How HR Can Meet Employee Needs In Shift-Based Workplaces

People want more from their jobs.

The workforce has changed significantly over the years, but recently, that change has been exponential.

These changes in expectations fall on HR’s desk. You know that the best people make the best workplaces, which in turn attracts the best people. So you have to address these new employee expectations, and you have your work cut out for you. From start to finish, employee acquisition and retention is your responsibility. 

Overhauling the way your entire organization functions isn’t an option right now. So how do you manage current employee expectations with all of this in mind? 

You make small shifts in how you hire, what kind of benefits and compensation you offer, and  look at professional development and employee wellness initiatives as necessary add-ons.

This sounds like a massive uphill climb, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to change everything and start all over; you simply need to rethink how you approach the seven areas of employee concern.

Hiring practices

Let’s start with hiring practices, because that’s where a potential candidate first experiences your company. Yesterday’s best hiring practices don’t always fit today’s employees.

Take culture fit, for example  

For years, the business mantra was to hire for culture fit. There’s still room for that to some extent (which we’ll talk about next), but with a tight labor market and changing understanding of diversity, culture add is more important than culture fit. 

Perfect culture fit sometimes leads to an echo chamber, or reduces progress or innovative thinking because everyone is so similar. Or employees feel pressure to blend in. Look for employees who bring something new to the table, someone who adds to your culture instead of fitting it.

Culture add (instead of fit) not only strengthens your company and builds diversity; it also broadens the hiring pool.

One thing that hasn’t changed is hiring based on your company values. In this sense, that’s a different kind of culture fit that still applies.

Company values are the promises you make to your customers, and those should be timeless. Always hire based on company values with the goal of actually delivering on those values.

And of course, review your current hiring processes.

The key word here is simplify. What a potential employee goes through to get hired gives them a pretty good picture of what they can expect on the job. Your hiring process should be easy, efficient, and all about clarity. It should never string a potential employee along, waste their time in any way, or mislead them about the position they’re applying for.


When you realize that 33% of your employees are looking for a different job, you appreciate the need to up your game with employee engagement.

Engagement isn’t just about making employees happy, or even satisfied. Happy, satisfied workers can still be lured away to another job. Engagement is about connection. They’re committed to the team, to the workplace, to the work they do. They want to see your company succeed, and achieve its goals.

Unengaged employees clock in and out, do the bare minimum, and are there for a paycheck. Engaged employees jump at overtime, contribute ideas, and do their best work. While there are a lot of ways you can increase employee engagement, let’s focus on what HR can do.

Say your company culture is one that you’d describe as empowering and encouraging, valuing all employees and their ideas. You can still hire for culture add, instead of fit, because you have a broadly-defined culture that’s positive and allows for diversity.

Is your company culture actually like that description? Do you have processes or systems within HR operations that don’t empower employees, but instead, micromanage, give them the sense they don’t matter, or make them feel like they aren’t trusted with big responsibilities?

When what you do contradicts what you say the company is about, employees disengage. HR is in a position to identify areas that create this conflict, areas of operation where a system was put in place to solve one problem, but at the expense of your culture.

If you’re not sure if your company culture is positive or if there are issues, listen to your employees. 

Notice we said listen to, not talk to. This is a two-way employee communication issue.

Find ways to collect employee feedback that are reprisal-free. Depending on your company culture, employees may not feel safe to speak freely about issues they’ve seen or are concerned about. Or, they’ve determined that their ideas or suggestions are ignored, so they won’t bother speaking up anymore. 

So if you ask for employee feedback and don’t get much, that might be your first sign of trouble.

Once you get employee feedback, do something with it. Implement those good ideas. Let employees know that the changes you’re making come from their feedback. This is part of how you make your employees feel valued.

You can also make your employees feel valued in more tangible ways, through awards and bonuses. Excellent work and dedication should not go unnoticed, and tangible rewards incentivize other employees to do the same.

In the long run, employee engagement is about retaining and attracting new employees. It’s as important as anything.

Benefits and compensation

Minimum wage is extinct.

You cannot pay the minimum wage any longer, and expect to attract or retain employees because the current labor shortage has put an end to that approach. You can’t cut costs through wages. Trying to do so means that in the long run, you’ll add to your costs with a revolving door of employees. Low wages will make it hard to hire new workers, forcing you to adjust your business model downward so you don’t grow based on customer demand, but self-limit based on employee scarcity.

Offer the best wages you can afford, and supplement that with benefits. 

Benefits can be traditional, such as health benefits or paid time-off options, but you can also get creative and find benefits that don’t add hard costs. Flexible shifts, self scheduling, on-demand pay—these are all things that won’t add expense, but will give employees more control over their lives. We’ll cover this more in just a bit.

The main thing to remember is that if you don’t pay your employees well, they’ll find someone who will.


When you get employee onboarding right, you can improve employee retention by 82%.

Unfortunately, by the time you get to onboarding a new employee, it’s easy to let your guard down and think that you’ve done the heavy lifting and hiring is done. That explains why only 12% of employees think their employer does a good job with onboarding, with most businesses focusing on employees filling out forms and understanding internal processes.

That has zero to do with connection and engagement, and that employee will quit sooner rather than later. Onboarding sets up the foundation for how an employee will experience working for you.

Employee onboarding should be as easy and as painless as possible. It must be comprehensive and clear. The new employee needs to understand everything necessary to feel confident that they can do a good job, but they don’t need to be buried under paperwork and redundant procedures.

The most important rules for onboarding new employees, beyond the training needed for their specific position, are plugging them into culture, providing them with your expectations, and connecting them with fellow employees through mentoring or pairing up.

They need to know how they fit in. Onboarding sets the tone for an employee’s tenure right from the beginning.

Professional development

No one takes a trip down a dead-end street.

When an employee feels like their job will never get better or change, or that they’ll never have any opportunities for growth, they start to look somewhere else. Even if they’re perfectly happy or satisfied with their job, they will still look for something new (that’s why engagement is different). 

Your best workers, unfortunately, are often in this group because they love new challenges. The potential for advancement of a career or personal growth through professional development is its own benefit. It attracts high-functioning employees.

Not every job has a career path with promotion opportunities. We understand that. But every employee can still benefit from professional development.

Think of professional development as giving your employees the tools they need to be a great team member. You’re building up their skill sets and confidence, and increasing their engagement at your company. Essentially, you’re investing into them for your benefit, but also for theirs.

Opportunities for learning and growth are opportunities to help your employees thrive.

Wellness initiatives

Caring about wellness is a sign to your employees that you care about them. 

When done right, wellness programs reduce employee healthcare costs and absenteeism. The cost of “presenteeism” (disengaged employees with low productivity) are high, but wellness programs can help combat that and improve productivity.

It makes sense. Being tired, physically out of shape, or struggling with chronic health issues impacts your work. 

But it’s not just physical health. Mental health in the workplace is a huge piece of that wellness puzzle.

Wellness initiatives are also part of those benefits you can offer your employees that can be a bit more creative and budget-friendly. They might include everything from gym memberships to access to a counselor or mental health awareness training. Gift cards for a spa day, or life coaching could be part of it, with the latter overlapping with professional development. Partnering with a local charitable organization and hosting a 5K with your employees, or offering prizes for teams who rack up the most steps are all easy ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Today’s workers value experiences and an overall balance to life. Wellness initiatives are low cost and high return when it comes to employee retention.


No one wants to live a life where it feels like most of your time is owned by someone else.

A good work-life balance is what employees want. They want to feel like they have some control over their life, including when they work and when they have free time. They don’t want to have to beg or fear asking for personal time.

That’s tricky, when you’re short staffed. Flexible self scheduling is the solution.

Oh, you’ll still have coverage for your shifts, but the key difference is that employees can have a say in when they work. They can help out their friends by swapping shifts. They’re empowered to choose when they work, and when they set aside personal time.

When I Work is built on flexible scheduling to make life easier for both employees and scheduling managers, who define what the shifts require in coverage and expertise, fill the shifts automatically, and then allow employees to swap, claim, or bid for shifts (depending on what you want to allow).

Working on a Saturday isn’t as bad when you choose to, instead of being told you have to.

It’s easy to get lost in the battle, and think only in terms of fighting to get enough employees on staff and neglecting the things that would keep them there. That stance can be stressful for you and blind you from taking a more holistic approach.

Employees are unique individuals. Simply investing back into them with that in mind makes all the difference. Get started empowering your employees by signing up for a free trial of When I Work. See how easy it is to get the ball moving in the right direction!

Article Image
/Human Resources

Employee Burnout: Causes, Signs, And Strategies

Article Image
/Business Growth

9 Strategies For Decreasing Labor Costs

Article Image
/Scheduling Strategy

Rotating Shifts: A Manager’s Guide to Rotating Schedules

Article Image
/Scheduling Strategy

How to Save Time And Money With Automatic Scheduling For Employees

Article Image
/Small Business Blog

40 Employee Appreciation Ideas Your Staff Will Love

Article Image
/Human Resources

How to Write Up an Employee in 8 Easy Steps