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Attracting Talent, Retaining Employees, and Putting an End to Your Hourly Worker “Shift Show”

Try Googling phrases like “leadership speaker,” “management speaker,” or “employee retention expert.” You’ll see many familiar names. Notice their backgrounds. Most of them come from large white-collar companies. Others are academics or motivational speakers. I don’t want to knock these people. There are some brilliant minds there that I deeply admire. But the kind of people they talk about leading are different from the type of workers I managed for more than a decade—and the type of workers you may be trying to lead now—hourly workers. Even those who founded companies and started from the ground up performing hourly work themselves, tend to focus their advice on high-level organizational leadership.

I do a lot of training and consulting for franchise and retail businesses, which are massive sectors relying on hourly workers. In franchising, many owners come to their business after exiting other occupations, often corporate jobs. Many people who’ve led large teams of salaried professionals struggle with managing hourly workers. So many of the leadership and teambuilding tactics that worked for them in their old jobs just don’t translate to this unique (yet huge) slice of the workforce.

For the first few years running my own franchise business, I, too, struggled with my hourly crew. I couldn’t get the teamwork, the peak performance, or the employee retention I wanted. Despite my determination to be a great boss, some of my employees ghosted me. Others stole from me. One of the first team members we fired had been calling ahead for others to punch her in when she was running late. Another called out on Valentine’s Day (our busiest day) because she had to help her grandmother move. I once checked the surveillance cameras on my phone and found my assistant manager doing an employee’s hair. A few succumbed to drug addiction. Several great employees left to make an extra dollar per hour at a business down the street. Many just moved slowly, repeated their mistakes, and topped out at mediocre. I’d been talking about leadership on stage for years. Doing it for real was extremely stressful. It made me cynical.

I spoke with other business owners operating in my industry and realized I wasn’t alone in my difficulties managing employees in this unique sector of the workforce. Most people I knew who dealt with hourly workers had no idea how to get through to them. They’d stopped trying and basically accepted that employees were a necessary evil of running their business.

Noticing how much frustration was out there, I saw an opportunity. Sure, I wanted to resolve my own employee issues. But I also realized that if I could figure out how to lead hourly workers, I could bring something very helpful to my clients. I could go beyond theory. I could share practical, real-world, on-the-ground tools that could change the game for a lot of bosses.

I embarked on a new mission that was as much about learning as it was about earning. Thinking in those terms shifted my mindset to something more productive. I replaced my frustration with curiosity and began asking different questions. Instead of wondering, “What’s wrong with these people?” I asked, “What drives these people?” I had different conversations with Jennifer, my general manager. In addition to reviewing our daily operations and specific team members, we took a step back and discussed what we could learn generally about employee management. My business became a laboratory to experiment with new strategies for interviewing, training, employee retention, coaching, motivation, etc. The goal was always to think beyond our business and find tactics that could help anyone managing hourly teams.

I also conducted numerous field interviews. My work as a business speaker connects me with many organizations, and I always interview audience members in advance. My first book, The Wealthy Franchisee, drew from interviews I had with the top franchise operators from a variety of industries. Now I started requesting time with business leaders who had top-performing hourly teams. I wanted to understand what they were doing differently. How were they attracting employees? Why did they have better employee retention? What kind of management training did they go through or take their managers through? What made these people different, and what about them could be replicated?

We started to crack the code. Slowly, through a lot of trial and error, mistakes, and mis-hires, we saw improvements. We continually refined our approach to management, and we got noticeable results. Employee retention improved. Sales increased, not just with more transactions but also with an increase in our average ticket size. Online reviews from customers improved. The atmosphere became more pleasant and fun. I could leave town to go speak somewhere and return to fewer problems and more money in the bank. Employees began socializing outside of work. Soon, my team won the Edible Arrangements “Best Customer Service” award out of a thousand locations worldwide. The following year, Edible Arrangements created a brand-new award: “Manager of the Year.” The inaugural award went to my manager, Jennifer.

Other owners began stopping by to see what we were doing with our team. Many would ask, “Where do you find such great people?” believing that great staffing was just knowing where to fish. Eventually I was asked to speak from the main stage to my peers at the Edible Arrangements convention about what they can do to build high-performing teams.

With the help of my employees, our first Edible Arrangements store became one of the highest-volume locations in California, often ranking number one in the state. Then we acquired one of the lowest-performing locations in the state. My team significantly boosted its sales ranking and online reviews and made it profitable within a year—all while keeping labor costs at or below our benchmark.

But I’ll be honest: At no point were we without personnel issues. Where there are people, there are problems. Always. Even our best employees can lose focus. They make mistakes, get bored, squabble among themselves, and bring personal problems to work. People always need feedback, motivation, and redirection to get back on track. That just comes with managing people. What we had were significantly fewer problems and significantly better performance.

Some of the key concepts we learned for managing hourly workers include:

Appreciating the Differences Between Hourly Workers and Those on Salary:

This group has different needs, challenges, motivations, skill sets, and opportunities. Management must lead accordingly.


Managers need more awareness of their own biases, opinions, frustrations, and outdated ways of thinking and leading. They must continually improve and adapt to today’s workforce.

Workplace Culture:

Managers must establish positive psychological, social, and behavioral norms among their team. Buying them pizza, awarding gift cards, and “treating them like family” are nice gestures, but that’s not how you build culture.

Employee Coaching:

Employees must be continuously coached for high performance. Managers must quickly diagnose what each employee needs in a given moment for a given task, and coach accordingly to make them great and, just as important, keep them great.

Performance Measurement:

Hourly workers need clear benchmarks to work toward. They need clear expectations and ways to measure their own progress.

Whether you’re in the restaurant and hospitality industry, retail, manufacturing, franchise, or other business relying on frontline employees, there are universal truths about managing hourly workers that can significantly boost your team’s performance. And if you’re in HR, you play a critical role in shaping your workforce. Your hourly workforce has unique needs. I’d love to help you meet them.

What Makes Scott an Expert in Leadership, Management

  • More than a decade of running two retail businesses (Edible Arrangements), training managers, and building teams of hourly employees
  • Franchise won “Best Customer Service” and “Manager of the Year” out of more than 1000 locations worldwide.

Contact Scott today to learn how his books, courses, and presentations can help your organization build a top-performing team!

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