As I talk with leaders of companies about permanently adopting remote work, they often ask, “What do I need to do differently to manage remote hourly workers vs. salaried employees?”
Some seem a little embarrassed by the question. Maybe they feel that just asking it suggests that they aren’t sure they can trust remote workers like they trust salaried employees. Or, maybe they feel that managing hourly workers remotely is more difficult because of issues such as supervision or overtime auditing and compliance.
After I assure them that their concerns are completely natural and OK, I quickly share the good news: While the approach may differ in some ways, hourly workers can be just as effective as salaried workers in a remote environment.
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In fact, absolutely no research indicates that hourly workers are any less trustworthy or will perform at a lower level when working remotely. Most people want to do a good job. I’ve worked with thousands of remote workers, and it’s rare for someone to intentionally neglect their duties, whether they clock in or work the same hours every day.
When preparing to have a remote, hourly workforce long-term, you need to think about how to unlock discretionary effort — inspiring employees to go above and beyond.
To do this, you must provide them with adequate support, the necessary tools for the job, and recognition for their efforts. You must also actively connect employees with the broader company mission. When employees feel their work has meaning, they put in more effort and feel more satisfied with their jobs, leading to greater productivity and retention.
Once you’ve considered how you will establish trust and inspiration, here are the operational tactics that will help ensure long term success for hourly workers:
- Provide remote-work training first. Everyone may struggle initially without training and guidance if they are new to remote work because supervision is different when leaders and workers can’t see each other as easily throughout the day. Increased training, supervision and check-ins will help hourly employees transition to full time remote work.
- Deploy smart metrics. “Smart” metrics are not about surveillance or tracking—they are about helping employees do their jobs. Putting in place smart metrics help identify training opportunities, process inefficiencies, and those who need help working from home—not monitoring their behavior. This is one area where managing hourly workers remotely may be easier than salaried workers because hourly tasks are often easier to measure.
- Ensure legal and compliance requirements are in place. Hourly workers are subject to more complex overtime laws, and the laws vary by state. You need strong processes and auditing to track hours, approval of overtime and more.
- Learn the different tactics needed to lead a virtual workforce and virtual teams. The surest method to guarantee remote workers — salaried or hourly — stay engaged is to build strong relationships with them and encourage them to build relationships with one another. Without face-to-face interaction, showing your human side is critical. Use the first 5-10 minutes of meetings for everyone to share a little bit about what’s going on in their lives. Bring your whole self to show what makes you tick as a person. Schedule virtual coffees or happy hours to check in on things other than business. Encourage employees to develop work friendships — research shows they make people more productive, happy and satisfied with their jobs. Simple measures like these go a long way to building trust.
- Hire for culture. Hiring for culture is a common strategy for finding salaried talent, but many companies overlook its importance when hiring for hourly roles. Remember: Your hourly employees may be the ones who are closest to your customers, goods or services. That makes them extremely valuable assets, so hire accordingly! Start by thinking through what makes employees successful at your company. What skills do they need to bring to the job, and which ones can you teach? Knowing that will help you hire hourly workers who fit into your culture and are pre-disposed to succeed.
So, if the thought of managing your hourly workers permanently makes you uncomfortable, don’t worry. Your hourly employees can absolutely perform as well virtually as salaried workers, simply by applying these additional steps and considerations.