Boost the performance of your hourly workers
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Boost the performance of your hourly workers

Boost the performance of your hourly workers

So, what's the most stressful part of running your franchise?

I pose this question to franchisees before every conference keynote. Most answer the same: "employees." High turnover, frequent call-outs, apathy—many franchisees just can't get the stability and performance they need from employees.

Franchisors prepare franchisees for marketing and operations but not as much for managing employees, especially hourly employees. They themselves may not have figured it out. Others steer clear of anything HR-related to avoid joint employer status (which may be happening anyway). This is unfortunate because many new franchisees come with little or no management experience. Others have experience in a corporate, white-collar setting only to find the leadership tactics that worked with salary employees don't translate to hourly workers.

I struggled with employees during my initial tenure as a franchisee with Edible Arrangements, and it caused me tremendous stress. With my business (and my reputation as a speaker) on the line, I had to crack the code for managing hourly workers. Slowly, we figured it out, improving retention, employee satisfaction, customer service reviews, and sales. Our stores became more fun and less stressful.

Over the past year, I've reflected on that experience and interviewed other franchisees who've built thriving hourly teams. What Amy Hudson does at The Exercise Coach aligns with Justin Stewart's approach in his many KFC restaurants and Hajira Khan's methods at Kiddie Academy. These insights form the core of my new book, Stop the Shift Show. The good news is their tactics are replicable.

Meet your employees' "soft needs." Most businesses focus on "hard needs," the tangible things people want from a job, such as money and benefits. They're what employees get. "Soft needs" refer to their emotional desires—what employees feel. These include respect, praise, personal growth, safety (including emotional safety), and a sense of belonging. A franchisee can spend only so much on labor, but they can compensate by creating a great work environment that appeals to workers on an emotional level.

The more you can identify what drives your team emotionally—beware of making assumptions—the easier it'll be to motivate them. Employees should be paid fairly, but businesses that also elevate employees' emotional experience the way they strive to elevate customers' emotional experience will become employers of choice.

Get your culture off the poster and onto the floor. Mission and value statements are often way too abstract or grand to be meaningful for those doing manual, repetitive work. Are you sure they know what "integrity" actually looks like on the job? I encourage my clients to make their values more tangible by emphasizing behaviors that reflect each value. For "integrity" they might say:

  • We always tell the truth.
  • We follow through on our commitments.
  • We admit our mistakes.

These agreements reflect the value but are easier to understand. They also make it easier to hold employees accountable. Discuss these behaviors a lot and celebrate those who consistently demonstrate them. Reprimands should also reference these behaviors as a breaking of the values agreement.

Management training

If you have more than one or two underperforming workers, there's a good chance it may also be management that needs improving. Many managers are promoted due to job competence. They were great workers and probably demonstrated reliability and a good attitude. They may know your policies and procedures. They may have many job skills. However, this doesn't guarantee they possess the necessary people skills to engage employees, build culture, or resolve conflict.

Frontline management is a completely different skill set than frontline work. Unfortunately, the average manager works 10 years leading others before getting any formal training in people management. Invest time helping your managers with the people side of their work. The ROI on that investment will be much better hourly work.

You may not believe it's possible to build a strong, reliable team of frontline employees. I sympathize, but I can't ignore the results I've gotten or those of the many diverse employers I've observed. They've proven it's possible. You can transform your frontline employees from your biggest challenges into your greatest asset. But only if you're willing to provide them with the greatest management.

Scott Greenberg is a speaker, writer, and coach who helps franchisees grow their businesses. He's the author of The Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar. His upcoming book, Stop the Shift Show: Turn Your Struggling Hourly Workers into a Top-Performing Team, will be released in February. Learn more at

Published: January 22nd, 2024

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