How to Retain Minimum-Wage Employees



As COVID-19 restrictions are lifting across the country, more stores and restaurants are hiring back employees. Most of these jobs will be paid at the minimum wage or at a low wage. Now more than ever, employers want to know how to retain minimum-wage employees.

Recently, a member asked me, “How do you retain minimum-wage employees and stop them from job hopping?” This question made me think about my first job. Although I was making minimum wage, I didn’t mind because I was excited to go to work every day.

The environment was fun, stress-free, had free food, and my manager always had a positive attitude. I still remember my manager telling everyone, “Thank you for all you do,” after every shift versus saying “Good-bye.” It was sincere and made me feel appreciated. We also celebrated each other’s birthdays and employment milestones with cake, balloons and personal touches. These little things helped set the manager apart from others, created employee loyalty, retained employees and contributed to the company’s family-like culture. 

Although an employer cannot stop employees from looking for a new job, here are some top ways to retain low-wage employees:

Employee recognition program. It comes as no surprise that workers want to feel that their achievements are recognized and the work they do is worthwhile.  Simply saying “thank you” is a powerful, nonfinancial way to motivate employees. Try to be specific for greater effect; for example, “Thanks for helping with the new scheduling system. The team really appreciates the training and tips you provided.” Also, don’t wait too long to say thanks. The longer you take to say thanks, the less sincere it will be. An effective recognition program can elevate a company and set it apart from others.

Flexibility and benefits. Flexibility and benefits are also important for minimum-wage employees. If your business can provide a competitive benefits package, you'll be a step ahead of the competition. Benefits like 401(k) and health and dental insurance are always in demand. Also, a healthy work/life balance is essential to job satisfaction, and people need to know that their managers understand they have lives outside of work. Encourage staff to take their vacation time.

Career training. Employees at any level value career development. This is more important than ever for low-wage workers when financial incentives are few and far between. A manager can ensure that internal job vacancies are advertised and that there is equal opportunity for all to progress. For example, you can broadcast career-success stories, like workers who came in at entry-level and worked their way up to a higher-paid role.  Employees want to be confident that they will have the ability to grow their skill set through on-the-job mentoring and training opportunities. Develop training and upskilling initiatives if you want to be able to attract and retain the most ambitious young professionals.

Positive Environment. One of the most effective things an employer can do is to create a positive environment for all employees. In such an environment, employees are more likely to feel motivated and engaged, have higher job satisfaction, and feel less stress at work. A positive office environment can also boost your employees' productivity and reduce your chances of dealing with frequent absenteeism. Also, make it fun! Some companies organize softball games, kickball teams and outdoor movie events.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “money’s not everything.” I may not have been paid a lot at my first job, but it had a lasting impression on me in how the company valued me and my co-workers. A big part of employee retention is creating a company culture that fosters appreciation. You can do that by showing you care, providing incentives, throwing in some free food for special occasions and just saying THANK YOU!


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