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How to Foster Holiday Spirit Among Hourly Employees All Year Long

What if your hourly employees felt as engaged, motivated and united during the rest of the year as they do around the holidays?

Every December organizations celebrate the holidays by celebrating employees. These festivities, if only for a moment, create joy and unite teams. But imagine what would be possible if your frontline employees always felt this way. It may sound too good to be true, but you can employ a few strategies to keep employees engaged, motivated and united every day of the year. Here are a few ways:

1. Appreciate the difference between hourly and salaried employees.

The contrast between how these two groups experience work can’t be overstated. Executives with minimal contact with frontline employees may be out of touch with how they think and what they need. Grasping this distinction is key for effectively managing them.

All employees want fair compensation and respect. But salaried employees earn more of both. They enjoy the status of not having to punch in. They’re more likely to work full-time with predictable hours, dependable benefits, and reliable income. That makes it easier to plan a life and access credit. They have stability.

The data shows hourly employees tend to be younger, less educated, and have lower household incomes. Their work may be more physical or repetitive and less intellectual or creative. It’s also more likely they must work on site rather than remotely.

Hourly workers are more likely to be juggling multiple jobs. They may be going to school or revolving around other family members’ schedules. They may have their hours reduced, or they may have their hours changed. This uncertainty in both income and schedule necessitates frequent life adjustment.

Hourly workers often have fewer growth opportunities on their current job path. Their connection with the company may also be more transactional than relational. If they feel less loyalty from the organization, they’ll feel less loyal to the organization.

Great leadership starts with empathy. Take time to understand how your employees live and what they feel so you can come up with ways to make them feel better. Customize your company’s messaging, management, and incentives to align with their sensibility and lifestyle. 

2. Provide more emotional compensation.

The holiday spirit is about more than receiving physical gifts or bonuses; it’s also about warmth, appreciation, and belonging. Hourly employees may not receive the same financial benefits as their salaried colleagues, but they also have important emotional needs at work you may be able to satisfy. Some value flexibility. Others might seek recognition, personal growth, or a sense of belonging. In certain cases, the workplace serves as a sanctuary from challenging personal circumstances. Everyone’s needs vary.

If you train your frontline managers to tap into how employees feel, they’ll more readily influence how they work. We all know a better customer experience creates loyalty. If you serve them in a way that elevates their emotions, they’ll remember you, talk about you, and come back for more. That’s also true for your hourly team. They’ll do more for a workplace that offers a higher emotional payoff, and will be less likely to leave for someplace offering slightly higher financial payoff. A workplace that feels good is more attractive and more retentive.

Making hourly employees feel good shouldn’t be a seasonal practice. Work all year long to make them feel valued, to give them purpose, and to create a unified culture. They should be paid fairly. But what you give them matters less than how you treat them.

3. Bring your culture onto the floor.

Mission and value statements with grandiose or abstract language might not directly connect with the day-to-day experiences of someone on the front lines, such as an assembly line worker or a customer service representative. Instead of broadly stating they’re ‘improving the world,’ illustrate how their specific contributions positively impact the company and its customers. Additionally, when discussing core values like “Integrity,” provide clear, relatable examples. I advise my clients to express their values as a tangible a list of behaviors — essentially do’s and don’ts – that reflect their values. For “Integrity” they might say:

• We always tell the truth.

• We follow through on our commitments.

• We admit our mistakes.

• We treat each other fairly.

These specific agreements reflect the value but are easier to understand. That makes it easier to hold them accountable. Have your managers discuss these behaviors regularly and reference the value agreements in every acknowledgement and reprimand.

Just as the holiday season brightens the workplace atmosphere, embedding your culture in everyday interactions ensures that this spirit of connection and recognition thrives throughout the year, enhancing employee engagement and fostering a stronger sense of belonging.

As a CEO, remember: the greatest gift isn’t just festive cheer during the holidays, but nurturing that spirit of appreciation and connection every day. Keep the holiday magic alive in your actions, and watch your team bring that same sparkle back to the company all year long.


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