The world wide web is full of articles glorifying the virtues of long-term employees, employee engagement, and the value of reducing churn.
You can read a lot of that content on this very blog, in fact. We're glad to make the argument that every employee is worth fighting for and churn should never be part of a business plan.
Let's be realistic.
Not every employee is sticking around.
- The 17 year-old flipping burgers is gone as soon as school starts.
- The unemployed IT professional is only delivering pizzas until he can find a job befitting his skills.
- The dishwasher who just needs a few bucks to make rent may just stop showing up one day.
Sure, it'd be great to present these employees with career paths that will grow their skills, and keep them active and productive in your business for years to come.
There are many jobs that simply require a warm body. The company needs the help immediately, the applicant actually showed up for the interview and proved they're not an axe murderer.
Every company has these employees. They just need to be reliable and on-time.
What can you do to keep them returning? What can you do to ensure they stay dialed-in while they're on the clock?
Just as importantly, how can you make sure they don't alienate other employees or sabotage your business? (Think of the numerous incidents wherein fast food employees added "extra ingredients" to the food.)
Management and culture play the biggest roles. Compensation matters as well.
We're going to focus on an area not commonly associated with short-term employees: employee benefits and perks.
Even if the employee is part-time, here are some ways you can use your employee benefits and corporate perks to maximize the effectiveness of your short-term employees - and possibly turn them into long-term employees.
Employee Perks that Encourage Performance
To get the most reliability and performance from obvious short-term employees, your benefits must address two areas: their on-site, working experience, and their personal lives.
First, let's look at some perks ideas that encourage good work habits:
- Tangible Incentives
Reward employees that consistently clock-in on time every day. Maybe it's a cash bonus every two weeks, or perhaps a free ticket to a sporting event for each month of on-time working. The key is something tangible and valuable that you can hand an employee while telling them how much you appreciate their effort.
Remember, recognition from a manager is one of the key drivers of performance, even more than salaries.
- A Full-Suite of Benefits (After a Time Performance)
Some companies like UPS withhold their benefits until employees reach 30 days. This is ideal if you're going to offer big-ticket benefits like health and dental.
If this is the route you choose to pursue, you'll still need to find a way to reward employees from day one. Onboarding matters, and short-term employees might just not show up for day two if day one stinks.
Whether it's a small bonus or a some company swag, reward their decision to show up and work for your company.
- Employee Discounts
Speaking of swag, an easy way to show value to employees is offering them discounts on your own products.
The best thing about this approach is it builds familiarity with the products and encourage employees to take some responsibility for their role in creating or selling it.
- Food and Transportation
A major reason why many employees stop coming to work is they simply can't get a ride, or they don't have a reliable way to get from home to the office. Help them out by paying for public transportation or arranging subsidized carpools through services like vRide.
On a related note, meals and snacks are another way to add a lot of perceived value to employees without spending a ton. Even the occasional on-site snack or meal can help short-term employees.
An employee who's eaten has energy and one less problem to worry about, which brings us to the second focus of your benefits - solving real-life problems these employees experience.
Employee Perks that Solve Common Problems
Life gets in the way of work for most folks. Everyone has outside stress that bleeds into our 9-to-5s.
As a result, companies are finding opportunity through helping employees manage these non-work problems.
Here are a few low-cost benefits you can offer your short-termers that will help them live better lives - and appreciate your role in them.
We suggested companies offer employees discounts on their own products, but they should take it a step further and offer savings on everyday purchases employees make.
For Americans, and particularly the type of people who are working short-term jobs, there's no bigger source of stress than finances.
You can't always pay them more, but a discount program for employees can help keep a lot of dollars in their pockets.
- Employee Assistance Programs
There are some things that won't be discussed with a manager, or anyone else for that matter.
Whether it’s a personal issue or a complaint about working, EAPs are a valuable resource for employees who need guidance or assistance. What's important is making sure employees know their EAP is available and private.
- Advanced Learning Opportunities
While this article focuses on making sure you maximize the daily output of short-term employees, each of them should be given an opportunity to do more if they're interested. For these folks, doing more begins with learning more.
You don't have to build a full management programs like McDonald's famous Hamburger University. It might be as simple as job shadowing programs that allow the dish washer to serve under the chef for an hour or two each week. Or it could be giving employees access to learning resources like Lynda.com.
Ideally the skills they pick up will someday be applied to your business. Help them along an in-house career path if you can.
If not, at least you're helping employees get one step closer to their dreams.
Bonus Tip: If you rely on students to fill roles, explore ways to contribute to their learning through scholarship contributions or reimbursement benefits.
- Flexible Schedules
Most short-term jobs can't be done from home, but schedules are still unpredictable. Offer shift-sharing and swapping when staffing permits. It's small, but employees will even appreciate being able to take half an hour to pick up a kid from school, or a couple hours for a tee ball game.
For part-time employees, odds are they're part-time just because they need the free hours. It makes a big difference to employees when they can adjust work to their life schedules, to the point where they're willingly kneecapping their careers to do so.
Speaking of kneecapping, ask any retail or call center manager about accommodating schedules and you might get hurt. But as painful as it can be, the ability to adjust working hours means a great deal to employees.
Employee Engagement is Nice, But Let's Be Realistic
It's nice to talk about culture and high engagement. But when you're running a laundromat, auto shop, call center, data-entry shop, even a retail store, engagement takes a back seat to reliability and performance.
You'd love to retain them if only to cut down on the time you spend trying to find applicants and save money on training.
But again, retention takes a back seat to urgency. And sometimes there's just not a "career" to be had in a small, flat operation.
Shape a benefits package designed to encourage reliability and good behavior. Create performance perks for the employees that show up each day and do what they need to do.
Look to impact their lives outside of the office. Contribute solutions to their common problems - saving money, getting around town, finding meals, eliminating debt, saving for school.
There are costs for these things, but they're going to be less than what you'd spend trying to attract a revolving door of workers.
It's worth being a little generous in your benefits if it means your customers will have a better experience, as well as your employees.