How to Use Texting as a Way to Engage Hourly Employees

Of all the leadership and management tips and techniques available in business books, podcasts, newsletters, and other online sources, one of the most effective tasks to tackle is to get all of your employees engaged. Employees who are engaged in their work generate more productivity, become increasingly loyal, and are happier doing their jobs. Although there are standard methods for improving employee engagement, the conduits for implementing those methods may vary, and they should based on your employee generational and demographic makeup.

Business leaders today must become flexible in their delivery of methods and messages. Leaders have to be more like the chameleon, changing colors to suit his or her audience in order to reach the masses with their influences. In today's world, that includes using the latest technology, such as texting, to communicate to the organization's hourly workers for many purposes, but particularly to increase employee engagement.
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Reasons for Engagement

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hourly workers make up nearly 60 percent of all wage and salary workers in the US. The bulk of the workforce of most businesses, both large and small, are hourly employees. Since this is the case, and since we want our businesses to succeed in producing quality products and services, one of our goals should be to find a way to hire quality people and then hang on to them for as long as we can. Using texting as a tool for improving employee engagement will help you to keep your good employees.

A 2015 article by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) cited a study by PeopleMatter, a workforce management platform, that surveyed 974 service industry professionals. The study revealed that two-thirds of respondents stated they needed a larger pool of applicants and 60 percent are not satisfied with the current quality of applicants. Because of this, turnover for those surveyed was high, costing roughly $4,969 per employee. Pay service DailyPay found that the cost of turnover for warehouse workers can be up to 25% of employee's salary. Salary.com data uses the example of the average salary for warehouse workers at $28,000, meaning employers spend about $7,000 to replace every warehouse worker that leaves.

So what's the point? There will always be turnover of hourly workers, but you can reduce your turnover percentage by improving employee engagement. Engaged employees are committed to their work and to the goals, vision, and purpose of the company. An engaged employee wants to be there, wants to produce, wants to learn, and wants to grow with the organization. Learning how to engage employees should be a top priority for any business that wants to succeed.

Employee engagement increases customer satisfaction because people who are passionate about their work and truly in tune with their job description, are often the best people to interact with your customers. Engaged employees offer a better customer experience because they care about the outcome of the customer/business relationship.

The Rules of Engagement

Since we've established that getting employees more engaged is essential for not only the success of the company, but also for the organization's survival, we need to know how to actually get employees engaged. Your competitors are doing all they can to lure in, hire, train, and engage their workforce. If you're not at least keeping pace, you're falling behind and losing the race.

There are some basic standards or rules for getting and keeping your employees engaged. All of them can be implemented using traditional methods as well as using text for communicating to your hourly employees. Not all rules for engagement will apply at all times, but having these rules in your quiver for use when you need them is simply smart business.

In a study conducted by Bain and Company, responses from 200,000 surveyed employees in 40 companies, and in 60 countries uncovered three fascinating trends:

• Engagement scores decline as employee tenure increases. In other words, employees who know the most about the company and have the most experience are usually the least engaged.

• The employee engagement scores decline at the lowest levels of the organization, meaning the front lines, or for most companies, the hourly employees.

• Engagement levels are lowest in sales and service functions. Again, usually hourly employees, and unfortunately, where most interactions with the customers occur.

To address these three categories, business leaders should apply the following five practices for achieving full employee engagement:

1. Focus on the individual. While team concepts still work and everyone should strive to be a great team player, leaders need to first mentor employees and work on improving their essential strengths

2. Apply the Pareto Principle (the theory maintaining that 80 percent of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input), toward employee engagement by focusing on getting the top 20 percent of your hourly workers engaged first.

3. Make special days special, especially birthdays and work anniversaries

4. Give recognition frequently. Provide recognition and feedback for successful performances

5. Make it easy for employees to give feedback on anything. Truly listen to employee concerns, comments, and suggestions.

You may have noticed from the above practices that they all require time on the part of the leader, but it is time well worth investing. When conducting any of the above, keep in mind the ultimate outcome of full employee engagement, and the benefits that follow, and you will find that you too will become more engaged in the process.
The Tools of Engagement

About 74 million people, or roughly 60 percent of the workforce, are hourly workers. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of US Census Bureau data, 35 percent of the US workforce is made up of Millennials and by 2025, Generation Y will make up roughly 75% or the American workforce. The interesting point of these stats is that it is a more tech-savvy generation making up the workforce of our businesses than ever before. That means that if you are not already using the latest technology to communicate to your employees, you should consider learning now what buttons you need to push to get the best out of your team members.

One of the easiest, and most basic uses of technology to use to reach your workforce, is text messaging. As they say, "All the cool kids are doing it." In fact, another Pew Research Center report found that text messaging is the most widely used smartphone feature with fully 97% of smartphone owners surveyed having used text messaging at least once over the course of the study period, making it the most used basic app.

The study also found that text messaging is used most frequently— smartphone owners in this study reported having used text messaging in the past hour in an average of seven surveys, out of a maximum total of 14 across the one-week study period. Everyone is texting. Your employees, your managers—all your team members are texting about something. This is the obvious choice of tools you also want to use to engage your hourly employees.

Unfortunately, it is the hourly employees that often feel disconnected from the rest of the organization because many may not have easy access to email like their salaried counterparts, and when companies rely heavily on email for communication, hourly employees are often left out of the loop. Using text as an informal part of your company's digital internal communications system allows non-exempt workers to stay in contact with the rest of the company and helps to engage your hourly employees.

The use of text can also help with providing the flexibility of scheduling if someone must miss a shift and needs to swap or you need to fill the void. Hourly employees will typically have scheduling conflicts due to school, family, medical, etc., and by providing the use of text for shift swapping shows that they are valued and therefore they become more engaged in the company and their work. One cool tool for helping with scheduling, as well as managing pay, is Branch Messenger that shows the employee their schedule, their pay, what shifts are available and more.

A notice of caution: please make sure that whatever text you send that it is real, from the heart, and not phony flattery. Your employees will read through that and your texts will backfire. Think before you text and text only what is motivating and encouraging to truly achieve full employee engagement.
Begin with Texting

When should you begin to use text to communicate with your employees? The answer is: before they begin working with you. Use text to help new employees during the onboarding process, as reminders to fill out paperwork, bring important documents, and even to schedule interviews during the hiring phase. From the beginning of the employee's introduction to the company, set the tone that your company uses texting to communicate with them.

Once the use of text is set as a standard mode of communication, texting can then be used to achieve the five practices mentioned under the Rules for Engagement for achieving full employee engagement. For example:

1. Focusing on the Individual—Text the employee to let them know how important they are to the organization. Leadership expert, John C. Maxwell, in his book, Developing the Leader Within You, states that six of the most important words an employee can hear is, "What you do makes a difference." When an employee doesn't believe that what they are doing has a positive impact on the success of the company, they lose interest and become unengaged in their work. Their attitude toward their work becomes negative, and therefore their performance suffers.

Using text to motivate an employee is extremely powerful. For most hourly workers, their smart phone is their lifeline to the world, or at least their world. When they receive an encouraging text from their immediate supervisor, it has an immediate impact. The text is cherished. The employee walks taller and views the business as something that they are genuinely a significant part of.

2. Applying the Pareto Principle—By using text to communicate to the top 20 percent of your hourly employees, you are generating a two-prong benefit. First, you have a group of individuals who are begin to feel the motivation and encouragement from your texts. A tribe of sorts is developing of an elite group of loyal workers. If done right, the texts will be seen as a vehicle for them to get noticed. They realize their performance is being watched and appreciated.

The second benefit is that the remaining 80 percent of employees will typically begin to follow the "elite" 20 percent and want what they have. The employees who were performing below par may begin to show signs of improvement, (or they may leave, which may be a good thing), and eventually enter the top 20 percent club. Either way, the texting works to increase employee engagement.

3. Making Special Days Special—Keep a calendar or have someone remind you when an employee has a special day such as a birthday, a work anniversary, the birth of a child, etc. Address the employee by name, texting a congratulations or Happy Birthday along with a special note. Everyone wants to be remembered on special days. By texting on these dates, you are showing the employee that you are a human being and that you care about them and that they are more than a company asset.

4. Give Recognition Frequently—When an employee performs a task well or completes a project, do more than tell them so. Text them directly that you appreciate what they've done. In addition, send a company-wide text letting everyone know what a great job this employee did. Text an employee when they aren't even expecting it. For example, let's say you learn that an employee worked late to complete a deadline or went above and beyond to please a customer. Text them about what you've discovered and thank them for working so diligently to provide a great service.

5. Make it Easy for Employees to Give Feedback—When you open up the use of company-wide texting as a two-way communication tool, you increase the chances of full employee engagement tremendously. Make it known via the employee handbook, company policies, intranet messages, and especially through texting, that any and all feedback is accepted using text. Let the employees know that they are empowered to send creative ideas, suggestions, critique of a policy, customer service comments, and anything else directly to you.

Empowering your employees to even have some say in their schedule and other areas of work will help to increase employee engagement as well offer helpful suggestions that may help to reduce your company's administration time and effort. Incorporating some shift planner apps along with your texting efforts are a great way of giving some control back to your hourly employees. As mentioned before, DailyPay is a good one as well as WhenIWork, 7Shifts, and ShiftBoard. These all provide platforms for employees to view schedules, make shift requests, and send and receive texts.

The use of text for giving feedback should never be discouraged and just as important, acted upon. It is a good thing to provide this vehicle for employees to give their input, but it is useless if it stops there. The ideas, suggestions and comments need to be addressed and in a timely manner. A personal, not automated, return text should be sent at least within the first 24 hours after receiving it. This prompt response sends the message that your employees are being taken seriously and they are valued. A valued employee is an engaged employee. Eventually word spreads and others soon get involved with coming up with helpful, creative ideas.
"Let Me Have Your Digits"

Depending on the generation you're from, texting may or may not come natural for you. In fact, it may even seem a little impersonal to communicate using this format. But know that there is a particular portion of the population, and it is becoming larger everyday, who live by the text. It is their number one form for communicating. When you use it to send words of encouragement or recognition, you are sending a message to their heart as well as their mind.

In addition to the other benefits of using texting to enhance employee engagement, another great benefit is that the company leadership team can send to individual employees notices of possible advancement opportunities. Younger workers are more likely to become engaged and stay with a job if they can use their current position as a stepping stone to a career. Also, using texting as a tool to share resources available to employees such as classes at local colleges, deals on apartments and housing, and discounts at restaurants and entertainment hot spots offered through the company, is extremely beneficial to the employees.

The tools that can be used for creating a more engaged workforce will continue to evolve as technological advances continue at light speed. Keeping up with what is available is simply smart business. In the meantime, use the lifeline of your employees and text them often. It is one of the best modes of communication for increasing an engaged workforce.
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