How to Retain Minimum Wage Employees

A significant part of your business’ success may depend on minimum wage workers. Here are ways you can support and retain them.

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Confident businesswoman standing by the shelves and smiling in supermarket. Female manager at a grocery store.

As the Great Resignation has made abundantly clear, minimum wage and low wage workers are ditching the workforce like never before. The movement here in the United States was “preceded by a far greater — decades ­long, arguably — stagnation in worker wages and benefits,” The Washington Post reports. “Earnings haven’t matched the pace of inflation in low-paying jobs, yet work grew more informal and dangerous.

Putting up with awful customers to hopefully secure a decent tip and reach a livable wage is grueling work. It’s no wonder why, after the pandemic that has given all of us an opportunity to re­think our careers, minimum wage workers are either hesitant or straight up refusing to go back to their previous working conditions.

The Great Resignation has made it abundantly clear that retaining minimum wage workers is critical. They’re not unskilled workers who can easily be replaced. Instead, they’re a vital part of many businesses’ success or failure in the modern market.

This new respect for minimum wage workers has exposed how clueless many are about what keeps them happy. Perhaps you’re veering into minimum wage positions for the first time after the economic fallout of the pandemic. Maybe you’re realizing how much your business’ success relies on your lowest paid workers. Regardless, here are some strategies for retaining minimum wage employees.

Get to know them and appreciate them

Just like your salaried workers, leadership should invest in personally getting to know each and every one of your workers. Not only does this show them that they’re important to the work that your business is doing, it also gives the higher­ ups and opportunity to stay connected to the lowest ranks of the company.

This also helps leadership stay in touch with what work is like for lower­ wage employees. That understanding ladders up to an awareness about what can be done to improve it. Ultimately, it helps retain your minimum wage talent.

These kinds of interactions are one way that you should be expressing your company’s gratitude and appreciation for the critical work that they do which keeps your business running day in and day out. Just like your salaried employees, both feeling and actually being appreciated at work is a central element of employee retention.

Ensure that your training is effective

Without proper training, your workers will be set up to fail. This increases the chances of negative work experiences that can lead workers to the door.

When your workers haven’t been properly trained, it’s going to be a struggle for them to not just excel, but to even perform adequately in the first place. If a worker is constantly being reprimanded for not doing a good enough job that they were never adequately taught how to do, that’s a recipe for a resignation.

The idea that minimum wage work is generally unskilled labor is a myth — anyone who has been doing any job long enough will find ways to be better and more efficient at it. Make sure you’re giving your workers the tools they need to succeed.

The idea that minimum wage work is generally unskilled labor is a myth — anyone who has been doing any job long enough will find ways to be better and more efficient at it.

Offer flexibility and benefits

Life comes at you fast and unpredictably. We all need the time, space, and flexibility to deal with the hassles of life as they come up. A rigid system that forces workers to pick between work and family life will result in most choosing the latter. So, make sure they don’t have to make that choice.

Whether that’s taking a collaborative approach to assigning shifts, rewarding those who step up to cover shifts for those who can’t work on a given day, or extending the healthcare, retirement matching, and other benefits that your salaried workers enjoy, one way to retain your minimum wage talent is to offer perks that they’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

Provide growth and promotion opportunities

A person working in a low-paying role doesn’t mean they can’t become the next great leader of your company. Chances are, in fact, that they’re uniquely positioned to do so. They’re probably the people that know your company’s most basic and central inner workings like the back of their hands.

From creating a clear path towards advancement and skill acquisition for your lowest paid workers, you’re also making a smart business move. It’s often cheaper to train an existing employee than it is to hire and train a new employee.

When it comes to competing for talent, the ability to advance within the company or acquire skills is going to set you apart from much of the competition. And that’s particularly important for companies that might not be able to pay top dollar in wages.

Create a healthy work environment

You may have lower wage employees that work in a warehouse or other building that’s separate from more corporate offices. This can mean they may often be left out of all the attention that gets paid to company culture.

Make sure that the values and standards you’ve set at your business apply to all of your workers. That doesn’t mean, however, that the positive work environment you’re striving for has to look the same across the board.

Tailor your investments to the unique needs of your minimum wage employees. Maybe that’s an employee of the month recognition that comes with a front­ row parking spot for the next month. Maybe it means opting for better coffee and accompaniments than the standard Folgers they’ve been imbibing previously.

If all else fails, you can always increase their pay. Just because there’s a minimum wage doesn’t mean that you can’t offer more.

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