Five Ways to Engage YOUR Working Poor Employees

Gotta make those ends meet

Gotta make those ends meet

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor. -James Baldwin

Living in one of the fastest growing cities in America, Seattle WA, has brought about a lot of challenges for the people who are already here. It's estimated that 1100 new people move to Seattle each week. Looking on Craigslist this morning, the cheapest one bedroom apartment listed within the city limits was $1500 per month. A worker earning $15 hourly, full time has just $700 left after paying rent to take care of the rest of life’s expenses.

Rents in Seattle have climbed 57% in the last six years (source:  Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times, March 27, 2017) and there isn't a pay raise out there that can keep up with that sort of increase.

With rising rents and higher cost of living, it’s easy to be stressed about finances and that can adversely affect workplace productivity and engagement. As productivity and engagement drop, so does retention. Hiring and rehiring is expensive and time consuming. Here are 5 ways to help your low wage workers, particularly if you lack the extra funds to turn them into high wage workers!

1: Equity explained: Workers become demotivated if they do not feel they are being treated equitably. Engaged employees understand why they are getting paid what they earn and the processes involved in getting more pay.

2: Flexibility for family life: Low income workers frequently have little control over scheduling, struggle with childcare and managing many other parts of life outside of the workplace. Predictable scheduling and access to resources for common issues can help people to navigate through their challenges without having to take time off of work.

3. Additional Benefits: Consider what challenges your workers face. Is is transportation? Providing discounted bus passes may be a low cost way to address the issue. Gathering information on common barriers employees face may help you to find solutions that don’t cost much and built loyalty in the workplace.

4. Practice kindness: Employees appreciate being… well… appreciated. Make a habit of gratitude, acknowledgement and engaged interest in the work your employees do. They are your best resource to improve your business.

5. Incentive programs: Even the leanest running business can offer incentives. Workers want to be able to get something beyond what’s been promised to them and incentive programs, whether financial, additional time off,  will give your employees a sense of control over their work.

Every business has a mission and engaged and effective employees are perhaps the most important factor in business success. What are you doing to be a positive force for your employees? I would love to hear about what you’ve tried and your results.

Jeff Southard works to reduce barriers for low-wage workers to increase retention for area employers.

Jeff SouthardComment