Hiring Success

The How and Why of Engaging and Developing High-Volume Hires

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Industry leaders have long recognized the value of developing employees over time, whether that be with training courses, mentoring programs, or other team-building content. Many of those represent good, time-tested fundamentals. The problem is that a number of these investments have been focused on the long-term career development of salaried professionals. Largely left out: the majority of the workforce who are hourly employees. This oversight is completely unnecessary. We can do better.

Let’s put it simply: it’s time to widen the scope of employee engagement tools. By engaging all levels of employees, from the entry-level or seasonal worker to the later-career manager, we can bring a powerful concept to a wide audience. High-volume hiring organizations need to scale their learning and development programs so that they’re meeting all their talent with those initiatives, not simply from ‘day one,’ but from ‘career day one.’ A multi-faceted learning and development program should target everyone, regardless of pay rate and seniority, in a “dawn to dusk” career-long approach.

Many industries with hourly employees are hiring at hyper speed right now, while at the same time adopting processes to be remote or contactless. Employers need to have a game plan for talent attraction that flows seamlessly into job training. Whether you mean to or not, how you attract candidates and flow them through the application process is already teaching them something about your employer brand and job expectations— you better make sure it’s the right lesson! But, first, let’s talk about why.

Can a job be more than just a job?

There’s a lot of evidence of the importance of employee experience, particularly the value of keeping employees meaningfully engaged. Data published this year show that this emphasis on engagement didn’t drop off with the economic turmoil of the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the opposite was true. Gallup reported around Memorial Day that the ratio of “highly engaged” to “actively disengaged” employees was at an all-time high. Reasons for this trend are likely varied, but it points to an interesting possibility. When cultural, economic, and sociopolitical factors are upended, a steady job becomes more important than ever— and that may not simply be from a practical standpoint. Well-run, supportive workplaces can be drivers of wellness and facilitate personal growth. By recognizing this, and by extending learning and development resources to include the entire payroll from the newest hire on up, employers may realize lasting benefits that can reach beyond their organizations into their surrounding communities.

Let’s take a closer look at how engagement tools can work well for hourly and early-career employees.

Where to begin?

Make it stick

How do we ensure that an hourly employee’s time investment in engagement materials isn’t just a token one-off? The key is to create “aha!” moments that can then drive later insights. In other words, I’m not just consuming educational material that I may or may not find interesting, and may or may not remember well in future weeks. Instead, I’m using the momentum from content that resonates with me personally and then applying that to my thoughts and behaviors down the road.

Helping workers understand themselves, from their workplace strengths to common thought processes to a personalized route to effective communication, can be a great step toward that staying power.

A study of over 11,000 employees pointed to this concept, finding that a key to lasting engagement is what analysts call “self-engagement.” So instead of leadership driving employee satisfaction from the top down, employees need to be empowered through a growth mindset, skills for resilience, and self-advocacy. Helping workers understand themselves, from their workplace strengths to common thought processes to a personalized route to effective communication, can be a great step toward that staying power.

Meet people where they’re at

Let’s face it…with more interactions in our lives now virtual, we all need to be mindful of “Zoom fatigue.” Asking employees to log into yet another webinar, or sit through an extended set of online coursework, contributes to that same fatigue — and is a recipe for disengagement, not its opposite.

Today’s engagement tools must be designed for mobile-first platforms, particularly for on-the-go hourly workers accustomed to using a mobile phone as the primary means of accessing media. Content that can be consumed on-demand, in manageable, fun, bite-sized pieces, will emerge as the leaders in this space. Imagine the difference between these two scenarios in creating those sought-after “aha!” moments: 

Scenario 1: Tania, in week 5 on the job, is asked to come into an office space for “Training.” She sits in front of a company desktop and clicks through instructional material. The content isn’t personalized and hasn’t been updated for years. Tania learns the minimum she needs to pass the quizzes that are administered throughout. Her manager doesn’t discuss or even comment on the content later.

Scenario 2: Tania, in her first days on the job, is introduced to a mobile-first engagement tool she can access on her phone during short “power breaks” on her shifts. The content is customized to her, based on assessment results, and gives her quick, action-oriented takeaways. She learns to predict her own and others’ reactions and can apply her communication and stress-buster tips to the job and to her life outside of work. Her manager has development content of their own that they’re working on as well, and the two can discuss the latest off-line or within the platform.

Focus on the whole person

It’s profoundly important that we not only include hourly and early-career workers in our engagement efforts

Analysis of ‘happiness’ at work has suggested that a key objective should be more than making workers feel good on the job. A focus should instead be on creating meaning in one’s work. That’s been shown to produce higher levels of engagement, as well as job satisfaction and, of particular importance in the high-volume hiring space, a much greater likelihood of staying with a current employer. So it’s profoundly important that we not only include hourly and early-career workers in our engagement efforts, but that we recognize the search for meaning, authenticity, connection, and belonging are as important for this segment of the workforce as every other.

Here are three examples of how we can work toward this:

  • Facilitate open, effective communication between hourly workers and their management teams from pre-hire onward
  • Help workers gain awareness of their unique strengths in the workplace
  • Foster excellent matches between workers and the roles they hold, encouraging internal mobility and growth paths

Track your success

Be sure to complement any new initiatives with clear KPIs for reflection and optimization. Are your outcomes what you expected? How can you adjust?  Be sure to gather feedback from stakeholders, with this you can create a Net Hiring Score (NHS) which is similar to a Net Promoter Score is one way to measure how well your hires perform. 

Closing Thoughts

Employers in high-volume hiring need to step into this space, using tools that recognize the needs of their audience and are built for a modern mindset.

Smart engagement tools can play a big role in all three — and beyond. There’s no longer any justification for limiting our engagement efforts. Employers in high-volume hiring need to step into this space, using tools that recognize the needs of their audience and are built for a modern mindset. If you are interested in learning more about high-volume hiring be sure to check out this master class on the topic. You’ll take a 60 minute deep dive into the strategy and tactics of successful high volume talent acquisition with the SVP of Hiring Success, Rebecca Carr.

Dan Sines

Dan Sines