“This all sounds great for teams with motivated and educated people, but what about teams of entry-level or disengaged workers?”  An attendee asked this at a recent workshop focused on building effective teams.  She then said that all of the leadership material she sees seems to assume that everyone has a college degree and that they are highly motivated.  She believed that some of the principles in the workshop did not apply to the employees she manages.

The Challenge

Her question spurred a great discussion and encouraged me to do some research.  We can divide the groups by looking at the difference between salaried and hourly employees.  It’s not a perfect way to examine the issue, but it works for our purpose. One study, in particular, summarized the many differences.  Of the 13 job satisfaction measurements surveyed, hourly employees showed less satisfaction in ten, with vacation time and retirement plans topping the list.  Most of us understand that the less satisfied an employee is, the more difficult he or she may be to manage.  What is someone who manages hourly employees to do?

hourly employeesUnderstanding Your Hourly Employees

Statistics are great places to start when thinking about policies and approaches to management.  But, every organization–and every employee–is different.  It is essential for good managers and leaders to understand the employees they supervise.  Here are three questions I use with clients when they struggle with an employee or group of employees.

  • What do they value?
  • What motivates them?
  • What stresses them out?

On the surface, these are basic. But, if supervisors take the time to understand the answers–and then act–they can improve job satisfaction and productivity.  Think of yourself for a moment.  If you could remove one or two things that stress you out day to day, what would that do for your ability to do better work?  If you can accentuate the motivators and mitigate the stressors, it is possible to have a significant impact on your workforce.

A Real-Life Example

I once did a series of trainings for a large company in a small town.  The managers who attended were engaged and clearly cared about their work and their workers.  The topic of work schedules came up.  The salaried managers said that both they and their hourly employees had very strict rules and that they weren’t allowed to leave early or come in late informally.  A month after the trainings wrapped up, I happened to be in town for a high school baseball game.  I saw three managers in attendance, in work clothes, and one stated that he had “snuck out” just for a bit to catch his son’s game.  I’m not criticizing the managers for attending.  Kids’ activities matter tremendously in people’s lives.  I just could not help but wonder if they also found ways for their employees to get to the things that matter to them.  What messages are being sent if policies are applied differently by leaders or managers?

What to Do?

Remember, hourly employees share many of the same wants and needs that management and leadership have. They want to be valued.  They want to make enough money to support themselves and/or their families.  They want opportunities to participate in the things that matter to them outside of work.

Be sure front-line managers are fully trained, not just in the technical skills, but in how to manage people.  (Our Front-line Leadership Workshops are among our fastest growing programs as organization leaders become more aware of this need.) Pay attention to employment trends in your industry and specific feedback you get from hourly employees.  Finally, provide managers with the tools they need and the flexibility to adapt to changing situations.

Jerritt Johnston is the Owner of True North Consultants, which promotes organizational, individual and team growth through challenging, fun and relevant activities and processes.  True North is an Authorized Partner for Everything DiSC®and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™.  Looking for a unique adventure or training event for your team?  Check out Leadership Giants at Giants Ridge, in Biwabik, MN.