If your business employs hourly workers, you might feel resigned to the fact that high turnover is just a fact of life. But that’s not necessarily the case. Managers can use an array of strategies to encourage hourly employees to stick around longer — including many tactics that won’t cost a thing.

Make Retention a Constant Priority

Retention is an issue for all employers, but it’s an especially urgent concern for businesses that rely heavily on hourly workers.

Citing statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Workforce Institute think tank reports that hourly workers have a turnover rate that’s four times higher than the rate for exempt workers.

High turnover among hourly workers hurts businesses in a number of ways, according to Workforce Institute.

First, turnover is expensive. It can cost up to $8,000 to replace a low-wage, hourly worker. That can mean your business takes a severe financial hit if you have a wave of departures.

Turnover also makes it harder to get work done and maintain your usual standards. The quality of your product or service can suffer. In fact, Fast Company magazine recently cited high employee turnover as one the possible factors behind the food-poisoning cases that have caused problems for Chipotle Mexican Grill.

If turnover causes your remaining staff members to be stretched thin, morale declines, possibly leading to — you guessed it — even more turnover.

For all of these reasons, it’s important to address retention before it becomes an issue for your hourly employees.

Create Opportunities for Growth

Just like exempt workers, hourly employees want to engage deeply with their work. When you help them do that, they’re less likely to look for greener pastures.

One way to do this is offering training or other means for employees to keep learning. This increases both their job satisfaction and the value they bring to your business.

Another idea is to help workers see a career path at your business, whether that means moving into a supervisory job eventually or taking on an expanded role as individual contributor. (Remember, not everyone wants to be a manager.)

You could also look for ways to give employees more autonomy in deciding how best to do their jobs.

Finally, CIO.com recommends providing regular feedback to help employees improve performance, recognizing workers when they achieve milestones and inspiring your team by helping them see how they contribute to the bigger picture.

Cultivate Open Communication

CIO points out another benefit of delivering regular feedback: When you meet with your employees to talk about how they’re doing, they can also tell you how satisfied they are at work, address general morale and flag any problems to you.

When an employee does tell you about a problem, pay attention. If that worker has noticed an issue or is feeling unhappy, chances are he isn’t alone. Dissatisfaction can become contagious as employees talk with each other.

Communicating regularly with your employees keeps any dissatisfaction from getting out of control and causing a wave of turnover. And, as the Houston Chronicle’s small-business resource center points out, when you take action on one employee’s concern, you’re not just resolving that issue. You’re also showing all your workers that they’re heard and valued.

If you’re already losing one employee, try to conduct your exit interview process in a way that encourages honesty from the departing worker, the Houston Chronicle says. You could get valuable — and even surprising — information that helps you make changes to prevent more turnover.

Build a Culture Employees Love

Another factor in whether employees stay or go is how they’re treated by their colleagues and bosses.

Managers especially have a huge effect on workplace culture and retention. Pay attention to whether any of the supervisors on your staff have unusually high rates of turnover on their teams, CIO recommends. While you want your managers to push for results, of course, you also need them to act with respect, empathy and consistency to help retain employees, Business Insider says.

Workers feel valued when employers remember they need work-life balance. In fact, a lack of work-life balance is one of the main reasons employees leave their jobs, according to CIO. Business Insider points out that you can support your employees’ lives outside work by being flexible with scheduling and benefits — for example, granting an employee extra vacation time instead of a raise if that fits her needs more. Utilizing employee scheduling software, such as Planday, makes it easier to give workers more leeway in setting their shifts without disrupting your business.

Look for other aspects of your workplace culture that could either keep employees content or run them off. Planning celebrations for special events or even group outings builds a sense of fun and teamwork, Fortune points out. On the other hand, collective bad habits, like gossip, lower morale and drive away employees, Business Insider says.


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