Viewpoint: Recruiting Hourly Employees in a Digital World

By Tim Sackett Jul 12, 2016
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​Tim Sackett

I go to a lot of recruiting conferences each year, and I've noticed recently that I can find a large number of sessions at those conferences on how to recruit technical and IT talent, nurses, and other white-collar professionals. But what I never find is a session on how to recruit the hourly worker. Remember Joe the plumber? Yeah, that guy!

Hourly workers are increasingly becoming some of the most difficult hires we make in our organizations. Does this sound familiar? "Oh, anyone can do that, Tim! Just put up a job posting and schedule some interviews. The ones that actually show up get the job."

Unfortunately, you would be shocked at how many organizations still believe this is how you hire your hourly staff. Frequently, very little attention and resources go into these hires, and yet they can make up a majority of your workforce. Take a look at your recruiting budget right now. What percentage of your budget goes to hourly hiring versus professional hiring, and how many hires is that for each?

What I see in my business is that most organizations spend anywhere from four to five times as much on professional hiring as they do on hourly hiring, and I've seen that run as high as 10 to 20 times more! There's no doubt that professional hiring is more expensive, but should it be five to ten times per hire more?

Organizations need to understand this difference in cost-per-hire between hourly and professional positions. In many cases, great talent acquisition leaders can find extra money in the professional hiring budget to incorporate some new techniques and tools to better hire hourly employees.

Advice from a Pro

Robin Schooling, vice president of HR for Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, La., does a lot of hourly hiring. The casino business is booming, and it utilizes hourly workers across a number of industries: retail, service, dining, security, maintenance, building services, hospitality and hotels. Schooling needs a robust hourly recruiting strategy to fill all of her company's needs.

Here are some methods Schooling uses to meet the hourly hiring needs at Hollywood Casino:

  • Local community colleges are bursting at the seams with individuals who are high school graduates but may not have had a specific career in mind when they left high school. All of these community colleges have career centers and career fairs, but Schooling said that the best strategy may be to get to know the instructors in the fields you hire most. These instructors will tell you who the good students are and may even help in landing these students for positions.
  • Job boards are expensive for hourly hiring; Craigslist is free! Craigslist gets a bad rap in the media, but its traffic is high and many companies have been using Craigslist for hiring with success for years. The key to hourly hiring is fishing in pools that others are neglecting.
  • Make sure your job posts are mobile-optimized. The job site Indeed recently released some data that shows hourly employees are more likely to apply via mobile then professional-level employees, as the mobile device might be their only connection to the Internet. That means it's important to make sure applying via mobile is fast and easy.
  • Many local libraries have career centers that individuals can use in order to apply for jobs. If you find your local library branch offers this service, work with the leadership at the library to find ways to highlight your jobs. Pin up an old-school help wanted ad on the library's bulletin board.
  • Stop requiring e-mail and start embracing SMS (that's text messaging)! It's hard to believe that in this day and age someone wouldn't have an e-mail address, but you would be shocked at how many people don't. Most will have at least a cellphone number. If your applicant tracking system doesn't allow text messaging, find a technology that does. One simple and free way is to use Google Voice.

And here are some ways I've had success in recruiting hourly employees:

  • Billboards. Not only billboards, but billboards in front of, or on the way to, your competition. Billboards are fairly inexpensive and, with the right call to action, get great results.
  • Automated employee referral programs. New employee referral technology will put your hourly recruiting strategy on steroids. We know our best employees tend to recommend people just like themselves. Check out the great technologies from RolePoint, GooodJob, Zao and Jobvite.
  • Pay-per-click "Come Work for Us" ads on Facebook. Everyone is on Facebook. No, really, everyone! Your mom, your grandma, even teens are starting to come back to Facebook. Pay-per-click ads are cheap, easy and effective: everything you need in your hourly recruiting strategy.
  • Places of worship. I know, I know! There should be separation of church and work. But, truly, individual places of worship are great recruiting sources. You can do this in two different ways: Call all of the places of worship close to your company and speak to someone in charge of communication. Usually, they'll post something in a newsletter or on a bulletin board and I've even gotten them to announce a job in an e-mail and during weekly services to all of their members. Alternatively, "give permission" to your employees to share news about an available job at their places of worship.
  • Create an hourly referral scoreboard for all to see in your company. Your employees love to be recognized and scoreboards are a great way to highlight individuals for referring their friends and family members. You can add prizes and awards, but a simple scoreboard will also give you results. Just make sure it's in a public, highly visible place.

Go Retro

One tip that rings loud and true in hourly hiring is that you don't have to give up on vintage methods of recruiting. Most recruiting advice over the last 10 years has centered around social media and expensive technology, which is all great stuff, but maybe not the most useful when hiring workers who make $10 to $18 per hour.

Hourly recruiting is much like the positions you are hiring for: It's hands-on; it's difficult; it's sometimes dirty, grinding work; and in most organizations, leadership even devalues those recruiters who take on the task of filling these kinds of roles, as compared to their professional recruiting counterparts.

What we know—those of us who get it—is that hourly recruiting has as much, or an even greater, impact on the success of our organizations as any of our professional hires. Hourly recruiting isn't the same as professional recruiting, and you should have a very different recruiting strategy for each type of hiring.

Yes, we are in a digital world. That doesn't mean we should throw out all of our analog recruiting techniques. Take all of the best new-school recruiting advice and mix in your best old-school tips and tricks to create a strategy that is completely you!

Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, is president of HRU Technical Resources, an engineering and IT staffing firm based in Lansing, Mich., and writer of The Tim Sackett Project blog.

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