Attracting and Creating a Sticky Workforce

Over the last several years, the number one issue that companies bring to Shiftwork Solutions is the difficulty they are having with keeping vital job postings filled.   This comes from a combination of high turnover and less than fruitful recruiting efforts.  

Let’s start with the obvious ─ there is a lot of value in successfully addressing these matters. For example:

  • If you don’t have a workforce, you can’t produce your goods.
  • If your workforce is too small, then you either fail to produce enough or you run into high overtime.  High overtime generates problems with safety, attendance, productivity, and attrition.
  • If you have no trouble hiring but can’t keep people then you have a costly training burden.  Not only do you lose productivity as you train but, when people leave, they don’t “check at the door” those skills you paid for them to acquire when they leave.

There are several possible courses of action to address these problem areas.  I’d like to just cover a few of the solutions I’ve come across in my years of working with shift workers.

  1. Money solves a lot of problems but it certainly doesn’t solve every problem.  You need to have wages that are sufficiently competitive with other companies seeking to hire the same people as you.  If margins make wage increases a “non-starter”, consider making more overtime available.  Keep in mind, a fully loaded hour of straight time will cost you about the same as an hour of overtime.  Still, the income for an employee is 50% higher per hour of overtime.  Cost neutral to the company and highly beneficial for the employee.
  2. A sense of “belonging” is important. Belonging has two basic components.  First, an employee is recognized by his or her fellow employees as well as by management.  Secondly, an employee feels like they are contributing members of the workforce.  I’m going to expand on these in the next two points.  Suffice to say that if an employee feels like they belong, they will stay.
  3. Recognition is more than just putting up a picture of new hires on the bulletin board.  New hires should have a sponsor; someone at their level that can show them the ropes.  Also, supervisors should regularly and formally, check in with new hires.  For example, 10-minute talks, one-on-one each week for the first month just to see how things are going.  It is important to recognize the fact that socialization at work is not the same as it was a generation ago.  Today, people go to the lunchroom and pull out their cell phones.  Imagine coming to work and not knowing anyone else in the lunchroom, no one even sees that you are there. 
  4. Contribution is more than just raising your hand during a pre-shift discussion.  Employees are quick to tell the difference between pretense and reality when it comes to being told that they are an important member of their crew.  Give them something to own.  For example, “This shrink wrap machine is yours.  Make sure it is maintained, cleaned, and fully functional.  Let us know what you need to be successful at that.”  This is empowering.  This person will know that they are contributing.
  5. Management by walking around is so important and so easy to do.  The top manager, walking the floor just to let the employees know that they have been seen working hard.  Walking the floor is intentionally not an inspection.  Let them see you, see them.  Make it social.  Say “hi”.  Ask about their kids.  Talk about the local sports team.
  6. Supervision matters.  One of the main reasons for employees leaving a company is their relationship with their supervisor.  The supervisor is too numbers-driven, doesn’t listen to the people, or is unavailable.  All of these types of comments point to the idea that a worker does not feel important to their leader and thus to the company.  It is noteworthy that even the best supervisors can fail if they don’t have the time to care about their workforce.  One supervisor to 60 employees is stretching that person way too thinly.  Think about one supervisor for every 12 – 20 employees.

All of this comes down to “treating your employees as you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes.”

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