Fact is, COVID19 has totally changed the game in today’s labor market. With a large percentage of the workforce still on the brink of unemployment, health concerns more prevalent than ever, and child care concerns among the most significant barriers to people entering back into the workforce, today’s manufacturers are facing a harsh reality where real talent is a hot commodity. In the midst of this global pandemic, I have found the solution to getting talent back into the labor market is connected to one or more of three key areas.
While the social assistance programs that helped millions of people to bridge the gap created by the pandemic were a lifeline, they also created an equity gap between where many people were being compensated and the level of compensation that could be collected from social assistance. Whereas in the past discussing/adjusting compensation may have been challenging, in the current market manufacturers all over are adjusting their wages higher, adding sign-on bonuses, maximizing wage shift differentials, instituting referral bonus programs, and many other things to further incent people to not only come work for them but to bring their friends and family to help close the labor shortages. Even though the minimum wage has not been formally raised to $15/hr, the harsh reality that this was the bar set by the social assistance during the pandemic has created a stark look in the mirror at compensation levels and adjustments had to be made. In addition, flexible scheduling, relaxed attendance policies and even child care have entered the equation whereas in the past, for the manufacturing industry, these types of benefits were mostly unheard of. This pandemic has pushed organizations to act swiftly and boldly in regards to their compensation strategies if they wish to continue operating and producing.
How a person feels at the end of the workday is very indicative of that individual’s long-term tenure with an organization. In the current working environment, how a person feels during the workday is just as important. Do your team members feel safe working in your organization? Do they feel as though their health and well-being are top priorities? Does your organization take the guidelines and requirements of the pandemic seriously or are people wearing their masks around their necks? Under their noses? Or not at all? If the team does not feel as though their safety is the top priority of the organization and they believe their risks of becoming part of the statistics of this pandemic are higher at your organization versus another, they will not be part of your organization for very long.
For all of the aspects of life this pandemic has turned upside down, perhaps one of the most significant ones is the simple feeling of connection to others. If people do not feel a connection in your organization; to each other, to their leadership, to the company, to the brand, to the product being produced, they will find that connection someplace else. Something as simple as making a point to ask people “How are you doing today?” and really meaning it to be interested in in listening to their answer and following up with more questions should the conversation need it, can be a huge difference maker in helping people feel connected. Frequent and regular communications on: the status of the organization, the status of COVID in the facility, how the organization is taking measures to keep people safe, and how the organization is cooperating with local agencies is another way of keeping people connected as well as building and fostering the feeling of safety and security.
All 3 of these areas must be acknowledged and addressed if an organization aims to bring people back into the workforce. All 3 of these areas must be driven and addressed at the leadership level. This current social and economic environment has created a crisis of leadership that has not been required in business for a very long time. Compensation, Safety & Security, and Connection are all fundamentals of business that may have been taken for granted in the past. Those organizations that want to navigate around the pitfalls of this pandemiconomy and set themselves up to be stronger and more resilient on the other side must find a way to navigate these three issues successfully and bring real, impactful solutions to their teams.
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