The full-time, long-term, hourly employee might need to go the way of the Dodo

For many years, I have informally proposed the idea that a full-time, long-term, hourly employee in an organization might not be an ideal model for individual or organizational success.

Having been an hourly employee myself for many years, I will say that personally, I did not appreciate being called as-such.

Were somehow the salaried employees more worthy than me or contribute more than I did while doing the near same work?

I have always said that someone who comes in exactly at 9:00, leaves for lunch at 12:00, back at 1:00 and out of the office by 5:00, in itself reflects someone who is very good at looking at their watch.

From my experience and perspective, in itself, there is no link with this precise punching in and out and quality work.

Moreover, in the context of working from home, are employers supposed to be tracking how many hours an hourly employee really works? Or will hourly employees be expected to come to the office on-site even if they can work from home just because they are not salaried?

Granted, there is now legislation that requires employers to pay a part-time employee the same hourly rate as a full-time employee doing the exact same work even if they don’t necessarily have to provide benefits. One this front, I am completely on-board.

From another perspective, what if someone who is expected to come in for an 8-hour shift can actually do the work well and at a high quality in 6 hours. Should they report 6 hours and not get paid 8 hours?

Or is it likely this person might simply stretch-out the shift to 8 hours so as not to attract attention for being efficient and effective?

I recently took an on-line course and during a break-out session, a participant admitted that during the pandemic, in working from home, they got all their daily necessary work done in 3 hours.

Now, imagine you were their supervisor, you might question how this is possible or give them more work i.e., punish them for being efficient and effective. Yet, might you  see it differently and given them a reward?

What would your Human Resources area suggest if they were an hourly employee?

What would your Human Resources area suggest if they were a salaried employee?

In my estimation, by focusing on the hourly component of the job, we might be focusing on the wrong place and not measuring what actually matters.

Imagine you hired me as a form of consultant, what if I were able to give you an idea that saved your organization $5K in recurring cost savings year-over-year and I was able to do this in 5 minutes, should I charge and bill you for only 5 minutes?

Furthermore, if the new reality of work will be a hybrid of working from home and in the office, what happens to people who can’t work from home yet who are still full-time, long-term staff?

Those that can work from home will have awesome flexibility and those that can’t have the same hourly rigidity?

Surly for those who can’t work from home the least we can do is show them some level of flexibility and maybe even pay them for the quality of work they do versus the hours they are on-site at work.

I am fully aware that some jobs are naturally better suited to hourly remuneration and also for some short-term contracts, assignments or part-time work.

Also, there are those that would likely argue that direct labour hours need to be tracked for cost accounting to determine budgeting, pricing and billing.

Furthermore, I know this is a complex matter and would need to factor labour standards and collective bargaining agreements and more.

Yet, perhaps with this, a seed might be planted, and we might work towards a new reality of work for all, not just for those that can work from home.

To end, I will make a very quick suggestion that likely not everyone will agree with.

First, start by encouraging those that don’t want to do this work to leave, pay them to leave, have them change jobs to something they like and want to do and have or develop the acumen to do or try all this and if nothing works, terminate them.

From a substantial amount of observation, discussion, and experience, I have found this group can represent the bottom 10% and tend to drag everyone and the organization down. When they leave, the others are happier and will often gladly do a bit more work even without supervisors having to ask.

Next, those that stay and want to do the work, pay them a bit more and make them salaried even if you don’t have the capacity to pay benefits. This would mean no time tracking, no time sheets and more autonomy for staff. 

Yet, you don’t necessarily have to ask them to do more work yet, once again, don’t be surprised if they don’t stare at the clock and actually get done what needs to get done without asking for more compensation.

Yet, expectations need to be made clear and measure what matters.

Due to either labour standards or collective agreements, someone who might go above and beyond in a given pay period, should communicate this to their supervisor in advance and should be able to tangibly demonstrate the incremental work, results or quality. This should be readily, objectively defensible and justifiable to an unbiased third party.

The ideal would be that the supervisor recognizes in advance and proposed additional compensation for the individual. This would replace overtime or become the new overtime model for the new salaried employee.

Needless to say, this might need to be tested, tried, revised, yet take it as food for thought and just one idea for a new work reality.