Transparency About Pay, Expectations Is a Must
Today’s persistently competitive labor market means hourly workers can easily find somewhere else to work. And since job comparison data is widely available now on sites such as Glassdoor, workers can uncover inequities if they’re not paid fairly in relation to others.
‘Every new hire is a flight risk.’
Fair pay is a principal expectation for employees, Scheetz says, with roughly one-fourth of hourly workers saying that’s a key responsibility of employers.
Younger generations in particular are demanding transparency and fairness, Silletto says. Many younger workers, and older workers too, have the confidence and risk tolerance to leave for better opportunities, she points out: “Every new hire is a flight risk.”
On the employer side, successful companies are transparent about what they expect. Workers who start a new job and find it doesn’t match the advertised description often aren’t going to stick around.
In-N-Out Burger is revered by some for paying workers well above prevailing wages if they’re aligned with the fast-food chain’s mission, Holm says. In-N-Out also is transparent about what it expects from workers, down to how its potatoes are cut, he says.
Flexibility and Generation Z
The pandemic laid bare the striking differences between front-line hourly workers and the executives who run their companies. As many higher-level managers have continued to work remotely at least part of the time, that option has not been available to lower-level employees.
“A lot of senior leaders and executives have become quite disconnected from the reality of our front-line workers,” Silletto says.
Those realities include not just financial struggles but a lack of flexibility, such as the chance to go watch their child’s afternoon kindergarten program or to work from home on a snow day.
Silletto sees downsides to systems that distribute shifts, work assignments and equipment based on seniority because newer workers get the “leftovers,” despite being the biggest flight risks. “The current staff will treat the new hires poorly—it’s like a new version of hazing,” she says. Managers need to be trained to nip that behavior in the bud, she notes, as they often have the biggest impact on whether workers stay or go.
Companies also need to put more effort into onboarding—and not just for the first few days. Silletto says this should include checking in with new hires every few shifts as they settle in. It can also mean providing chances for advancement sooner for new workers who quickly learn new skills.
The pandemic also reset how workers think about work’s place in their lives and how they want to be treated. Silletto regularly hears employees complain about the lack of personal regard from managers. “I’d prefer to be called by my name, not my trucker number” is one example.
A full 90 percent of hourly workers said knowing their workplace cares about them is important, the SHRM survey found. Having that knowledge will inspire workers to be more productive, Scheetz says.
Ideally, employers are “doing what’s best for their workers, who in turn would do good work for them and what they’re assigned to,” he explains.
In addition, workplace culture is especially important to younger generations of hourly workers, according to the SHRM study. While just 22 percent of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists said culture was a factor in deciding to remain in their jobs, the figure was 39 percent for Gen Z and younger Millennials.
Scheetz says that may be because younger, less-experienced workers feel the brunt of bad management and have less clout to address problems with company culture. Not surprisingly, those younger generations are also the most likely to be searching for a job—60 percent of them, compared with 46 percent for the hourly workforce overall, the SHRM study found.
Flexing Their Schedules
For hourly workers, a big part of workplace culture is scheduling.
In the wake of the pandemic, many hourly workers returned to front-line jobs and didn’t have the option of working from home that salaried employees did, Holm says. “There are mental health consequences to what feels like an enormous amount of pressure on a job that many times doesn’t even pay for the basics,” he says. “Companies are becoming increasingly aware that that anxiety … will impact performance and will always be a huge, huge contributor to turnover.”
For the 51 percent of workers who say work schedules are important to making them want to stay on the job, companies are coming up with some creative approaches, Silletto says. Some offer “pods” that workers can choose from. One pod might have schedules set a month in advance for those who want predictability, and another might be for those with another job who don’t want to be committed to a schedule too far in advance.
“I’m seeing an uptick in creative scheduling,” Silletto says. She notes that some workers want to be home for dinner with their families, so the second shift is proving harder to fill than the overnight shift, leading companies to pay more for those hours. “We have to get into the mindset of the workforce,” she says.
And younger workers bring a mindset that prioritizes more than work.
Tim Chatfield is CEO and co-founder of Jitjatjo, a New York City tech company whose virtual marketplace matches workers and companies in the hospitality and retail industries.
“The employee value proposition has shifted substantially,” he says. Gen Z workers, he notes, are outspoken about what they want to get out of work. And by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will be Millennials or Generation Zers, according to estimates from consulting company Deloitte.
“There’s a shift toward flexibility,” Chatfield says, adding that companies want a more agile workforce. “The workforce … is putting a higher priority on their own schedule, in terms of, ‘These are my life priorities.’ Pre-COVID, people were fitting their life around work. I think that has changed. Which could also be said that there’s a shift in loyalty, from the employer to my own personal schedule and bank balance.”
‘Among hourly workers, the basics matter.’
Chatfield expects companies to increasingly use talent marketplaces both for hiring outside workers and for deploying in-house workers. He also anticipates that more workers will move back and forth between freelance and staff jobs.
“We’re seeing people crave flexibility, to the point that it’s encouraging them to … leave the safety of a static schedule to get the flexibility that they crave,” Chatfield says.
So how do companies avoid the recruitment and training costs of turnover churn?
“Among hourly workers, the basics matter,” Scheetz says. Those include good pay, pay equity, preferred schedules, transparency, respectful treatment and a sense that the company cares about its people.
The good news for employers? “None of this is rocket science or difficult to do,” Silletto says.
Tamara Lytle is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area.
SHRM provides business leaders with information and resources to help keep their organizations’ hourly workers on board.
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