Things have gotten competitive out there, and employers across the board are realizing they need to step up their game to find hourly candidates, land them, and then keep them. In fact, amid the intense competition, approximately 60% of employers said they had increased starting entry-level hourly pay for new hires or were considering doing so this year1.

Let’s explore all you need to know about winning with today’s elusive hourly workers when it comes to pay, benefits, flexibility, and more.

Which hourly workers are the biggest challenge… and why?

Employers are reporting significant difficulty when it comes to recruiting and retaining hourly workers, there's no question about that. When we take a closer look, though, it's clear to see the brunt of the problem is with non-office hourly workers. Here's how things stack up2.

Hiring difficulty reported chart
Retention difficulty reported chart

Why are these workers so much harder to find and retain? A lot of it has to do with a perceived lack of flexibility. The truth is, though, all jobs can flex. There's potential for flexible working arrangements that benefit hourly workers such as flexible start times, non-standard shifts, job-sharing, shifting work responsibilities to provide a more positive environment, and more.

Get the Mercer Flexibility Dimensions Worksheet today to learn more — and map out how to expand your flex work offerings.

The bare minimum (you’ve got to do better)

If you want to recruit and retain hourly workers, you’ve got to be confident your starting wage is competitive. If you’re only offering the federal minimum wage, you’ve already been left in the dust by everyone — your traditional competitors and those in other industries, too.

That’s because a whopping 95% of companies say they’re paying above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In fact, the majority of companies today have set their internal minimum wage somewhere between $12-19.99 per hour.

Related article:

Will increasing pay be enough to bring back the hourly workers?

Most companies have an internal minimum wage of $12-19.99


Looking at the full picture

Hourly employees regularly put in long hours, oftentimes doing thankless work. While no single factor is a silver bullet for attraction and retention challenges, with the right answers to all three considerations below you can build an organization that workers want to be a part of.

  1. How much will you pay? The competition can steal away your workforce for as little as $1 per hour, so you better be precise.
  2. Where will they work? Cultivate a high-quality work environment where employees feel valued and there’s a culture of development.
  3. What will they do for work? No one wants to be stuck doing all the “dirty work” day in and day out. Make sure you divvy up responsibilities among team members and provide a variety of work and opportunities to take on new challenges, when possible.

Related article:

How to attract and retain hourly talent

Walk yourself through the three key questions for building the right company culture today with the "Hourly Worker Worksheet” found in the “Stress-free tactics for finding hourly workers” PDF.

Download now

It doesn't end there

Beyond pay and company culture, many companies are offering lots of benefits to hourly workers in today’s competitive landscape1. Understanding what your employees actually want is an important first step though to ensure you’re not wasting valuable time, or money, on offerings that just don’t mean much to them.

Which benefits do your workers value most?
  • Retention bonuses
  • Retirement account contributions
  • Healthcare benefits
  • Disability and life insurance
  • Student loan assistance
  • Paid time off
  • Time off for national holidays
  • Flexible working hours

In today’s digital world there are a lot of different ways to find out exactly what your employees are thinking and expecting. Explore Mercer’s employee engagement resources today to discover what’s right for your organization.

View products:

Pulse surveys

Collect valuable employee feedback on employee engagement, emerging organizational problems, and other vital topics via pulse surveys in a quarterly, monthly, or even weekly basis.

Learn more >

Digital focus groups

Are your employees feeling a little “surveyed out”? Digital focus groups are an alternative method where feedback is collected anonymously in real-time, so you can obtain typically hard-to-discover insights from up to 1,000 employees all at once.

Learn more >

Hourly Compensation Tool

Your way for proactively finding the hourly workers your organization needs to thrive is available now. With the fully customizable Mercer Hourly Compensation Tool, you’ll have data from more than 4,800 organizations on nearly 2,900 jobs all at your fingertips.

Given that the hourly labor market is both narrow and broad at the same time this tool will help you identify where to find employees with the skills you need. So if you're a restaurant, for example, to find workers with client facing experience you'll need to be benchmarking against all different kinds of companies, like retail or banking, within your metro area.

Your dashboard has all the insights on…


Easily see across industries for a more comprehensive picture of your competition in the area — from the usual players to the big box stores, online retailers, and other industries who you’re up against for hourly workers.


Sort by job family, industry, physical and social factors that influence the work environment (i.e., exposed to hazardous conditions), and more to gain a better understanding of your candidate-hiring pool. You can zoom in as narrow as you like or look at it broadly.


With the built-in filters, you can eliminate guesswork and get instant answers on everything impacting hourly pay, short-term incentives, and other compensation elements.

Stand out in today's highly competitive hourly job market

Once largely seen as easily replaceable, companies are realizing they simply cannot operate without the support of hourly workers. There’s a lot to consider — and armed with dependable insights — you’ll be ready to stand out from the competition to attract and retain these vital employees. Need some additional guidance? Mercer is always ready to help.

Call today at 800-333-3070.

1Mercer 2021 United States Compensation Planning Survey, Special July Edition: The Hourly Workforce
2Mercer 2021 Pandemic Survey Series: A Focus on the Labor Market