How to attract and retain hourly talent

June 11, 2021

3 focus areas

I experienced it myself first hand. Recently, on a solo trip, I found myself wanting a nice breakfast on a Sunday morning. There was a well-known chain across the street from my hotel, which looked like the perfect start for a leisurely breakfast. I took one step inside the door and was shocked at what I witnessed.

There was a shouting match taking place between an employee and a customer over a missing takeout order. The counter was littered with dirty dishes and napkins. Families sat at tables just watching the "show," with no food. One extremely pregnant hourly employee was crying and complaining to anyone who would listen that this was supposed to be her day off.

The open kitchen looked like it had been victim of a tornado made of waffles, eggs, and hash browns. It was quite a scene.

Since I had no place to be, and am always up for a good show, I found a clean spot and took a seat. Before long, a stressed-out line cook offered me coffee and apologized for the chaos. They were very short on workers and it had been very busy that morning. The manager did what he could to pacify the customers and made the decision to put a sign on the door telling people that they would be doing “take-out orders only.” The hourly employee shortage had hit them hard.

Where did all the hourly workers go?

Whether it’s because of the additional unemployment benefits or because they are reassessing their career goals after their experience with COVID, it’s clear that businesses are having a hard time attracting hourly employees, particularly in the hospitality industry. Even if businesses can get them in the door, retention is a problem.

You have likely seen it in your own town — all the “Help Wanted” signs. With capacity restrictions being lifted in most parts of the country and not enough hourly workers to fill the jobs, restaurants continue to struggle. How do we get our restaurants, hotels, call centers, and the like to be attractive options for job seekers?

Differentiate yourself as an employer

With hourly workers, small changes can make all the difference in whether they will take a job and whether they will stay. There are 3 areas that employers need to consider to make sure their hiring efforts are not in vain. While 1 of these areas alone will not ensure an employer’s ability to attract and retain employees, the combination of all 3 is very powerful.

1. How much will you pay? With hourly candidates, the ability to get them in the door might be impacted by less than $1 per hour. If the business down the street pays 1 dollar per hour more than you do, you might be losing some qualified candidates or even current employees. Getting pay right is fundamental. Job seekers looking for hourly positions oftentimes expect the hourly rate to be included in the job posting. You need to understand your local labor market and have a realistic definition of what skills are needed to perform your jobs. Finding a reliable source of hourly pay data is first and foremost.

2. Where will they work? It’s less about the location itself and more the people and the atmosphere you create. Does your organization offer a positive environment with engaged managers? If not, that’s something to work on right away. Understanding what your employees value, and do not value, about your workplace will help you prioritize what changes need to be made. Holding managers accountable not only for profit but also for developing employees and promoting the culture is critical for success.

3. What will they do for work? If you’re a pizza shop, you can’t attract drivers who don’t want to deliver pizza. Truthfully, many hourly jobs do have some less desirable responsibilities just inherent in the job. As an employer, you can take a look at how you divvy up responsibilities to make sure no one role is responsible for only the less desirable work. More importantly, be honest with your hourly candidates and current employees — be clear about what is and is not expected, to avoid a mismatch between your job and a less than engaged employee.

Are you looking to make lasting changes that will help you attract and retain an hourly workforce? Give us a call today and one of our Mercer colleagues can get you moving in the right direction.