6 Ways to Engage and Motivate Hourly Employees

April 17, 2018

When we talk about things like employee engagement or retention, many of us only consider salaried workers. After all, how often do you wonder if the cashier at your local grocery store feels motivated and engaged as they scan a bottle of dish soap and a bag of onions?

As it turns out, keeping engagement levels high among hourly workers is important because they make up the majority of our workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 58 percent of the United States workforce is paid hourly. That’s 79.9 million employees just from one country. Now just imagine the global population of hourly employees.

Unfortunately, this group also experiences higher turnover than salaried employees. One survey from PeopleMatter reported an annual turnover rate of 49 percent among hourly workers, with an average cost of $4,969 per employee. That kind of turnover would cost an organization of 100 people over $200,000 every year.

Simply put, organizations can’t afford to ignore half of the workforce when it comes to engagement efforts.

Engaging Hourly Employees

At the same time, you can’t just lump all employees into one bucket and take a one-size-fits-all approach to engagement and motivation. Hourly employees have unique needs and concerns separate from those on salary, and your organization should find solutions that fit accordingly.

First, focus on identifying and meeting the most basic needs of your employees like compensation and work resources. Then you can begin building up motivators like development opportunities. Building a solid foundation will reduce job dissatisfaction and disengagement while providing motivators will boost engagement, performance, and loyalty.

Laying the Foundation

#1 Accurate Compensation

The core of any job for any employee is fair and accurate compensation. They need to pay the bills, right? But with an hourly workforce it can be difficult to keep an accurate log of how many hours each employee worked, especially without employee time tracking software.

But a scattered time tracking system leaves the door open for time theft. Research suggests that the average employee pads their timesheet each week with an extra 4.5 hours, costing an organization 20 percent on every dollar earned.

Inaccurate time tracking takes a huge financial toll on your organization, but it also impacts your employees who are putting in honest time. If they aren’t padding their timesheets like their coworkers, they may end up with a lower paycheck as a result of their integrity and hard work. And that’s a formula for rapid turnover.

To keep your best hourly employees from jumping ship, you need to make sure you are offering them as much value as they are offering the organization. That starts with fair, accurate compensation.

Tracking hours for payroll has never been easier. Try out BambooHR Time Tracking today!

#2 Efficient Communication

With more flexible scheduling and varied work environments, hourly employees need constant communication to stay in the loop. You may not be able to count on the same channels and style of communication that work for salaried workers. Your organization must reach hourly workers where they are most comfortable.

Research from SHRM showed that more than 8 in 10 hourly workers carry smartphones, and almost 7 in 10 own some sort of tablet. It makes sense that these employees stay mobile since almost 30 percent of them are required to spend time in a vehicle as part of their jobs.

If your workforce is mobile, it follows that your communication should also be mobile. The good news is that there are countless tools today to help automate the most common work-related communications, like time-off requests.

Making communication a breeze for your hourly employees can reduce confusion and make them feel more connected to your organization.

#3 Sufficient Resources

To do great work, people need the right tools and equipment. Your hourly employees are no exception. Expecting excellent results while neglecting to provide all the necessary resources is like asking someone to dig an irrigation ditch with a spork.

Now, this might seem like a no-brainer; but the fact is that many organizations are failing on this point. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report from 2017 showed that only 3 in 10 strongly agree that they have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right.

training program

The report also found that having (or lacking) the right resources was the strongest indicator of workplace stress—not surprising when you imagine facing job expectations that you have no hope of achieving.

If hourly workers don’t find the support they need from your organization to perform their best work, you can bet they’ll go searching for it elsewhere.

Providing Motivators

#4 Manager Training

Managers have a massive impact on employees’ day-to-day experiences at work. In fact, for many, the manager can make or break their decision to stay in their jobs. 44 percent of employees who have left a job said that their boss was the primary reason for their departure, according to our Bad Boss Index. On the other hand, an excellent manager can act as a mentor, coach, and advocate for employees, creating an incredible workplace experience.

The problem is that organizations usually hire or promote managers based on their ability to do their previous job, rather than their ability to actually manage people. Research from Gallup shows that companies fail to make the best hire for managerial positions 82 percent of the time.

But your organization can’t just fire 82 percent of your managers and start over—you need to work with the talent you have now. Start shaping the employee experience for your hourly employees by shaping your managers. Focus on soft skills like listening and empathy, and teach your managers how to be coaches.

You also need to make sure your managers are equipped to handle more difficult conversations, such as answering compensation questions or addressing poor performance reviews. Develop strong leaders who can navigate such sensitive cases by balancing the needs of the employee and the needs of the organization.

#5 Development Opportunities

Most employees, whether salaried or hourly, want to know their next career steps. Where are they headed? What opportunities are there down the road for growth and progress?

However, these questions are especially important for your hourly workers. Many hourly jobs tend to feel less permanent, and employees may view them as a stepping stone. It’s up to your organization to show them the next stepping stone.

If you can provide learning and development opportunities like on-site training courses, career mentorship, or even tuition reimbursement, employees may change their perspectives. Instead of viewing their job as a hurdle along the way to where they really want to be, they can see how their work today is setting up future opportunities.

#6 Reward and Recognition

Finally, you can also use reward and recognition programs to motivate and engage your hourly employees. This strategy is an excellent way to extend your company culture to these employees, especially if they aren’t in the office full-time.

Employees fistbumping over a desk

Instead of focusing exclusively on performance metrics (which are also important to recognize), you can bring your organization’s values into the reward program. That’s what we do here at Bamboo. For example, when Jada hits an impressive sales goal she earns a reward; likewise, when Lee does something that truly embodies one of our company values, he is also rewarded.

In this way, rewards become less about who deserves recognition and more about what deserves recognition. You can encourage your employees to connect to the culture and behave accordingly, whether they’re in the office full-time or out on the road. And when employees buy into the culture, engagement follows.


It’s time to recognize and address the unique needs of an hourly workforce. From compensation and communication to learning and development opportunities, you can engage and motivate your hourly employees in many ways. And when employees are engaged, the entire organization wins.

Now you can manage your hourly workforce easily with BambooHR Time Tracking. Schedule a demo today!

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Tori Fica
Senior Copywriter

Tori Fica is a copywriter for BambooHR, the leading HR software solution for small and medium businesses. Through research, analysis, and writing, she creates content to help HR professionals think and plan more strategically. Her focus is on taking complex ideas and in-depth research and turning them into clear, digestible pieces of content.