Hourly Employees - Assets Or Commodities? (Spoiler Alert - They're Not Commodities)

August 7, 2016 Kelly Marc Alston

We live in an era of branding, where a company is defined by, and judged on, the actions of its team. Never before has the role of employees been so important in a customer’s experience, and thus, their perception of a company. That's because social media amplifies the positive or negative impact of service – the experiences of one individual reverberates throughout their social media channels, and sometimes well beyond. These stats should be a wake up call for businesses that don't think the quality of customer service matters.

Take the restaurant industry, for example. Wally Doolin, founder of restaurant analytics company TDn2K admonishes us, [http://nrn.com/us-top-100/casual-dining-succeeds-focus-food-and-fun] “If the consumer today is going to take the time to spend 45 minutes to an hour in your restaurant at the prices you charge for casual dining, you better make sure it’s really an exceptional experience inside.” One of the main ways companies, and dining establishments in particular, can improve their customers’ experience with their brand is by reinventing the way they view their employees.

Historically, organizations have viewed hourly employees as commodities: easy to find, easy to replace,  useful for entry-level tasks but had no real, lasting impact on the overall business. Not too much effort was put into employee development for these workers. After all, why waste time and money training staff when the likelihood of turnover was so high?

But let's take another look at these employees. What are restaurant servers, cooks, busboys, and hosts responsible for? They clean tables, serve and greet guests, prepare the food, and interact with customers nonstop.  In other words, they are the public face of your company. Switch out ‘replaceable’ and insert  ‘integral’ or ‘vital’ and your on the right track. It’s critical that hourly employees are invested in their jobs and that they feel valued and appreciated for their invaluable contributions to the business.

In a word: employee development. Okay, that was two words, but employee development is possibly the most consequential thing you can do to invest in your hourly employees. Mentoring and coaching  is a great way to start. As this article in Inc. points out, a majority of the businesses on the annual list of 100 Best Companies to Work For cites employee development as a key priority.One of the main benefits of treating hourly employees as assets rather than commodities is that it engenders loyalty, which reduces turnover and boosts productivity. That’s a win-win for everyone, including your customers!
No matter what business you're in, if hourly employees are in the mix and you don't see a correlation between their performance and your bottom line, it's time to reassess. Do what the top companies do for their employees, give them the opportunity to learn and to shine in their roles, and the ROI will be resounding and immediate.

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