The future of work for manufacturers was already in a place of rapid change even before the pandemic; for example, the technology that was implemented by many, like AI, 3D printing, automation and digitization. While these innovative adaptations changed many immediate needs that manufacturers faced in the months and now, years, during and following COVID – workplace flexibility is another area of focus for employers as they work to recruit and retain talent in a highly competitive and strained labor market.
Workplace flexibility, also known as workflex, requires a collaborative partnership between employers and employees that defines how, when and where work gets done in ways that work for all (employees, employers, families, community, clients, customers and vendors). A study completed by MyWorkChoice found that 78% of hourly employees said flexibility was an important consideration when choosing an employer.
To implement a workflex plan in your manufacturing business, organizations must begin during the recruitment process. Talent acquisition teams should build this benefit into their strategy and messaging early in the process with candidates. This can include updating outdated materials to ensure that flexibility is highlighted as a top priority of the company.
Human resources, as well as managers and upper leadership, should prepare for conversations and open dialogues with their employees. This transparency and communication can help to create a mutual plan that allows for the input and perspectives from both the employee and employer.
To inspire a more universal optimism to this practice in an industry that sometimes considers workflex scary or impossible, here are a few examples of manufacturers who have already incorporated flexible opportunities in their organization:
Diamond Back Covers – In 2020, the Pennsylvania based manufacturing company decided to take a non-traditional standard to shifts, offering employees a 4-day work week with no change to pay. Diamond Back Covers changed up the shifts, shortening them to 6 hours each and only 1 longer 10-hour shift a week. After piloting the program for 4 weeks, 80% of employees said that they would like to maintain the 35-hour work week. The CEO of Diamond Back Covers says this change has contributed to an increase in safety, employee retention, and efficiency.
Sealed Air – This global packaging manufacturer implemented an inclusive flexwork plan for its 16,000+ employees in 2021 by placing their workforce in 3 categories: location-dependent (required to be on-site with exceptions for flexible work); remote (full-time off-site) and flexible (a hybrid approach to on-site and remote work). Those production line employees at Sealed Air who fall within the location-dependent category can still have their voices heard and take part in the flexibility created by this employer through safety training and policies on family time and family leave support. By acknowledging the needs and safety of their employees, Sealed Air found that 92% of employees surveyed in June 2021 reported that they “feel connected to my work and fully engaged.”
PlastiCert – Each PlastiCert employee is trained on every machine. This level of dedication to cross-training provides the organization with ample employees trained on critical skills and machines; allowing colleagues to not only have a better understanding and ownership of the processes and product quality, but also giving employees the ability to take time off when needed without seeing downtime in the operation.
There is no doubt that workflex is reshaping the way in which manufacturers attract candidates, retain employees, and create a workplace that promotes a positive and productive culture. This post highlights just three examples to help if you are planning to incorporate workforce flexibility, but there is no one-size-fits-all; many options and ideas are available for manufacturers.