What Can Employers Do to Improve Staff Retention in Hourly Workforces?

Shiftboard | September 26, 2019

What Can Employers Do to Improve Staff Retention in Hourly Workforces?

How you nurture the quality of a relationship with an employee is similar to what it takes to nurture good relationships outside of work. For instance, when you meet someone new, you find yourself very interested in what they think, say, and do. There’s seems to be an opportunity to discover common goals, plans, and ideas for the future. But, as time progresses, if there is no room for individual interests and passions, the relationship may quickly decline and feel one-sided.

Similarly, in the workplace when employees begin a new job, they are interested in learning the parameters of the new role they were hired to do. They enjoy learning about the company and feeling as if the work they do contributes to a greater good. When they are engaged, involved in the decision-making process, and feel respected for the work they perform, they begin to see a future with the company. However, if employees are limited in their pursuits outside of work due to an unpredictable or inflexible schedule, employees are left feeling burned out. That kind of relationship dynamic can quickly lead to high turnover.

How can you avoid this scenario in your organization and improve staff retention? Learn how reframing the importance of the work schedule may help.


Understand the Importance of the Work Schedule

The purpose in conducting our 2019 State of the Hourly Worker research was to dive deep into the minds of hourly employees and discover what motivates them to work hard, and stick with their various companies. In our current labor market, impacting employee retention is not a simple matter, but through our research, we discovered that the relationship between scheduling and other key aspects of work are almost inseparable.

According to the hourly workers we surveyed, 80 percent say their work schedule impacts the quality of work they do and their productivity levels, 79 percent say schedules impact their ability to do a good job, and 77 percent reported that scheduling impacts their ability to maximize income.

But, when we dug a little deeper, we found that scheduling not only impacts the company’s bottom line, but also employee satisfaction, and relationships in general.

  • 85 percent reported their work schedule impacts their happiness on the job
  • 80 percent stated that work schedules impact their likelihood to search for other employment opportunities
  • 74 percent expressed that their relationships with co-workers were impacted by scheduling
  • 73 percent said the work schedule also impacted their relationship with their boss

For hourly employees, the work schedule is most important to job satisfaction because it so broadly affects life outside of work.


Empower Employees to Juggle Life with Work

Let’s go back to our example of building relationships outside of work. As people progress in their relationships, they begin to see a vision of the future. In order to make sure everyone is on the same page, this vision needs to be clearly communicated and mutually agreed upon. They set goals together to attain their vision, but they also set clear boundaries around the time they need apart to pursue their personal interests.

Similarly, every company has a vision for the future and measurable goals to help them attain it. The key to retaining your hourly workforce is twofold: clearly communicate goals and vision to employees, and ensure they understand their role in attaining said goals. The employee also needs to know that their time off will be respected, and not constantly interrupted with ‘all-hands-on-deck’ mandatory overtime calls.

To actively engage your workforce while respecting boundaries, it is imperative to look at scheduling through the lens of the employee. This practice helps to truly understand how the work schedule impacts their big-picture vision and future with your company. Of those surveyed, 87 percent stated it is extremely important to have control over their schedules, and 55 percent went as far to say that they are somewhat likely to leave their job if they lack control over scheduling.

Just as no one enjoys being trapped in a controlling relationship, employees don’t want to be trapped in a relationship with their schedule that doesn’t allow them to follow their passions outside of the office. For hourly employees, having control means having a say into the scheduling process. We found that 89 percent of hourly employees want to be able to select their own shifts rather than being assigned at random, 83 percent find it important to be able to swap shifts once the schedule is posted, and 58 percent would leave their jobs if swapping was not an option. If assigned shifts fall during a difficult time, 62 percent stated they would quit, and 52 percent reported they would quit if they had no influence on the schedule.


Find the Win-Win Balance

In a recent interview, Steve O’Brian, chief marketing officer at Shiftboard, shared the following story, “We have a customer that actually struggled with mandatory overtime. Then they decided to get a little more innovative. They went to completely volunteer overtime, where employees just signed up if they wanted overtime. The results were great — they actually increased the fill rate of overtime shifts to almost 100 percent every single week. This is a great example of a win-win – the company got overtime filled and the employees who wanted to work extra got the overtime hours.”

While balancing the preferences and needs of your employees with the needs of the company may seem daunting, offering your hourly workforce predictable, flexible scheduling is possible. Take for example Trader Joe’s and QuikTrip, who recently employed a cross-training program for employees. Through cross-training, they were able to schedule additional capacity. In this way, the two companies were covered when an unforeseen event arose, but they still beat their competition in profits. Both companies report below 15 percent turnover rates annually in comparison to nearly 60 percent average in the retail industry. (Zeynep Ton The Good Jobs Strategy).

As we’ve seen, the ability to improve staff retention is closely tied to scheduling. If finding balance is a bit puzzling for you, it may be time to take a deeper look at your scheduling practices and find the win-win balance between employee needs and business goals.

Learn more about improving staff retention from two workforce management experts in the video below.



How to Schedule Employees Effectively: Video


If you missed the previous posts in this hourly employee retention series, get more insights in the previous posts. Most recently, we covered what hourly employees really want in a work schedule.


Read Part 3