Make hourly hiring human again

Sept. 22, 2021
Hiring expert Kathleen Quinn Votaw says an hourly-worker talent war is here. At any level in the worker hierarchy, however, there are only so many great people available

For decades, we’ve tended to treat hourly workers, those at the lower-skill, lower-pay end of our businesses, as expendable and “less than” as candidates and employees. These people, as important to our business as any other, represent about 58% of the U.S. labor force according to the BLS.

Because of their often customer-facing roles, they are instrumental in driving customer satisfaction, loyalty, and profits across industries, from manufacturing and healthcare to hospitality and retail, where the vast majority of workers are hourly. In today’s challenging job market, we’re expecting intense competition for these essential workers to continue.

Like all candidates, applicants for hourly jobs deserve to be treated with dignity and respect throughout the recruiting process. Employers who show they value their hourly people by enhancing both their recruiting practices and working conditions will be the ones that win and retain these essential workers.

Hourly workers deserve a better candidate experience

Many companies have established a comfort level in treating hourly job seekers with less consideration than salary-level candidates. Some of the indignities hourly candidates face in the application process are:

  • Lengthy applications more suitable to complex higher-level, higher-paying roles asking for details irrelevant to the position or needed skills.
  • Never hearing from employers after spending time and effort applying.
  • Promises of “We’ll get back to you,” with no follow-up.
  • Technologies like chatbots that don’t provide answers and create endless circles of frustration.

The experience you provide all candidates, both hourly and salaried, indicates to them how you’ll treat them as employees. When your process is respectful and personal, and communication frequent and thoughtful, candidates become excited about working for you over a competitor who hasn’t made a similar investment in recruiting hourly workers.

Keep the application process fast, flexible and intuitive

Candidates for hourly jobs say that speed is one of their most important considerations in getting hired, even more important than pay for many of them. That means they won’t wait for you; they’ll move on to the next opportunity.

The challenge for employers is to dramatically speed up their recruiting process while maintaining a personal touch that attracts the best, right candidates.

Here are ways you can do that:

Cut the docs. Collect only the information you need to make a good hiring decision. Eliminate duplications, unnecessary multiple interviews, and time-consuming skills- and games-based assessments at the beginning of the process. Is a detailed resume necessary for the position? Can you combine interviews and assessments in a single session for greater efficiency?

Use sources that refer only a few, but qualified candidates. What matters is candidates who show up, accept your offer, and start work. Are you measuring recruiting success by volume of candidates or quality of hires?

Offer a mobile application process. Make sure it offers opportunities for conversation and texting and eliminates cumbersome data-entry requirements. How does your mobile candidate experience compare with your app for customer purchases?

Offer interviews outside regular hours. A large percentage of talented hourly workers are already working or have obligations during the day. They are looking for better opportunities and need flexibility in how to apply to you. Do you offer after-hour and weekend interview options? How about anytime, anywhere online video interviews?

Assess for fit. Culture fit is important for any candidate you are thinking to hire and can serve as a critical factor in selecting high quality hourly candidates whose skills and experience are typically less relevant to the job. Use technology to tweak and deliver preemployment tests or assessments economically through mobile apps. Are you filling the role with right fit candidates, or just filling openings?

Equip hiring managers for success. Provide them with a process that makes sense, tools, and training. Strip away inefficiencies like requiring resumes for hourly jobs, duplications, and unnecessary multiple interviews. Have you asked managers for their input on what works for them?

Expand compensation and benefits. Consider offering hourly workers benefits like bonuses, paid sick leave, flexible work options, and career development and/or higher- than-minimum or average pay. Does your total compensation package for hourly workers match their value to your company? Would hourly workers feel that their compensation is fair compared with what’s offered to your other employees and by your competition? 

Automate but don’t replace the human touch. Use technology to help narrow down and sort but remember that you are hiring humans and make sure your recruiters incorporate personal interest and empathy into the process. What’s the ratio of technology to human touch in your process?

An hourly-worker talent war is here. At any level in the worker hierarchy, there are only so many great people available. When every company is competing for them, you have to do something different to win and keep the best talent. HR professionals in manufacturing, retail, and similar sectors tend to focus on the needs of salaried employees at the expense of hourly workers, using outdated recruiting tactics and management policies that no longer work.

If the candidates you want most aren’t choosing you, or if your turnover rates are higher than you want, you could be unwittingly setting up barriers that turn people off. Look deep into your culture and recruiting practices and change anything that’s separating you from the talent you need to grow. 

Kathleen Quinn Votaw is chief executive of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm. She is the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work. Regarded as a key disruptor in her industry, Quinn Votaw has helped thousands of companies across multiple industries develop purpose-based, inclusive communities that inspire employees to come to work. Her company has been recognized in the Inc. 5000.

Editor's note: this is the first article in multipart series by hiring experts.


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