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A Field Guide to Managing Hourly Workers

  • A Field Guide to Hourly WorkersThe Find: Hourly workers make up 60 percent of the U.S. labor force, yet little effort is spent on improving their productivity -- despite research that suggests that you can do so.
  • The Source: A study by the Workforce Institute.
The Takeaway: Besides accounting for more than half of the U.S. workforce, hourly jobs also make up eight of the ten fastest growing jobs in the U.S. So why is so little attention paid to how to get the most out of these workers? The Workplace Institute suggests that it's because hourly workers are such a big, diverse group. One solution doesn't work for all. To solve the problem, the Workforce Institute suggests managers mentally break down hourly workers into four types:
  1. Simple Transactional. Example jobs: Stock or data entry clerks, construction laborers.
  2. Simple Experiential: Retail Sales Person, Telemarketers, Receptionists
  3. Complex Transactional: Industrial Truck Operators, Machinists, Bakers
  4. Complex Experiential: Registered Nurse, Administrative Assistant, Police Officer
By looking closely at who exactly your workers are, you can get a sense of what might be holding them back. Is retention a problem? Counter productive behavior like theft? Attendance? Once you know what sort of workers you've got and what their weaknesses are you can come up with creative solutions to address those weakness.

Simple experiential jobs, for example, often require people skills that translate well in a number of settings. A good clerk at the Foot Locker is likely to be a good receptionist as well. This makes it easier for simple transactional workers to shift jobs and makes retention a challenge. Often these are young or college-age workers (the Workforce Institute lays out the demographics for each job type) which further complicates efforts to get your trained workers to stick around. Therefore, a perk to set your company apart from competitors (say a small tuition reimbursement) to help keep your workers on the job longer might end up paying for itself.

The chart below summarizes the effectiveness of various strategies for each type of work. For for the full field guide to hourly workers, check out the complete report.

Expected Impact of Talent Management Methods of Hourly Workforce Productivity

Talent Management Intervention Transactional Simple Experiential Simple Complex Transactional Experiential Complex
English as a Second Language Training High Low Moderate Low
Tuition Reimbursement Moderate High Moderate Moderate
Technical Training Low Low High High
Customer Service Training Low High Low Moderate
Integrity Testing High Moderate Low Low
Healthcare Benefits High Moderate High High
(Image of punch clock by Philo, CC 2.0)
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