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Hourly Workers Need Attention Too: Creating a Positive Employee Experience

By Trish McFarlane | 3-min read

Today, most organizations want to understand what makes for an ideal employee experience—one that helps them attract and retain the best talent. To do this, organizational leaders are partnering with HR to create strategies for personalizing the employee journey. What may be surprising, though, is that these efforts extend beyond salaried workers. Nearly 60% of the American workforce is hourly. Understanding that this large group shouldn’t be ignored if they want to build a better employee experience, leaders are now crafting programs that take the experience of hourly workers into account. 

Another reason for this heightened focus? Hourly workers tend to have much higher turnover rates than their salaried counterparts. Therefore, as hourly workers continue to make up a sizable portion of the workforce, it’s crucial to take into account their needs in order to build a more personalized employee experience.

Unique Needs of Hourly Workers

Hourly workers have unique needs when it comes to feeling valued and performing their best work. Unlike salaried employees, hourly workers tend to have unpredictable workloads that fluctuate from project to project or even from day to day. While some hourly workers may have flexibility over their schedule, such as the flex schedules offered in healthcare, other hourly workers find their actions tend to be watched more closely, reporting on how every minute of the day is spent. A recent study found that flexibility for hourly workers often doesn’t help if they don’t have control over their workloads. Workers receiving minimum wage, for example, may need to work more shifts during certain life events to cover unexpected costs. Meeting their need for greater predictability in the work they do is one way to make the employee feel more valued. 

Since the turnover rate of hourly workers is so high, employers also tend to overlook them when crafting career development opportunities. Career pathing is typically offered to salaried workers, but not all organizations offer the same level of training and development for their hourly workers. Whether they are full-time or part-time, hourly workers have the need to see where they fit in the company structure. They also like to know that they are valued enough for the company to make an investment in their training and in promoting them to higher positions. 

Last is the need for hourly workers to feel connected and integrated. If there isn’t open communication from employers about what hourly workers can expect, this can provoke feelings of anxiety. It’s easy to see why hourly workers may feel isolated from other employees and feel anxious about their position within the organization—and daily anxiety is anything but an ideal employee experience. The more employers can think through the needs of their particular hourly workforce, the better the employee experience they can create.

Improving the Hourly Employee Experience

What can leaders do to improve the employee experience for hourly workers? Here are a few recommendations: 

  • Be Direct: Don’t ignore hourly employees or treat them differently from full-time staff. Have meaningful performance discussions with them to unearth why they stay, what would make them more challenged at work, and what makes them feel valued. Then, act on what you learn.
  • Find their strengths: When you get to know your staff on a more personal level, you may learn that they use skills outside of work that will benefit the organization. For example, if you have someone who is very involved in planning and organizing functions for their children’s school, capitalize on those skills and use them in that capacity on the job. Find out what drives them outside of the office so they can bring that passion to work.
  • Offer Career Planning: Hourly workers are often seen as transient and less in need of a career path. If you already have programs in place for salaried workers, extend those to your hourly staff as well. Give them paths to either grow in their hourly roles or to move into salaried positions.
  • Communicate effectively: Be sure to communicate often. Understanding that hourly workers may have less opportunity to stay connected because they work fewer hours, limit details in your communications to 3-4 key points. Be sure to communicate often and regularly so that hourly employees feel included as part of the wider staff. 

Focusing on ways to improve the employee experience for hourly workers is an approach that businesses hope will impact employee loyalty, reduce turnover, and result in stronger financial performance. One business setting the standard for others to follow is Rent the Runway (RTR). RTR is a pioneer in the luxury clothing industry that enables members to rent clothing. Jennifer Hyman (RTR’s CEO) is a true innovator in her approach to showing people they matter. Recently, RTR began offering hourly workers benefits such as parental leave, family sick leave, sabbatical options, and bereavement leave. This approach goes beyond what many other organizations are doing and clearly shows the hourly workers that they are valued just as much as their salaried colleagues.

Through clear communication and creation of a positive employee experience for hourly employees, organizations can retain employees for longer periods of time and show them that their work is integral to the success of the company.