What does the New Year Bring to a Tight Labor Market?

During our 30+years of cross-industry experience we have found that once unemployment drops below 6%, companies find it hard to staff adequately to meet production demands.  At the current 3.6% unemployment rate [1] a labor shortage is the single biggest production problem many companies are facing. For as many as eleven states, unemployment falls to between 2.3% and 2.9%.[2] What this means, is that almost everyone who wants a job has a job.  No wonder, if you ask any production or human resource manager: “What was the biggest challenge last year?” they will almost certainly give some version of “It’s becoming harder and harder to find employees in this ever-increasingly tight labor market.” They are most likely fighting this battle on two fronts:

(1) Getting quality employees to join their company

(2) Keeping those employees satisfied enough to keep them from leaving.

When it comes to attracting quality employees, the beginning of the year, however, represents an opportunity to jump-start your hiring efforts to hire quality employees ― without “poaching” from the company down the street.  According to the BLS, more than 600,000 temporary jobs were added for the holidays nationwide in 2018.  Most of these new hires were let go by February of 2019.  Given this seasonal pattern for the new year, we can expect that there are going to be a lot of people looking for work this January and February.  Keep this in mind as it may be a good idea to strike while the iron is hot. 

When it comes to keeping quality employees, it is always preferred to keep them rather than trying to constantly replace them.  When you slow down turnover, you immediately take a huge burden off of your recruiting and training efforts.

How to do that? Here are some insights for a shift work environment

  • Why Your 12-hour Schedule is More Attractive than You Think?
  • What is important about work-life balance?
  • What do you need to know about overtime?
  • 12 Unexpected Insights: do you know what you don’t know?
  • Why should you consider changing your shift schedule?

Our experts at Shiftwork Solutions have looked at the reasons why employees leave companies, such as inclusiveness, work-life balance. Their workforce survey is an integral part of their solutions which leads to happier employees who feel valued and are instrumental in delivering on growth targets.

Give us a call at (415) 858-8585 and talk to an expert for free.  We can help you to succeed.



[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), January 1, 2020

[2] Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) January 1, 2020

Have you Made Your Business Resolutions Yet?

If you want happier employees this year, you may consider doing some things differently than last year. Otherwise, if you do what you did, you’ll get what you got. Employee engagement, better-work life balance, and improved communication might be at the top of the wish list. But what comes after establishing these resolutions? How to execute on those? You may start collecting a set of SMART goals1 that support the resolutions the best. However, before starting to jot down your goals for the year, let us borrow James Clear’s thoughts on goal setting. Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, claims that “goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress. Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually, a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.” 2  

An example: if you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book by a certain date. Your system is the daily writing schedule you follow. Committing to writing a blog every day is a process that makes a writer confident (s)he is going to get to his/her ultimate goal of publishing the book.

It is also true for a shift work operation. Goals are useful and needed for setting a direction, but you need a system in place to make progress. Deploying a vetted, transformed shift work system is the way to achieve many of the high priority goals.  Changes in the outcome require changes in the process.

If some indicators have revealed that workforce and schedule related changes are needed for your business success, you might be ready to implement some change. A well-designed, transformed shift work system will ensure that the desired changes happen, and your resolutions come true. It will support numerous underlying goals, which include:

  1. Reduce employee turnover
  2. Improve overtime distribution policies
  3. Reduced absenteeism
  4. Increase employee involvement
  5. Improve work-life balance
  6. Eliminate unnecessary labor costs
  7. Improve communication with the workforce
  8. Adjust supervision: optimal direct-reports ratio
  9. Increase time for maintenance
  10. Fully staff all non-day shift positions
  11. Improve shift turnovers
  12. Identify workplace issues that employees find problematic
  13. Solve staffing needs for a seasonal workload
  14. Maximize productive time per line
  15. Maximize employee schedule satisfaction
  16. Build training time into the employee work schedule
  17. Implement interactive electronic employee schedule management system
  18. Increase schedule flexibility
  19. Improve technical support for non-day shift operations
  20. Increase workforce involvement in problem-solving exercises

That is how the right schedule in place can bring about happier employees. Side effects may include improved responsiveness to customer demands, an increase in revenues, a good grip on overtime, product quality improvements, and more effective communication with the workforce and within teams.  


If you have questions or want to find out more, contact our team.  Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585 to discuss your operations and how we can help you achieve your goals. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.

Shiftwork Solutions’ Consulting Services creates a shift operation framework that enables business operations leaders to increase production and attract a skilled workforce into a custom-designed schedule. Our experts bring in best practices from wide-ranging industries with complex operations to tailor solutions for specific operational needs. Our data-driven processes, communication centered approach and project execution bring about the changes needed to improve business operations and production output, and reduce per-unit costs, while workers feel empowered to help the organization achieve its goals.


1. SMART ― specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

2. James Clear on goal setting https://jamesclear.com/goal-setting

12 unexpected insights ―When it comes to shiftwork, do you know what you don’t know?

All companies are unique. We found this to be true while working with hundreds of organizations across multiple industries. However, commonalities do exist. The following 12 insights tend to be universally true in a broad sense. Interestingly, some of these insights may run counter to your intuition. There are always variances, exceptions to the rule; nonetheless, in general, you can count on the following:

  1. There is a predictable portion of your workforce that wants all of the overtime they can get.  There is an equally predictable portion that never wants to work a single minute of overtime.
  2. When going to a 24/7 schedule, the number of employees that say they will quit is an order of magnitude greater than those that actually end up doing so.
  3. Changing schedules around the holiday season is problematic, as your workforce has already made plans based on their current schedule. There are three “best times” to implement a schedule change.  (Can you guess which ones they are?)
  4. Differences across industries and geographical locations play a surprisingly small role in employee preferences. A chemical plant operator in West Virginia wants the same features in a shift-schedule as an underground coalminer in Australia.
  5. What day shift people want in a schedule is different from what night shift people want. 
  6. As shift workers age, they don’t want to move away from 12-hour shifts.  However, they do want to work fewer days in a row.
  7. Poor communications are the most cited problem that shift workers have with their company.  The rate of pay is a distant second.
  8. Allowing employees to nap during lunch can have a major positive impact on their alertness for the rest of their shift.
  9. Fear of the unknown is the single biggest obstacle to changing shift schedules.
  10. Shift workers don’t like to be told what to do. On the other hand, employee engagement creates ownership of a new schedule.
  11. Maintenance accomplishment goes up on a 24/7 schedule since maintenance is no longer tasked with fixing everything on Sunday ― when everything is idle.
  12. The right balance between hourly workers and supervision plays a major role in employee satisfaction.

Use our industry-wide expertise when evaluating and changing your shiftwork structure.  Give us a call at (415) 858-8585 for a free expert consultation about your situation.

12 most frequently asked questions from business leaders before undergoing a schedule change

Once Operations and Human Resource Managers realize that some pain points may have a common root-cause, they may put their heads together and come to an agreement – their shift schedule may be causing many of their biggest problems.  Some proactive steps must be taken. As an exploration gets underway, questions arise from seemingly every direction. These questions should be embraced. And, there are numerous questions that must be addressed.  Failure to do so doesn’t make the change process easier; it dooms it to failure or, at the very least, sub-par performance. Here is a sampling of some of the most common questions companies have when they start looking into a schedule change:

  1. How many people will leave if we change schedules? ― your guess is probably higher than reality.
  2. What will the new schedule look like? shift length, pattern, staffing all to be considered.
  3. How much overtime should we be using?  ― understanding the right level for our workforce and the cost implications.
  4. We are competing with companies that are all doing the same things we are doing to attract employees.  How can we attract and retain quality employees in a tight labor market?  How can we set ourselves apart?
  5. What can we change about our schedule to lower employee turnover? Is there a schedule that makes people want to stay with a given company?  ― employee participation is key to answering this question.
  6. When is the best time to implement a new schedule?  ― the timing can influence the success of the change process.
  7. What policies need to be adjusted to accommodate a 12-hour schedule? ― holidays, vacations and industry standards are part of the answer.
  8. What is the difference between a young workforce and an older workforce? ― understanding the implications of employee demographics is important.
  9. Should we be using Temporary or Part-Time workers in certain areas?  ― labor costs are important but so is productivity. 
  10. How do we staff and schedule for a variable workload? ― options should include overtime, temporary labor, and complementary/discretionary work.
  11. How do I not disturb the workforce by such a change when implementing change inherently disturbing? ― start with employee engagement.
  12. How do I manage a complex and overwhelming change process successfully?

How you answer these questions and dozens of others will be sure to come up.  This is where Shiftwork Solutions comes in.  Our experts and recognized change leaders have 60 combined years of shiftwork consulting experience, helping business leaders to capture market share, increase profits while attracting and retaining a quality workforce.  We can work with you to create a schedule that promotes your goals. Give us a call at (415) 858-8585 and talk to an expert for free.  We can help you to succeed.

12 Symptoms You May Not Know Are Connected

Business Leaders and Managers regularly scan the health of their organizations. Even the most well-run businesses are embedded in a complex eco-system, one with many influencing factors. Certain sub-optimal signals and symptoms may show up from time to time.  When this happens, managers first look for the root cause which is often buried among multiple signals across several value streams. If there are multiple issues, are they interrelated, or stand-alone? Are the stakeholders aligned or conflicted?  What is the best path towards discovery and resolution?

The list below is a collection of 12 symptoms pointing to scheduling, suggesting that perhaps the system is ripe for a shiftwork structure change:

  1. High absenteeism
  2. Stockpiles and shortfalls within a Value Chain
  3. A steady decline in product quality
  4. Low responsiveness to customer demands
  5. Instances of overstaffing and understaffing
  6. Increasing schedule dissatisfaction voiced by the workforce
  7. Poor quality employee engagement, especially with non-day shifts
  8. Overtime adversely affecting employee morale and productivity
  9. Difficulty in retaining new employees, especially on non-day shifts
  10. High employee turnover
  11. Lack of flexibility needed to respond to variable workload
  12. High FMLA

The list doesn’t end here. Further examples include poor communication between shifts and crews, rising safety issues, especially related to alertness or low maintenance accomplishment. 

If you have questions and want to find out if the symptoms in your organization point to a need to transform your current shiftwork structure, let our experts help to connect the dots.  Give us a call at (415) 858-8585 for a free consultation.

Non-wage Solutions to Rising Wage Pressure

We all knew this was coming. We watched and cheered as unemployment numbers dropped, month after month. This meant the economy was recovering. Manufacturing, in many industries, has reached the tipping point and is returning to the United States at a pace not seen in decades.

One of the results of this “bountifulness” is a lack of skilled labor. In some cases, it’s a lack of labor at even the most basic levels.

Part of this is a training issue. We have modernized our production methods without a training mentality to keep pace with the new skills we need.

Part of this is just “not enough bodies.”

The result is a scarcity of labor which drives up the cost of labor as we compete for this ever dwindling resource.

The most obvious way to deal with this; to bring in the labor with the skills you need; is to raise wages. Raise that wage bar high enough and labor no longer becomes a problem. However, you have now changed your cost structure and thus your profitability. In some industries, labor costs are a small component of the Cost of Goods Manufactured and increased wages have relatively little impact. In other areas, labor costs eat away at a small profit margin and your very survivability depends on your keeping these costs low.

So, what can you do if you don’t want to, or don’t have the ability to raise wages?

The answer is to use your schedule as part of the attraction. Make it one of the reasons people want to work for you and not the company across the street.

Here are just a few ways to do this:

  1. Maximize days off. The overwhelming preference of our labor force is to work longer days to get more days off. As an example, let’s assume an employee works 40 hours a week or 2,080 hours a year. If they work 8-hour days, they will have to work 260 days a year. If they work 10-hour days, they will have to work 208 days a year. If they work 12-hour days they will have to work 173.3 days per year.
  2. Make your work schedule one that fits the needs of your employees. Don’t assume you know what your workforce wants. Ask them. Ask them in such a way as to allow everyone to participate. This means creating setting where the “loud cannot intimidate the meek.”
  3. Make your work schedule predictable. This means creating a system where your employees know when they can work and when they can plan on not being at work.
  4. Look at flex-time or work-from-home ideas.  There is little doubt that employees find these types of ideas attractive.
  5. Use overtime as a benefit. This means finding out how much overtime your workforce wants as well as who wants it and who does not. You want to be able to get overtime to those that like it while not forcing it on those that don’t. This will improve predictability as well as help you to compete wage-wise. A company across the street may pay $15 an hour while you only pay $14. However, if you offer a lot of overtime, your overtime employees will recognize that they can make a lot more money working for you. Along with making overtime available, try to absolutely minimize the amount of times overtime is “mandated” or assigned on short/no notice.
  6. Create a participative work environment. No one likes to be told what to do. When I go to a site and find the workforce somewhat disgruntled, it is nearly always a communication issue. More specifically, it’s a feeling of “I don’t matter” or “No one is listening to me.” Keep in mind, people come to work for the money but stay for other things such as job recognition, the ability to advance and a feeling of accomplishment.
  7. Make you actions and policies transparent and apply them fairly. All too often, I come across employees who misunderstand a policy or feel they are being singled out. When this happens, it is important to listen and investigate. They might be right. Or, they might be wrong but are just seeing things incorrectly. Feelings of “not fair” are precursors to an employee leaving for greener, more just, pastures.

Of course, these are just generalities. Some are easier to implement than others and many may not even be applicable to your situation. However, we are on the crest of a large surge in Wage Pressures. It’s best to stay ahead of the game rather than coming to work one day and having to ask “Where did everyone go?”

Jim Dillingham

Shiftwork Solutions, LLC

(415) 265-1621