Shift Talk: Flexible Production Jobs – Why Manufacturers Can’t Retain Hourly Workers

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in an inflexible job and you can never take the break you need? For many hourly production workers, the answer is yes. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in how people approach work, especially in entry-level production areas, such as manufacturing.

Despite a low unemployment rate of 3.4%, there is a lack of applicants for jobs and it’s forcing companies to hire more people. But what’s the underlying cause of these changes? MyWorkChoice President Todd Warner, takes an in-depth look at the need for flexibility in hourly production jobs. Tune in to discover how flexibility is the solution to retaining workers and keeping your headcount stable.


1. Understanding the Data: Taking a look at overtime, attrition, and absenteeism metrics.

Understanding the data is an important step in analyzing overtime, attrition, and absenteeism metrics. This requires taking a detailed look at macroeconomic metrics from the government, as well as metrics from the company, such as overtime, attrition, and absenteeism. To understand the data, it’s important to look for any trends, patterns, or correlations. Additionally, it’s important to look at the data in the context of the current job market, such as the unemployment rate and the amount of open jobs in manufacturing. Finally, it’s important to understand the motivations of the workers, such as their desire for more flexibility and time off, and how that affects their behavior in the workplace. With this understanding, companies can start to create solutions to address these metrics.

2. Creating Flexibility: Allowing employees more time off and more flexibility with their schedules.

Creating flexibility for employees can be accomplished in a few ways. First, companies can allow employees more time off, such as vacation days, sick days, and personal days. This can help employees feel empowered to take care of their own needs and allows them to manage their work/life balance in a way that works for them. Additionally, companies can allow employees to have more flexibility with their schedules, such as allowing them to change their hours by dropping and picking up shifts right from their phone. This can help employees who need to accommodate for different needs, such as childcare or doctor’s appointments.  Doing so can help employees feel more secure in their jobs and allow them to make the best decisions for their own personal needs.

3. Using Technology: Using tools such as the MyWorkChoice Client Portal and MWC App to manage the workforce in a controlled environment.

Using technology tools such as the MyWorkChoice Client Portal and MWC App to manage the workforce in a controlled environment is a great way to ensure that companies will be able to handle the lack of commitment from workers. By using these tools, companies can easily track their workers’ hours, absences, and overtime, allowing them to take action when the situation calls for it. MyWorkChoice technologies allow companies to manage their workforce in real time, giving them the ability to quickly fill in shifts and respond to any changes in the workforce. Additionally, these tools allow companies to see the demand for different hours or days, enabling them to create flexible schedules that meet their workers’ needs and ensure they have the right number of employees to meet the needs of their business. Lastly, using the MWC App automated backfill system is a great way for workers to quickly drop the shift (letting their employer know they won’t make it to work) and the system automatically fill in any last-minute absences or gaps in the schedule. This allows companies to keep their workforce on track and make sure workers are available when they need them. This can help companies reduce overtime and ensure their workers are content with their job.

Companies need to be flexible with their workforce in order to adapt to the changing job market and meet the needs of their workers. Understanding the data and creating flexibility are two great ways to do this. Additionally, using technology tools such as the MyWorkChoice Client Portal and MWC App to manage the workforce can help companies better manage their workforce and ensure they always have the right number of workers. With this approach, companies can ensure their workers are content and their headcount is stable. Don’t be afraid to be flexible and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the changing job market. With the right approach, you can create a more productive and successful workforce.

We’d love to hear how what you think about bringing flexibility into your facility. Leave us a comment on how it went for you or drop any questions you want us to answer!

Shift Talk: Transcript


All right, so today we’re going to talk about a few things. First and foremost, I want to talk about some things that we’re seeing in the news, primarily the unemployment rate and the amount of open jobs in manufacturing right now that has a lot of people confused. So I want to get your expert opinion on what you think those numbers really mean. They don’t mean yeah.


It’s very interesting when you look in January with the surprising announcement that there was 500,000 new jobs created, and yet we have the lowest unemployment as well since 1969 at 3.4%. What’s going on? People are looking to hire. There doesn’t seem to be applicants out there, but there are people applying. This is very unusual. This is different. And this is right in line with how it’s been for the last two and a half years with COVID and its impact on hiring and how people work. And as we’ve seen a big shift on how people approach work, especially at the entry level production areas, which is our niche, we’ve seen a completely different behavior. My opinion on this is that we’re seeing more people take jobs, but are taking jobs that they are not working at full-time hours. So if you follow me here, they’re working, but they’re not working the 40-plus hours they’re taking off. It’s forcing companies to hire more people. It’s forcing workers to maybe change jobs more as we see a lot of that in the news. And what’s happening is they may not be filing for unemployment as much as they were in the past because they do have job opportunities, but because of the fact that they’re not working 40-plus hours, it’s creating more openings.


Yeah, I saw an article fortune put it out. They did some research, and they said non college educated men have seen their pay shrink since 1980, and that one in twelve have left the job market entirely. Now, I don’t think they’ve left the job market entirely. I think it’s a little misleading. They’ve left the traditional job market, and they even actually specifically mentioned that they’ve left traditional manufacturing jobs. And they’re saying a lot of that has to do with the pay rate, has to do with their work life balance. COVID caused a lot of people to stop and go, okay, what’s important in my life, right, do I want to be at a job 12 hours a day, five days, six days a week, working three extra days of overtime for $15 an hour? So what I want to address that you brought up this morning as we were talking about doing this episode, is this misnomer about, okay, well, can’t we go get these folks off the sidelines into jobs by either direct hiring or using a staffing agency? I want you to talk about why that model is not working right. We’re seeing it at every facility we walk into. They’re like, we can’t hire people, and when we do hire them, they’re gone in six weeks. What’s going on there?


Well, if we look at the specifics of the environment, which is the hourly production worker, supply chain manufacturing, entry level, no prior experience needed, this individual has, for a long period of time, entered many of these environments through temporary agencies, and companies have become to rely on them. They’ll use the temporary agency to be able to handle peak seasons, et cetera. But it’s a testing ground for a future hire, and they’ve been able to rely on it and actually replace it as a pipeline of new hires into the company to be able to replace turnover, et cetera. If a worker works out well, if they stay for a long period of time, they show good attendance, good attitude, they give them the opportunity to work there full time. The problem has happened is the world has changed. As we talk about all the time, the worker no longer has the philosophy of, I’m looking for one of these companies to get a gold watch after 40 years. We make the joke. Fastest way to scare Gen Z is telling me you want to hire him for 30 years. So when it became not reliable to be able to go through the temporary pool. Because actually, if you think about the discussion we’re having, if you have 3.4% unemployment and you have all of these jobs available and I would challenge anybody, if you want to test this theory, go in and put your city. I don’t care if it’s rural metro, put in entry level warehouse job, and you’re going to get anywhere between 300 or 700 active available jobs at that moment. So if you can have those kind of choices, and many of those choices are direct hire to the company itself.






So if I have that kind of opportunity, why would I be going to a temporary agency to be able to help me with employment days of high unemployment? We use temporary agencies to get a foot in the door to hire, that kind of stuff. That’s not working anymore. Why would I go there? And what I would state is that I think that the worker is the least committed worker and they are looking for the least amount of commitment from their job opportunity. I don’t mean that derogatory. I think it’s a behavior. I think the workers that are interested in taking a temporary agency job is that, hey, this is kind of a throwaway. It’s not like a real job. If I quit, it’s no big deal. And the reason they’re doing that is they’re creating their own flexibility.






That’s going into rigid environments, if you think about it. 105 year old work model work 40 hours plus overtime, as we’ve talked about, and they’re going into them, and they’re working for three, four days or maybe a week or two, and then they’re quitting. So they’re taking that opportunity, one of the 500 that they have right now, and they’re using it to make some money. And then when they want to take off for a couple of days, they just ghost quit because, you know what? 499 left, so they’ll take another one when they want to make some more money. And so they’re using that mechanism to create a flexibility in an unflexible world. And this is what’s really been the underlying deterioration of companies pipelines and hiring, is that that is no longer the avenue that they can rely on to be able to add people to the work environment.



Yeah. I think that explains why we’re seeing the metrics that we are low unemployment, high job availability, with people sitting on the sidelines. It’s because the job doesn’t match what they want out of a job. Right. Yeah.



You know, what’s interesting is if you take it one level deeper, we have seen in the last year that companies, they see this and they’re trying to adapt. And it’s been interesting to watch the adaption, which was, well, let’s kind of find fault with the temporary agency and let’s do it ourselves.






And I think what’s really interesting is we’re now at a stage with companies that we see that are at their wits end because that didn’t work.






They’ve got all of a sudden they.



Went out there and tried the building.



Right. And they went out and tried to hire themselves, and they’ve discovered we can’t do it any better than they were doing, that these applicants are treating us kind of the same way. And yet what’s at the core of all this discussion that we’re having with all of this? What is the one theme that everybody doesn’t want to really recognize flexibility. That’s right. We’re in an environment that’s the last holdout for flexibility, right. We see it in Gig, we see it in white collar. You see it all over LinkedIn and every article that everybody is adapting to flexibility in some way or not everybody sees it that it’s a different work philosophy. But really what it is, is how do you see all this and then how do you fix it? How do you go into an environment that traditionally has never had that type of flexibility or capability and say, yeah, we see that’s how they want to work, we just don’t know what to do with that.



Yes, that’s a great segue into the data, right. So you’ve got the data that the government’s putting out different organizations about macroeconomic metrics. But the data we see every day when we go into a client and we say, okay, we want to take a look at your overtime metrics, we want to take a look at your attrition metrics and we want to look at your absenteeism metrics. And now most companies, when we talk to them, they have some sense of what those individual numbers are, but they’ve never looked at it holistically. They’ve never put two and two together and said, okay, well, we have excessive overtime because we have high absenteeism and we have high attrition because we have high absenteeism and excessive overtime. And some of them that we’ve talked to have put their finger on it and said, okay, people want more time off in their schedule, right. But our policies are written in such a way that says in your 1st 90 days, you don’t get any time off. So if you take a couple of days, you’re done, you’re out. And now you’re on a do not hire list for a year. So you’re gone. We’re burning that bridge to the ground. And so what we’ve done is taken that data and said, look, all these metrics are tied to one thing, give people the time off that they’re going to take anyway. They’re already taking it. You’re not giving in. You’re not saying, oh, we want our operation to fail, or people are being lazy. No, it’s not what’s happening. They’re taking the time off that they need to take care of the things in their life, right? So some companies have figured that out and they said, okay, we’re going to go out and hire a bunch of part time workers. They’re creating their own flexible pool, so to speak. But the problem is what, what have you found when companies have gone out and tried to create their own model flexibility?



Actually had two comments on that. One is, first is, I think one of the real causes that people do not look at the data you just described, even though they have the hunch or the gut feeling, is that they don’t have a solution. You know what I mean? It’s that psychology of I kind of know this is going on. I don’t really need to prove it because when I prove it, I don’t know how to solve for it. Doing all this data, and as you said, it really tells a story that’s compelling. And yet I feel most of the people in the room had a hunch that this is what it was going to say. The problem was, what do I do about it once I do discover that? If I discover that my workers behavior and their happiness and contentment at their job is based on having a little bit more time off than they’re allowed or a little bit more flexibility with their schedule than they’re allowed in the rigid environment, but I don’t know what to do about that. If I give them more time off, I just have more absentees, right? I can’t manage it. Then the second part of your question is, yeah, we have seen that. Right. But organizing that as a solution, identifying, hey, listen, if I had a great standby pool of workers that I could really rely on, that were my workers dedicated to my site and were returning employees for a long term, et cetera, if I had that, that would be awesome. Right? Well, it’s another thing to try to organize that, right. We see them with Excel spreadsheets, phone calls, text messaging, trying to get somebody to come in right away to fill in. They’re using a call in phone number, and hopefully they hear the message and then they try to track it. It’s craziness. Right. So part of all this kind of leads to understanding the data, understanding the situation, the culture and the philosophy, but really having a way to manage it in a controlled environment. That’s the secret. Like I said, I think nine out of ten people that we talk to, they get it. They know these hourly workers want what everybody else wants. They want just a little bit more flexibility, schedules, more time off. I just don’t know how to give it to them effectively and keep our head count where it needs to be to be productive.



Yeah. If anything, they’ve tried all of the tactics to push these metrics in the other direction. Right. So let’s go from an eight hour day to a ten hour day. Let’s go from a ten hour day to a twelve hour day. Let’s go from one mandatory overtime shift to two. Let’s reduce the number of people. We just had a client do this. We saw an internal memo of theirs that said we’re actually going to cut all of our contingent labor. We’re going to get rid of all of our part timers, and we’re going to rely more heavily on our core hourly full timers to get all the production done. And all that does is put more work, more pressure, and their attrition rate is going to skyrocket. Right. So you brought it up. Right? You need the technology to solve for this. Now there are tools out there. You’ve got chronos workday, like you said, call out numbers that can start to get to the information about what’s happening. Let’s just say you can get your workforce to use a call in number. Great. Now you know that they’re not coming in, but now what? You’ve got to jump on the phone and call 72 people for your first shift to see if they can get dressed and come into work? No, I think what we’re offering as a solution is unique in the market in that not only are we providing the insight into what’s happening in real time, right. We’re also providing the solution, which is before the shift starts. The system is already taking into account that you’re going to be ten people short in this department at the 07:00 a.m. Shift on Monday and it’s already gone out and messaged the rest of this pool of people to say, hey, who wants to work? Let’s get you in the door. Let’s get production done, let’s have a full head count today. Right? Like that’s the piece we don’t see when we’re talking to facilities.



It’s creating a new life. Think of the hourly worker that works for the typical client right now that’s locked into a 40 plus work schedule by bringing a tool that allows them such things as being able to drop your shift with your smartphone at 07:00 in the evening without any confrontation or things like that. But then even better, having, as you said, that message going out to stand by workers to fill into them. Or let’s say this, they drop that shift and maybe they want to still make 40 hours and the ability to pick up a day later in the week where they could pick up or let’s go even further, let’s talk about maybe they want to drop a half shift. I don’t want to take a whole day off, but I want to drop off the half after lunch and I want to pick up another half. And maybe that’s on a Saturday, right? Maybe I want overtime or maybe I don’t want overtime. Let’s use it as a perk. Let’s use it as something that’s an advantage, not something that makes people quit their jobs. So yeah, I can pick up an overtime shift here or there and have that kind of movement and flexibility and then the reason it all works and again, I love what you were talking about, that the clients are going the other way and it’s just worsening conditions. But really the truth is if you can figure out how to go with it and make it work, you win. Right? And that’s really the logic of our philosophy, is identifying how the worker wants to work by the data that they provided us. Give into that data, allow that to be a retention. Now, that doesn’t cost the company anything. If the whole model works successfully, which is it keeps the worker it lowers your training costs. It gives you a worker that fills in and keeps your headcount whole and everybody’s happy in the end. That’s a new life. That’s a new life in a production working environment.



I want to unpack that too, a little bit. A lot of times the preconception is, well, if I need to have more people, that’s a lot more training that I’m spending on and have even more overtime. We look at the data once again, the facilities that allow their workers to do things like half shifts, right? We’re not saying every shift is a half shift. We’re saying you give those opportunities, especially on days that, you know, people are more likely to not want to work mondays, Fridays, weekends, right? When we looked at the data, you’re actually training fewer people because even though you’re building a pool, that pool sticks around. They’re not jumping from one job to another to another. If you look at the traditional model, you’re training four or five times those number of people because they’re only staying for four to six weeks. So all the traditional thinking of, I need that 40 hours worker, and I need them to be here every Monday. That’s great. I wish we could find that doesn’t exist. I think that’s the point that the facilities that get it have understood that the worker has changed, the job hasn’t. So how do you make the job fit a new workforce? The equipment is the same. The process is the same. What do you have to adjust? And you’ve got to address the attendance policies. The way you view your workforce, the way you view work ethic. These workers are lazy. That’s usually the sentiment we hear a lot. They just don’t want to work. They want to sit on their Xbox. Well, that may be true to some portion of your workforce, but they’re typically hard working people. Some of them have two or three jobs, but life happens. Shit happens. Their car breaks down, their kid is sick. They don’t have daycare that day. And now you’re threatening them with termination because something out of their control happened. And instead, why not say, you know what, that’s okay. Take the time you need. We’ve got Marcy over here that’s going to backfill for you. We’re good. Take the time you need. Get your car fixed. We’ll see you tomorrow. It’s pretty simple.



It is, and it’s very compelling. Looking at the data study and analysis that we do for our clients is always very eye opening to everybody in that it’s one thing to see everything in real numbers, but it is amazing when you look at companies today that are going down the path that you just described, and it shows a deterioration that’s leading into a very troubled spot. And what I mean specifically is when you see a company that’s hiring 50 people a quarter, but they have 90, that are quitting. And the majority of the reason they’re being terminated is due to points and absenteeism and attendance. And you can translate that back to their existing policy. So they have an attendance policy that is literally creating the problem that they have, which is I can’t keep workers I’m firing more than I can hire, and the people aren’t attracted to my job because it’s an old traditional 40 plus manufacturing job. So I can’t hire as well, and I’m firing people. So what is wrong with that picture? And you look at that and go, how can you see the data and not realize where your core issue is? Your core issue is that your policy does not match the work attitude of today’s workforce. So if you do not adjust that, you’re going to end up do the math. You’re going to end up with not enough workers to be able to get your production, and you’re not going to be competitive in your own industry line. You have to address that. But again, I go back to the point. I think the reason that we tend to look a blind eye to that is I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to change my policy that will give them more days off. I’m just not going to be able to have people fill in that. Well, that’s where the answer comes. And that’s where the key to the whole program is. Building a successful, dedicated pool of standbys and a new pipeline of workers that want to work in your environment to be able to fill in. That’s what makes the whole concept work. But without that standby pool, you’re just still suffering through absenteeism. And I can see why people are struggling with that, especially when they can’t hire, right? They said they can’t hire. How am I going to hire a bunch of standbys? Right? One thing about that you touched on, it’s really key is we’ve seen this over our data over the last two years. People don’t want to bounce around, right? That’s even the flexible part time worker, the worker that’s going to fill in two days a week or have shifts, they’re the glue that makes the program work. They want one place that they can do this for a long period of time. They may have the reasons the retiree to stay at home, the second income or the college student, et cetera. That once this opportunity, the way it exists at a known company that they’re part of, that’s it. They don’t want to change jobs. Why do employees change jobs now? Because the model doesn’t fit with it’s traditional. Right. So I’m going to work four days for a traditional model, quit, and then take off four days and go find another traditional do that don’t have to do that when you come to work for one of our clients. Why? Because you have the flexibility to schedule the way you want there is no reason to leave. There’s no reason to go look for another job now. And that is absolutely the goal that we’re trying to achieve here, is a long term dedicated workforce. And this is the new look of the workforce. Right. It’s 80% of the full timers that work there that just want to be able to take off a little bit more time than the policy may ask for a little flexibility in their schedule, maybe pick up a little bit, drop a little bit and then 20% to fill in for all of those absenteeism. And that group now works together to give you the future workforce. That’s how you achieve 100% FTEs in a world of today where people want flexibility.

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