Every organization has entry-level hourly employees that in many cases do the work for the lowest pay.
“You don’t see a lot of people talking about that level, and everybody has them, whether they make $10 an hour or $18 an hour or $15 an hour,” says David Walton, founder and owner of Premier Office Movers.
These employees often interact most with the customers but don’t feel a part of the company culture.
At Premier Office Movers, hourly workers make up the bulk of the workforce — of the 48 employees, 39 are hourly. Walton has lots of experience with them, although he’s always trying to improve upon that.
With an annual turnover rate of less than 20 percent, he says the managers of the hourly service organization try to be fair and recognize accomplishments.
Hourly employees work hard on evenings and weekends, carrying items up and down stairs for corporate clients, so Walton says a lot of what the business does is geared toward those folks.
“That’s the difference. It’s not so much me. It’s not the trucks. It’s not the equipment. It’s really how those folks perform,” he says.
When Walton talks to customers, they want to know why they should care about a good leader or good supervisor. In other words, why pay a higher rate?
“What we provide is purely service to customers,” he says. “We are providing people, and to do the job well and to do the job independent of customers, they’ve got to be knowledgeable, they’ve got to be educated.”
It’s the classic cliché — you get what you pay for. You don’t want to babysit the movers. You don’t want to have to worry about the sensitive information in your office or damaged items.
People have a bias that hourly workers aren’t hard workers, that they aren’t clean, aren’t always polite or that they are interchangeable, he says.
Building a culture that supports hourly workers is one of Walton’s major responsibilities — and it’s an ongoing process.
New hires, which are thoroughly checked out, learn about company philosophies and the reasons why things are done a certain way. The movers, installers, drivers and supervisors are included in social activities.
“It’s a lot easier said than done, and you’ve always got to remember that no matter what, there’s still going to be problems,” Walton says. “There’s still going to be days when somebody is complaining. There’s probably going to be days when they tell how much they don’t like you. But you’ve got to stay the course.”
With this employee group, criticism can be taken the wrong way, he says. Try to eliminate the blaming, complaining and defending. You have to get them to understand the reasons why you’re presenting areas for improvement. It’s taking care of the customers; it’s not because you’re trying to pick on, threaten or fire them.
“They’ve got to hear it over and over and over again, whether it’s individual or group meetings, team events or company events,” Walton says.
“I’ve always believed that you have to tie it back — the behavior you want and how it helps them.”
You also need to listen to your hourly employees, to respect their opinions and feelings.
“People at that level feel as if they are taken advantage of, that they are not made a part of the organization,” Walton says. “Do your best to try to include them in as much information as you feel is necessary to make them part of the team.”
Premier Office Movers also provides benefits its competitors don’t, too. For example, it has a quarterly bonus program for hourly employees only. By rewarding them for team effort, it goes a long way to helping build a proper team, he says.
The company has an employee council — three associates that rotate annually, which management meets with monthly. Walton says it’s a good way to talk through policies that aren’t working, throw out new ideas for feedback or examine the company handbook, truck maintenance, communication, training processes, etc.
“The more that they feel that their ideas are being at least respected and listened to, and occasionally they see something that comes from them, really makes an impact into them getting more and more ideas,” he says.
Walton does admit that there’s always room for improvement. One of the things he’s working on now is pushing leadership and ownership down the chain of command.
“(I want to) let these people have opportunities to make their own decisions, rather than just being told what to do, rather than just being robots and lambs … that go through the motions,” he says. “No, I’m saying, ‘This is your deal’ — to give them a little sense of ownership, and a greater sense of pride in what they do, because it’s really them that’s doing it.
“I think if we can continue to extort that and get that to grow, it’s going to be very, very powerful down the road.”