The “Battle” For Hourly Workers — Part Two

In Part One of this tip, we discussed finding hourly workers. Different ways they could be found, some ideas on incentivizing your current staff to help you locate them, that type of thing.

In Part Two, let’s take a look at keeping your hourly staff.

Now, I realize hourly staff can be a high area of turnover. But the focus of this tip is to help you keep the ones that are doing well.

The first thing that comes to mind of course is more money. If you’ve got two or ten or a hundred hourly employees and one or more of them really stand out, you could sit down with them and say,

“Bill, we really like your hard work and we’d like to keep you as part of the team. I’d like to increase your pay X. What do you think about that, Bill?”

Bill will normally like that and will feel rewarded.

Now Bill may have been thinking about moving on. He may have seen another job or two that pays more or has better perks, but you’ve cut him off at the pass, so to speak, and he’s happy to hang in there with you.

More pay is of course the simplest path to keeping hourly workers that have demonstrated their competence. But it’s not the only way of doing this.

Most people want to feel a part of something. A group. A team. And yes, even a company.

Do you have weekly staff meetings? If not, this is a good place to start. One obvious use of a staff meeting is to bring up broad issues that you’d like all of your staff to know. But here is another interesting use of the staff meeting:

Bring a few of your hourly staff up to the front and acknowledge them in front of everyone. You could even give them a gift card to a local restaurant or maybe an Amazon gift card, something to let them know you appreciate their value.

Are you going to rub other staff the wrong way by doing this? Maybe, but ideally, they’ll work a bit harder as they may like to have a little validation in front of the group.

Staff meetings are a good way of acknowledging your staff, even your hourly ones, but there’s no need to wait for a staff meeting. If you observe Alice doing a great job as a cashier or Frank is doing a bang up job clearing the dishes every day, let them know.

“Alice, you’re doing a great job here. You handle the customers really well and I’m glad you’re a part of our team.”

“Frank, I know it’s not the most glamorous thing to clear away dishes day in and day out, but I just wanted you to know you’re doing a great job with it. I appreciate your hard work and I’m glad you’re a part of the team.”

Now, those two statements took how long? A minute? Thirty seconds?

You know where I’m going with this. A little acknowledgment goes a long way. People appreciate being appreciated. Do not underestimate the value of that last statement.

The best method to keep good, competent, caring hourly staff is to acknowledge them. More pay if you can. And the not so infrequent: “hey, you’re doing a great job, Sarah. We love having you here” — any method of genuinely acknowledging people is appreciated and will help you keep your key people on board.

Does The Applicant Feel Entitled?

I realize this may be a bit of an edgy subject for some, but I think it’s worth exploring.

First, let’s look at a definition of entitled:

“Believing oneself to be deserving of certain privileges”

We know the entitled person when we see one. They believe they should be treated with more importance than others.

On the hiring end of things, they may feel they “deserve” the job.

Some believe younger generations — Millennials and Generation Z — are more entitled than previous generations. That may be. But I’m not sure age is a total factor in this.

If you’re sitting across from someone who feels they “deserve” the job, you may find that future employee wanting to be treated better than your other staff, perhaps even with kid gloves.

We sometimes see very talented individuals who also have that aura of entitlement. If you encounter that, you’ll have to juggle those two factors when making your decision. I tend to push in the direction of people who want to be part of a team and want everybody treated fairly.

But let’s discuss this point a bit more. You have someone who is super talented in front of you. You’ve checked with previous employers and they tell you he was an excellent producer. They may also tell you he was somewhat of a prima donna*. What to do?

Perhaps you can be very direct with this individual and ask them in the interview:

“I see you’re very talented and your previous employers speak very highly of your productivity. If we were to hire you, would you expect us to treat you with more importance than the existing staff?”

Who knows, your applicant may say:

“Absolutely. I bring a great deal to the table and I expect to be treated with that in mind.”

You could respond with:

“Thank you for your candor. We would certainly consider your talents in relation to your pay, but would you want us to treat you better than the other staff in day-to-day activities?”

If you get a “yes” on that question, you might want to keep looking. A very talented employee that rubs other employees the wrong way loses you some of that talent by eroding staff morale.

Keep an eye out for the entitled applicant. He may be a great hire, but he may also add unneeded stress to your scene.


* A few definitions:

Millenials are generally considered born between 1980 and 1994. Generation Z between 1995 and 2015.

Kid gloves: To handle something delicately and carefully, to deal with a person or a situation gingerly.

Prima donna: a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.

How Would You Handle The Irate Customer?

This is a great interview question for the applicant who will be having direct contact with your customers.

But it’s also a very interesting question for those who will not be directly handling your customers.

Let’s say you’re hiring someone who will only be working at the computer; or managing inventory full time; or some other area of work that does not have any real contact with customers. What if this employee “bumps into” a customer who is just off-the-charts irate about something. There’s no one else around but them. It could go like this:

“Frank, the position we need filled will essentially be handling inventory all day long. This position will have no direct contact with our customers. But let’s say one day, while you’re taking care of a new shipment of widgets, a customer walks up to you and you can clearly see steam coming out of her. She’s very, very angry. What would you do?”

Frank’s answers will be interesting.

He may say, “well, I would immediately find the right person to handle her.”

Or, “well, I’d ask if there’s some way I could help. I would try to find out what’s going on, what’s making her so angry. With what I find out, I’d ask her to come with me, and I’d say, ‘Mary, let’s find the right person to sort this out for you.’”

Or Frank may go so far as, “well, I’d make it my task to find out what’s upsetting the customer and do everything I could to resolve the upset. I may not be able to fully resolve it from my position in the company, but I would make every effort to do so.”

If your applicant has never been in the position to handle customers, he may have considerable difficulty answering this question. He might hem and haw and say, “honestly, I don’t know what I would do.”

So, those are some possible responses from an applicant who is applying for a position that has no direct contact with customers.

Now to the person who will be working with customers all day long. People in sales, front desk personnel, a receptionist, etc. Let’s find out how they would handle the “irate customer.”

Angry customers happen. Very angry customers also can happen. If you handle one poorly, you don’t just lose their business, you potentially lose the business of their friends or family members they told of their experience. The very angry customer may leave a very bad review for your company. They may be so angry, they find every possible place to leave a review and vent their anger on multiple review sites.

Angry and unhandled customers also don’t go over well with the staff. Over time, this can have an adverse effect on staff morale.

Okay, so you know the potential downside here. Let’s find out how your applicant will handle this type of customer. What steps will they take to get from very angry to very satisfied? Or at least no longer angry and understanding what occurred.

You could ask some additional questions while on this topic with your applicant:

Would you apologize for wrongdoing on the part of the company? If so, how would that go?

If the irate customer continued to yell at you and made it seem like you personally were the culprit — when clearly you weren’t — to what degree would you take it personally?

Knowing what the applicant would do to handle an irate customer will give you some good insight into his future performance.

What Happens When They Are No Longer on Their Best Behavior?

A variety of things can occur in an interview.

The candidate may talk on and on and be unwilling to give any real semblance of control to the interviewer.

The candidate may get so flustered by a question that he just stops talking and there’s a long, awkward silence. And this may happen several times.

And we have the candidate who is critical of several of his previous employers. Often this occurs to excuse a lack of performance on the candidate’s part.

The candidate may show up late for the interview.

The candidate’s physical appearance at the interview may indicate a lack of professionalism.

The candidate doesn’t let you finish the interview, saying he’s got to be somewhere else.

Okay, one or two of those may be a stretch, but you get the idea.

I realize some individuals do not consider they should even be on their “best behavior” when interviewing for a job. I think there are some that feel they are entitled to the job. But I’m also thinking these individuals are in the minority.

So, for those who show up for a job and ARE on their best behavior, what should we think when one or more of the above happens?

The logic would be: if they are bringing their very best to the interview and then reveal one or more discernible shortcomings, do we take that logic and wonder just how much of that — and more — will show up when they are on the job?

Or do we show leniency and chalk it up as an interview hiccup (or two…or three)?

I’m all for compassion, but the company’s viability is going to take the senior position in my mind.

First, let’s deal with the candidate who feels entitled to the job. They may have considerable skills, but that sense of being owed the job brings other problems I do not think you want. One that comes to mind is the willingness to be a real team player. It’s likely very low. Other issues will manifest from the “entitled” candidate. Me? I am not hiring him.

But this tip is more about observing incompetencies or lack of professionalism in the interview and to what degree can you project that showing up later.

Hiring is a juggling act for sure. If you feel you’ve got many positive points in Candidate A but they demonstrated some weaknesses in the interview, you can hire them conditionally and see how it goes for a week or a month. Or three months.

But you probably should not completely ignore interview deficiencies. Returning to that point of logic: if they are bringing their best to the interview, and their best isn’t even up to what you’d like to see in your day-to-day workplace, then give that sufficient weight in the hiring decision.

The “Battle” For Hourly Workers — Part One

Finding, hiring and keeping hourly workers can be a challenge.

A few facts:

• Just under 60% of the U.S. workforce are hourly workers.

• Hourly workers in many areas change jobs frequently.

• The cost of this frequent job change can be considerable to the employer.

• More and more companies, like Uber and Lyft, are coming into the hourly worker market and creating more competition.

• At this time — August 2019 — there are more job openings than there are people applying for jobs. This creates even more competition.

What to do?

In this tip, Part One, we’ll discuss finding hourly workers. You may be doing some or even all of the following, but let’s take a fresh look at what you can do to find hourly workers:

• Get your company out there on the job boards. Here’s a good web site that lists the most used job boards.

You don’t have to be on all of them, but if you can keep a steady message going on a few of these, that will help.

• Ask your current employees to refer people they know. You could even offer an incentive for this. For example, for every referral that we hire that stays for X number of weeks (or months) the employee gets a $25 or $50 Amazon gift card. Or $100 to spend at a fancy restaurant which will likely be remembered for some time. An incentive that is affordable and IS an actual incentive could work well for you.

• Of course, place an ad or two (or more) in local newspapers and magazines.

• Put up job posters in your neighborhood. A variety of local stores support this kind of thing. Every so often go and visit these store owners and spend a little time  — each time — getting to know them. They will likely to keep your job offers up there longer than others.

• Check-in with your local community colleges. Are any of them having job fairs? If so, see what’s involved in having your company represented there?

• Are there career counselors at these community colleges or even local high schools that you could meet? Let them know you have jobs available. Put together a nice job info sheet that you can get printed off and that you could leave for them. If that’s too much for them, then leave at least your business card(s).

The basic idea here is to get your company’s name and its job needs out there where people may be looking for this and, while you’re at it, throw in a little creativeness and promote yourself where people may not be looking for a job offer.

The more points of communication that exist in your area promoting your company, the more likely you’ll have people reaching back to you, applying for that job you need filled.

How to Frame Interview Questions

First, let’s grab a fast definition of the word frame:

“To carefully plan the way you are going to ask a question, make a statement, etc.”

If you take a bit of time to frame your interview questions, you’ll get answers that are considerably more valuable to you.

You do not want the candidate trying to decipher what the question means or taking time to create what they believe is a desirable answer.

As an example:

“At your last job, what would you say was the most difficult project you worked on and how did your interaction with other employees impact the success of this project?”

Being a long-winded question, your candidate is likely trying to figure out what the question is and how to best answer it.

Use simple, short questions with instantly understandable words.

Using this same example, you can break it down this way:

“What was the most difficult project you worked on at your last job?”

and, when that is answered:

“What help did you get from other employees on this project?”

and, then:

“How often did you ask for help from other employees on this project?”

So, the long-winded question — not immediately understandable — is now broken into three simple parts, each part instantly understandable and more likely to produce unrehearsed answers.

The simpler, the more direct the questions, the more likely you’ll get to the facts. It’s also a point of speed. If you ask a simple, direct question, there’s less reason for any delay in answering it.

Look over your interview questions and work out “framing” them so they can be instantly understood and — ideally — quickly answered. This will help you get the information you’re looking for.

Have You Tried Asking Your Staff for a Referral?

employee referral

You need a position filled. It’s a fairly important one. You’ve tried your usual methods of finding a candidate, but you haven’t been successful.

Have you tried asking your staff to help out? If your company is of a certain size where you have regular staff meetings, you could bring it up at the next staff meeting.

Or you could send a memo to your staff indicating what the position is and that you need a bit of help getting it filled.

One benefit of getting an “internal referral” from your staff is they (some of them at least) will have a good idea of what the position is, what’s required and what the challenges and rewards are for the position.

Moving forward, let’s say you get a referral from Alice and Alice speaks very highly of the candidate. This person may very well be a gem, but you still will want to do all of your due diligence steps.

Are there any downsides to this kind of recruiting? Well, if you do not hire Alice’s referral, she may feel slighted. In your due diligence, you may find something that Alice wasn’t aware of and of course, you’ll likely want to keep that confidential.

It wouldn’t hurt to include a statement in the request for a referral that goes like this:

“If you have someone you can refer, we’d love to interview them and see if they are the right person for the position. Please do not take it personally if we do not end up hiring your referral.” You can word that differently of course.

This hiring tip is pretty straightforward. You may have a great hire available to you right from within your company. Ask for their help from time to time and don’t be surprised if they come through for you.

A Bit of Hiring Advice from Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca

For those of you not familiar with Lee Iacocca, he was an automobile executive best known for the development of Ford Mustang and Pinto cars, while at the Ford Motor Company in the 1960s, and then later for reviving the Chrysler Corporation as its Chief Executive Officer during the 1980s.

Chrysler was a failing, major automotive manufacturer and Mr. Iacocca indeed came in and brought it back to life.

Lee passed away recently and, though I did not know him personally, I was saddened he was no longer with us. He was a very bright executive and I recall how he approached the subject of hiring. In his own words:

“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”

That’s a pretty succinct statement and yet there’s quite a bit in there, wouldn’t you say?

First of all, he hired people brighter than him.

Can you do that?

Would you want to do that?

For some of us, leadership means managing people less able than ourselves. We don’t want to feel challenged by subordinates.

And then we have leaders that are willing, even eager to manage brighter and more able individuals.

So, if you can hire people brighter than you, you’re in a good position to consider the second part of Mr. Iacocca’s quote: “and then I get out of the way.”

What does that mean?

Does that mean you give these exceptionally bright people full reign to do whatever they want in the company?

I’m thinking Mr. Iacocca did not go quite that far. He likely gave these individuals the space to be creative to get production done in new and more efficient ways, but he also kept an element of management and supervision in place.

But the spirit of the quote is certainly worth considering. Hire individuals brighter than you and then let them apply their talent and skill to help the company advance. Acknowledge their gifts, acknowledge their production even more.

Do You Have an Employee Referral Program?

employee referrals

Hourly workers represent the area of highest turnover in the business world. In a survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, respondents reported that the average annual turnover for hourly workers is 49 percent, at an average cost of $4,969 per employee.

Whatever that cost may be for your business, it’s likely you’re experiencing a level of turnover that you’d like to reduce. One idea that could help you here is an employee referral program.

When you make a hire of an hourly worker, ask him or her for three names of individuals that may be possible hires for the company. It’s likely your new hire is going to give you three names of people similar to the individual you just hired.

And, consider going one step further. Offer an exchange of some kind for these three names. It could be a small cash amount or perhaps some other reward, say a gift certificate to Amazon or a local restaurant.

Your purpose here is twofold:

1) Build up a list of people you can reach and potentially hire that have some kind of a recommendation by an existing hire and

2) It gives your new hire the sense that they have helped the business they are now newly entering.

Everybody wins.

Your Best Day, Your Worst Day?

Chris O’Neill, the CEO at Evernote, offered this as a great interview tool:

“‘Tell me about your best and worst days at work.’ The answers are very revealing. ‘Best day’ answers demonstrate what makes that person tick, what motivates them. ‘Worst day’ answers tell whether a person is a team player—if their response focuses on what went wrong without taking any ownership, there is a good chance they won’t thrive in a collaborative environment.”

I do like this approach.

Some may say their “best day” was when work was easy and time flew by. Others may say their “best day” was when the work was difficult and challenging, but they were determined to get through it and produce a positive outcome.

Oddly enough, you may get the above responses for “worst day” as well.

“Well, my worst day was when work was so easy, I didn’t have to apply myself beyond showing up and just doing my job.”


“My worst day was when the work was so difficult, I couldn’t find a solution to a pressing issue.”

Whatever the responses are, I agree with Chris over at Evernote. You’re more than likely to gain a good insight into your applicant.

Scroll to Top