes they might not be there when big announcements are made or they might not be available to participate in team building activities that are scheduled with full-time employees in mind.

It is important to make sure that you are distributing all important information to all your employees so that everyone is aware of what’s going on within the company, even if they are not around when announcements are being made in person.

8. Be Accurate

Hourly workers have a lot going on outside of work, which is why accuracy is very important when relaying information to them. Scheduling information needs to be very accurate because when it comes to scheduling part-timers, you have very little room for error. There’s a good chance that an hourly work is busy doing something else when they are not working. So making scheduling errors and then asking them to drop everything and come in at a time and day they were not anticipating to work can anger them very quickly.

Another area in which you should try to be as accurate as possible is payroll. Getting the books wrong and paying hourly employees less than what they have earned is another type of error that can make them bolt for the door very quickly.

Again, the best solution for making sure that both your scheduling and payroll is accurate for your hourly workers is to introduce some type of automated tool for creating perfect timesheets and exporting accurate payroll reports that is going to be able to help you to minimize the chances of errors being made.

9. Offer Transparency

Transparency is a great trait to strive towards in business because it can build a very familial situation in the workplace. This can later expand into a familial relationship between your business and your community, which can do wonders for your brand and how you are perceived by your customers.

Transparency is not just about making company goals, policies, culture and achievements available to everyone within its ranks, it’s also about giving employees access to everything they need to build trust between staff and management.

Giving your employees easy access to their schedules, their timesheets or their employee reviews can be great for building that sense of trust with your staff that promotes engagement. Leaving staff in the dark about work matters that are very important to them can lead to alienation, a decrease in productivity and finally, turnover.

10. Give Them Alternative Benefits

Most business owners are aware of the fact that giving hourly employees “regular” benefits that their salaried workers enjoy, like similar insurance and health plans, is difficult.

It’s certainly not impossible. As mentioned time and time again, managing hourly employees and keeping them engaged might take a little extra effort on your part, but it’s well worth it. So if you can’t get the same exact type of health or dental plans for your hourly workers in a cost-effective fashion, don’t just give up. Look into self-pay coverage and other less expensive options that will enable you to offer them most of the cool benefits that salaried workers enjoy.

It’s your job to get creative and find ways to show your hourly workers that they are not “lower class” workers and that you care for them and their needs equally.

11. Create Smaller, Stronger Teams

It’s simply easier to keep smaller teams engaged. According to this Gallup survey, companies that have 10 or fewer employees proved to have up to 15 percent more engagement within the workforce.

That’s why it’s a good idea to break your teams up into smaller groups if you are trying to manage a larger number of hourly employees. Break your teams down into smaller groups, whether by positions or by the time of day they most commonly work, and assign team leads who are going to be reporting to you.

Having smaller teams and leads can work wonders across the board. It can serve as motivation for workers to aspire to become team leads and it can allow you to stay in the loop with all of your workers through these team leads instead of trying to engage them all on your own and inevitably failing to do so because there are simply not enough hours in the day.

12. Create a Reward Program

We’ve already talked about offering bonuses to your best hourly workers. However, you can take it one step further and create a program that is not only going to offer your best employees bonuses but also get the rest of the team involved.

One idea is to have some money up for grabs every month, say $500, but instead of handing out the awards yourself, let your employees vote to decide which teammates deserve the bonuses every month.

This type of system can breed healthy competition, but it can also breed camaraderie. Getting recognized by your superiors is great, but the recognition of one’s peers is often much more appreciated and authentic. Programs like this can not only keep part-time workers engaged, they can also help to build strong relationships among your staff members.

13. Offer Support

Be attentive to the needs of your hourly workers. This type of employment is much more difficult to balance with one’s personal life. That’s why it’s important that managers not only understand that part-time workers have special needs but do something to address those needs as well.

Be responsive to their needs and let your hourly workers know that you understand their situations and that you are open to helping them out whenever possible. Even if you can’t provide them with benefits like childcare, healthcare and pay for transportation, there are nonprofits and community organizations that can help your hourly workers out with some of these things.

Above all else, make sure that they are aware that you care enough to offer help when needed and that they shouldn’t hesitate to talk to you about any issues they may be having that you could potentially help resolve.

14. Show Them Where They Fit Into Your Grand Scheme

One thing that you can do to drive motivation with your hourly employees is to make sure that they understand why they are doing what they do and how their jobs fit into the bigger picture of what your company is trying to achieve.

A good way to do this is by including them in company-wide announcements that discuss how the business is doing, what the company’s future plans look like and how the company has been performing.

Everyone likes to feel a part of something and no one wants to be a simple cog in a machine without even understanding what the machine does. Try to make it easy for them to see how their day-to-day tasks influence and work towards your company’s future goals.

15. Work on Yourself

The best way to motivate and engage your frontline staff is to lead by example. Work on improving what you do as a manager if you want to see your hourly workers respond to you and your leadership.

Employees on all levels are inspired to stick around and work for a company that has people in management who actively show a desire to improve and become better at what they do.

Work on being more approachable and personal, lead by example and take a regular look at what you can do to improve yourself and the way you manage your staff.

16. Involve Them in Decision Making and Idea Creation Activities

Many managers tend to shy away from asking for their hourly employees’ opinions when searching for ideas and conducting discussions that are important for the future of the company. If there is anyone in your company that can offer a very real, unbiased and grounded opinion on where your business is going and what it could do to improve, it’s your part-time staff.

By asking them to take part in brainstorming and creative meetings, you are sure to get great ideas out of them that you and the rest of management would probably never be able to come up with from your perspective.

In addition, including them in these processes does a lot for their self-esteem, motivation and engagement by showing them that they are considered integral members of your team and that their thoughts and ideas are welcomed and respected.

17. Say “Thank You”

Performing proper employee evaluations is definitely a healthy part of the process for keeping your hourly staff motivated and engaged, but don’t wait for those periodic reviews to offer feedback to your staff.

If your employees are doing a great job day in and day out, don’t be apprehensive about doling out praise or simply saying “thank you” on a regular basis. Believe it or not, short but honest words of praise can be great motivators.

Both pulling them aside and telling them that they are doing a great job and publically telling someone that they did something good in front of the rest of the staff can really do wonders for motivation, productivity and engagement, according to this Gallup survey.

18. Nurture Respect and Trust

It’s always in your best interest as a manager to create a supportive environment for your employees by promoting and installing a company culture that is built on respect and trust.

Workplace stress is often a huge factor in companies who regularly see an increase in employee turnover. One of the best ways to decrease stress in your workplace is to make sure that you are building honest relationships with your employees that hinge on respect and trust.

Be upfront and honest with your hourly employees. If you make a mistake, own up to it. If you need to change the schedule last minute or make any other changes that can increase their stress levels, make sure to open up discussions with your employees so that they understand your reasons behind them.

19. Recognize Their Potential

The best way to keep your high-potential employees is by recognizing their potential and enabling them to grow with you. Keeping your best hourly workers is probably the most difficult thing to do, simply because they usually have a lot of options and can easily find another job if they don’t feel committed to working for you.

Make it clear to your high-performing employees that they can grow with you and that there are managerial roles that are waiting for them if they are dedicated to staying with you, learning the ropes and putting in the effort.

Invest in employee development programs that are going to get these employees ready for managerial roles and offer them the resources they need to continue their career development within your company.

20. Fight for Them

Whenever you can, show your hourly employees that you have their backs and that you are ready to fight for them. Do whatever you can to create some sort of continuity with your part-time workforce. Don’t let your company become a “revolving door.”

If you are struggling to continue paying them, look for costs that you can cut elsewhere in order to retain your best workers. Letting people go and cutting wages should not be your first option.

If it is your only option, be open with them about it. Ask them if they are willing to take pay cuts in order to stay on board with you and keep the team together. If you have built a supporting environment for them and they enjoy working for, there’s a good chance that they would also be willing to do what it takes to stay put.