By Mel Kleiman
Except for the recent brouhaha about raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, the business press routinely ignores the approximately 60% of American workers, who are hourly employees.
A recent article in Fast Company, titled “These Are the New Rules of Work” is, by far, more typical. The article’s subhead reads: “Forget everything you’ve always known about work. The rules have changed.”
Well, maybe they’ve changed for a smaller percentage of the white-collar workforce, but most of us in the convenience store industry—and most other industries—are stuck with the old rules.
Here are that article’s main points as well as my real-world take on what the work world is truly like for the employees who are the backbone of the c-store industry.
Old Rule: You commute to work every day.
New Rule: Work can happen wherever you are, anywhere in the world.
Not if you work in a c-store or any one of the 10 industrial groupings that make up the Standard Industrial Classification System (agriculture/forestry/fishing, mining, construction, manufacturing, transportation/communications/utilities, wholesale, retail, finance/insurance/real estate, services and government).
Yes, technology has moved some activities from in-person, face-to-face transactions to the virtual, online world and telecommuters do account for about 2.6% of workers but, to greet customers, stock shelves or ring up sales, you have to be on site.
Old Rule: Work is “9 to 5.”
New Rule: You’re on call 24/7.
Did you ever know anyone in the c-store world whose hours were 9 a.m.-5 p.m.? Were frontline workers paid for their lunch break or did they work those eight hours straight and skip lunch all together?
And the “new rule” certainly isn’t new to our c-store managers who have been on call 24/7 since the industry’s inception. As for hourly workers, hardly anyone in any industry, with the exception of emergency workers, is ever “on call 24/7” because employers willing to pay any overtime at all are few and far between. (Most frontline staffers consider themselves lucky if they can get even 36 hours a week.)
Old Rule: You have a full-time job with benefits.
New Rule: You go from gig to gig, project to project.
Contingent/freelance workers now comprise about 40% of the workforce and, while this is a dramatic change, it’s most likely temporary because as the economy steadily rebounds and unemployment drops to new lows, employers will have to look at adding benefits in order to successfully compete for new hires.
Old Rule: You work for money to support yourself and your family.
New Rule: You work because you’re “passionate” about a movement or a cause—you “love what you do.”
Once again, I disagree. The old rule still rules because we all have bills to pay. I do think we all dream of a better world, where everyone from the janitor to the CEO knows their job is crucial to the success of the organization and, because of that, all bring their passionate enthusiasm to the tasks at hand.
Here are a few suggestions about how you might make that the case for your organization:
Paint the big picture. If your CEO takes a day off, how many customers will notice or care? However, if there’s no fresh coffee or the restroom isn’t clean, how will that affect business? An example like this makes the frontline worker’s responsibilities seem more important than the CEO’s—and, in many ways, they are.
Reinforce positive behaviors. Recognition, praise and appreciation cost nothing and make employees eager to go to work each day.
Enable communications. A great way to make everyone feel like a key player within the organization is to solicit their opinions, feedback and ideas on a regular basis.
Create fun. People are naturally attracted to places where they think they might have fun. If you can make work fun for your employees, they’ll make it fun for your customers, and both will keep coming back.
Mel Kleiman is the president of Humetrics and an internationally-recognized speaker, consultant, and author on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees and their managers. For more information, call (713) 771-4401, email [email protected] or visit www.humetrics.com.