Why Your Hourly Employees Can Make or Break You

The thankless hourly employees are on the front lines with customers.

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Suzanne Lucas
How important is your hourly workforce? Not very, right? Turnover is high and morale is low—and why shouldn't it be? It's a thankless, unimportant job. Right?

I hate this attitude. Your front line can make or break your business. Sure, your highly paid senior people deal with strategy and design and complex financial issues. But, if you don't have any customers, those things won't matter. And who does the customer deal with? Let me tell you, it's not the VP of Marketing. It's the person with the thankless job. Do you want your business to increase? Value your front line.

Let me give you two examples.

Monday evening, my family attended a carnival. My daughter and I were standing in line for a ride behind a group of—well, let's just say that one of the males wore a T-shirt that read: "I Smoke So $%#! Off." In addition to the profane T-shirt, they were obnoxious, rude, and violated the safety precautions of the ride. (On a side note, the females looked like they had wandered off a set of an '80s Cyndi Lauper video. I so don't understand that.)

The ride operator (a front-line employee) handled these people with such class that I kept thinking about how I could possibly hire this person to work for me. He kicked them off the ride and told them not to come back (which was absolutely necessary for the safety of all concerned), and he did it well. He also made sure that the rest of us were taken care of. I honestly felt like this man cared about my safety.

On the other hand, a few weeks ago, my family went on vacation and rented a car. We were on the last flight of the night, and the car rental guy was anxious to go. So anxious, in fact, that he left without giving us the necessary paperwork to exit the garage. We called the company's national number, and a front-line person said, "Well, I guess you'll just have to wait until morning."

Ummm, yes, I'll just sit with my family in a rental car garage all night. Thanks. Fortunately, another company's front-line employee was able to help us out.

Now, I probably won't be running a carnival any time soon, but if I do, I know I'm going to go straight to the company that ran this one. I told all my friends about this guy. They were impressed. They have positive feelings. And, quite frankly, it's not unlikely that one of them will be on a committee (church, fire station, county fair) that is responsible for hiring a company to provide carnival rides.

I also told all my friends about my car rental nightmare. I won't ever rent from this company again, and neither will they. Everyone was horrified at the carelessness exhibited by the car rental's front line.

Still think your hourly workforce isn't important to your company's success? Think again.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.