It is probably not news to you that labor markets are extremely tight right now with high competition for the best employees in a limited pool. Hourly (or non-exempt) employees can be some of the most difficult to attract and especially retain in a competitive job market. There is always someone around the corner trying to convince them that the grass is greener. A recent blog from the Society for Human Resource Management give some good tips for attracting and retaining these valuable employees.

Make recognition a priority
Showing your employees that you appreciate them is especially important to your hourly workforce, who you need to be loyal to your organization. Research by Forbes shows those organizations with recognition-rich cultures experience 31% lower voluntary turnover. One method of employee recognition that can be very useful with your hourly workforce is offering training. Invest in your employees and allow them to gain new skills. Also help them see a clear career path within your organization, so that they are not tempted to look elsewhere. You can get ideas about how to get started at your organization using our Employee Recognition Toolkit.

Offer flexibility when possible
Hourly employees are often not given the same flexibility as salaried employees. Salaried (particularly exempt) employees are often able to come in earlier or leave later as needed as long as their work is completed. Hourly employees are often not afforded this same flexibility, but flexibility is key to employee engagement and retention.  In fact in a survey by EY, employees cited flexibility as a deciding factor in choosing a job, just behind competitive pay and benefits. Additionally, employees stated that a lack of flexibility is one of the top reasons they would choose to leave an employer.

Get creative about ways that you can offer some flexibility to hourly employees. Perhaps if you have two employees in similar positions, they could adjust their hours to each get a half day off each week. For example Employee A works from 7:30am-5:30pm Monday-Thursday and 7:30am-11:30am on Friday and Employee B works from 7:30am-11:30am on Monday and 7:30am-5:30pm the rest of the week. This is one of many options. Get creative and allow your employees to come up with suggestions.

If flexibility isn’t possible, at least offer a set schedule for hourly employees. Employees who have a set schedule as opposed to one that varies day to day and week to week often experience a greater work-life balance than those with variable schedules.

Adjust your recruiting strategy
Make some changes to your recruiting strategy to make sure you are going after the right people for your organization. Make sure that you are not forgetting about passive candidates. These are people who are currently employed, but would be interested in a better job if an opportunity came along. Ensure that your recruiting efforts will reach them, and not just the currently unemployed. Also encourage your employees to refer individuals they know for open positions. Employee referrals often become your best hires because your employees understand your company culture and will usually only refer someone they believe would fit in well. One restaurant group started an incentive program for employee referrals after they discovered that hourly employees who were referred by another employee performed better than those found from other sources.

In a competitive job market it’s not just about being able to pay the highest wages. Be prepared to tell potential employees a compelling story about why they should work with your organization. Then be sure to follow through with those things to keep them on board long term. Keep telling your story to existing employee to remind them why they chose to work with you in the first place.