How to manage hourly employees in 2024

Managing hourly employees does not have to be much more difficult than managing full-time teams. The world is seeing a growth in the number of people working on an hourly basis either as freelancers, gig workers, or part-timers. In this article you will learn how managers can improve their relationship with hourly employees, in order to keep things running smoothly and helping businesses to adapt to the new normal.

Illustration of hourly employees in a warehouse

Contracting hourly employees

The rise in the number of hourly employees has led to a shift in both contracts and legislation related to them. Here’s a list of things you may need to decide on:

  • Working hours per week.
  • Scheduling process.
  • Overtime definition and pay.
  • Tips management.
  • Opening and closing processes.

Having most critical issues covered in a flexible contract will allow you to avoid making decisions on the spot that can cost the company both money and employees’ time.

It is important to check the local legislation, and to know the rights your hourly employees get. For example, employees in Estonia are no longer required to work a minimum of 40 hours to access social security benefits which enables managers to create more part-time positions while employees can keep their access to social services for less working hours. By following your local regulations, companies can avoid hefty fines and also create a culture that values hourly positions as much as full-time ones.

Time management: better check-in than being sorry

Time is another issue for managers dealing with hourly employees. Managing the work hours of an entire team has become simpler thanks to the advent of check-in solutions, both analog and digital ones. It is very important to keep track of the hours worked no matter if the employees work in-house or remotely, as independent software engineer Nuha Khaled points out:

“With hourly contracts, it is easy to focus on the time I can give to work. As the contract has maximum hours per week, you can easily choose a contract that suits how many hours you are willing to work weekly. And using the time tracker, you will be pushed to focus only on work when you are working,” she explains.

Tracking time benefits both hourly employees and employers by keeping a record of how long a certain task takes to complete, thus allowing managers to create better work schedules and estimate production times more accurately. Technology can help to log activities and worked hours with digital check-ins and check-outs, while also allowing people to report what task was completed via text or media using a team management app such as Zelos.

Assembling a team for every hour

There are some specific challenges to consider while recruiting, managing, and leading hourly employees. But the main concern is to have a team schedule that accommodates most of everyone’s needs. With people having two, three, or more part-time gigs, flexibility is seen as an attractive quality in a workplace.

Managers can save time (and let’s be honest, their sanity) by using a scheduling software to automate the filling up of the hourly schedule. Depending on the solution, schedule planning can be done through using an algorithm or by employees digitally picking up available shifts.

A way to make sure there is a complete team is to assemble work groups that have both on-demand and full-time employees, while keeping a talent pool to fill any gap. That way there is less possibility of having unfilled spots at odd times, and managers can improve the communication between the in-house team and outside collaborators as this restaurant case study explains.

Communicate smartly

Despite not being available during all working hours, on-demand workers should be kept on the loop. Flexible employees should be aware of schedule changes, company milestones, and product updates. Having clear communication does not need to be overly official or complicated. Using scheduled texts is a great way to check in on employees, answer questions, and send concerns.

It’s easy and inexpensive to implement, doesn’t take any extra effort on the part of the employees, and can feel more personal than a corporate email while being less intimidating than a phone call.

You can also use team chats and digital workspaces to keep in touch. That being said, it is important to keep communication in one channel if possible to avoid having to check several platforms in order to know what is going on.

Creating an efficient team of hourly employees

Many hourly employees are in front-face customer positions. Beyond excelling in customer service, they should also be trained and ready to do the tasks that impact the clients’ experience. According to MIT management professor Zeynep Ton, Spanish retailer Mercadona teaches their employees to focus on customer-related tasks when store traffic is high and prepares them to pick up other tasks when traffic is lower:

“At Mercadona, every new employee receives four weeks of training, during which they learn how to manage a particular section (meat or cosmetics, for example), perform inventory checks (for data accuracy), order merchandise, replenish products from backrooms, and check for product defects or other problems. ,” he writes.

Mercadona’s month-long onboarding is far above the average of seven hours of training that employees receive in the United States according to Ton. And although this approach is more training-intensive, it allows businesses to switch the focus from matching store traffic and number of employees to varying the things a single employee can do.

Keep task expectations clear by writing clear descriptions of what employees should do to fulfill them. Have additional resources (such as manuals and self-guided courses) available for hourly employees in which they can check back on the company processes after they have completed their training.

Diminish rotation by offering perks

With many workplaces collaborating digitally, it is extremely important to keep hourly employees engaged to reduce rotation. Creative incentives like a punctuality bonus to improve people showing up at the right time and reward overachievers by tracking indicators like productivity and customer satisfaction depending on the role they fulfill. Keeping a personal approach while dealing with on-demand staff is key according to business consultant Larry English:

“Use the first 5-10 minutes of meetings for everyone to share a little bit about what’s going on in their lives. Bring your whole self to show what makes you tick as a person. Schedule virtual coffees or happy hours to check in on things other than business,” he advises.

Another way to improve employee morale (and thus engagement) is to offer useful feedback. Rita O’Donell, writer for HRDive, states that skipping reviews or giving them late sends a negative message to flexible workers, which can make a difference when they consider staying with a company or leaving their position.

“According to Gallup, companies that implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates up to 15% lower than for employees who receive none. Feedback feeds into employee engagement, as well. A 2004 study from CEB Inc., now Gartner, found employees who are most committed perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization,” further explains O’Donell.

A good tip is to define and track Key Performance Indicators from the get-go, so managers are certain of what an employee did without having to micromanage or supervise every task. To manage larger teams, work groups can be created and tasks can be digitally tracked, so team members can report on their work no matter their location or position.

The bottom line is that managing hourly workers requires a combination of personalized communication and shift management solutions. By keeping administration simple and clear for on-demand workers, managers with partially or fully flexible teams are able to promote efficiency, reward results, and make every hourly employee feel part of the company.