What a difference a year makes. At this time in 2019, it was business as usual with the excitement of the holidays just around the corner. None of us could have predicted that in just a few short months, the world would be turned upside down by a global pandemic.
“Social distancing” is now part of our vernacular, and face masks are as essential as shoes to wear in public. Zoom meetings have replaced sitting around a conference table, and even trade shows have gone virtual.
Businesses have had to quickly adapt to keep operations running, while minimizing the risk of spreading disease and complying with state and federal guidelines. The pandemic has forced businesses to rethink their workforce strategies – perhaps for the better. Those that have resisted telecommuting, may find it leads to more productive, content employees, while saving infrastructure costs and/or freeing up space for inventory. With today’s interactive technology, working remotely has never been more viable.
But there has also been other less positive impact. Although well-intentioned, pandemic-related government financial subsidies have caused a number of low-wage workers to quit jobs, believing they can make more money than they were being paid at work. Even if temporary, these payments have put a dent in available labor.
Now many businesses are faced with having to step up efforts to both retain existing employees and attract new ones. Not so simple in these unprecedented, unpredictable times. Since it’s much more expensive to hire and train new employees than to keep your existing workforce content, most of your efforts should be aimed at retention. According to a study conducted by CareerAddict earlier this year (prior to the COVID-19 crisis), these are the top five reasons people choose to leave their jobs:
- No Progression (lack of career advancement)
- Low Pay
- Not Getting Well-Deserved Raise
- Poor Leadership
- Change of Career Goals
Here are some ideas to consider for strengthening loyalty among existing staff, with focus on the warehousing, manufacturing and repair sectors:
- Identify All-Stars – In our general industry, most tasks can be easily tracked: number of widgets made, picked, packed and shipped hourly and so forth. Management, as well as employees, typically know who’s killing it and who is barely doing the minimum. Be on the lookout for staffers going above and beyond. Talk to them about stepping up to lead positions and keep them engaged by rewarding them with recognition and a clear career path. Offer additional training and schooling as other incentives. These unicorns are hard to find – don’t lose them to a competitor down the street paying 50 cents more an hour.
- Pay for Performance – Oftentimes, both all-stars and slackers make the same hourly wage, which is not good for morale. Realize that not all employees are performing equally. Paying a bit more to A players can help keep them on board, while potentially encouraging subpar staff to step up. You may even find you can actually allocate the same amount or less in wages with fewer people if they’re top performers.
- Amp Up the Workplace – Make it a more fun place to work. Add a ping pong table or other games to the breakroom and energetic music in workspaces.Listen to your staff about what would make them more comfortable. When Encompass warehouse workers told management they needed better access to ice in the summer, we brought in an industrial-sized ice maker. When we learned not everyone could afford quality footwear, we initiated a program to regularly distribute Nike Air shoes. We also offer credits toward purchases of good quality, healthy food stocked in our breakroom by a local vendor.Making even nominal investments in creating a more employee-centric workplace could make a huge difference in loyalty and morale. You are sure to be better positioned the next time a competitor tries to lure away your team.
- Flexibility – It’s obviously impossible to enable production line employees to work remotely. However, consider this option for other staff who don’t need to be on site every day. A break from a long commute goes a long way toward boosting quality of life, not to mention saving time and money on gas and meals. Encompass has found that most remote employees are actually more productive, take fewer sick days and ultimately work longer hours. and even working longer hours.For those who must be on site, try to incorporate programs that give them a chance to visit the doctor or see a child’s play without penalty. Always remember employees have lives outside your company. Keeping them happy is worth the slight hassle of rearranging schedules periodically. Businesses that offer paid vacation should encourage employees to take advantage of this time away from work so they can get revitalized, while creating memories with their families
By cultivating more “A” players, your business can operate more effectively, which can help save money to improve wages and fund workplace perks. Yet even with a fun, motivating work environment, you will inevitably still lose quality employees. But you can always leverage your incentives throughout recruitment efforts to attract top talent. Strive to stand out from your competitors in the hiring channels.
You never know when you may be able to entice an ace ping pong player who can pick 100 lines an hour.