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When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down offices and workplaces around the world in early 2020, many knowledge-based workers faced a new reality of working from home and communicating virtually with colleagues. As the year wore on, workers also began to appreciate some of the perks this work-from-home model offered — particularly the extra time spent with family. Without a lengthy commute or long office hours consuming personal time, workers saw their roles and responsibilities in a whole new light.
However, while there has been a considerable focus on getting knowledge-based workers like engineers, programmers, designers and researchers back to work, there has been less attention paid to shift workers in fields like manufacturing. These workers were typically not afforded the opportunity to work from home or keep a hybrid work schedule during the pandemic. Instead, many either stopped working completely or continued working in increasingly challenging conditions.
With enhanced unemployment benefits keeping many on the sidelines for an extended period and companies ramping up production, employers are struggling more than ever to bring critically needed shift workers back to work.
A recent Korn Ferry study titled Work Incentives and Shift Premiums found that 63% of respondents are currently facing either slightly more or significantly more challenges hiring shift workers compared to before the pandemic. In all, 134 companies participated in this comprehensive survey, including businesses in manufacturing, energy, consumer products, construction and the high-tech sector.
Many shift-based workers — especially those in the manufacturing sector — have reconsidered the nature of their jobs in the months following the height of the pandemic. Instead of simply heading back to work, these workers are reevaluating the original proposition of their employment.
Issues such as workplace risk, work/life balance, quality of life and mental health are all key concerns for shift workers, especially in light of the pandemic. Today's employers must address these complex factors among the workforce if they hope to motivate these in-demand employees to come back to work.
In order to mitigate this problem, some companies are increasing recruitment and marketing spends or launching new referral programs to attract top talent and bring previously sidelined shift workers back to work.
Other firms are offering unprecedented sign-on bonuses, adjusting pay schemes and creating special incentive plans to fill vital positions as production and operations continue to scale up.
However, while our study found that employers are using a broad array of aggressive measures to support hiring as the economy rebounds from the pandemic, a significant portion — 36% of respondents — reported taking no action to date around employee retention or bringing employees back to work.
Nearly half of the organizations surveyed in our study reported they have adjusted or are planning to adjust their shift premium policies to bring workers back to work and fill critical shifts in this challenging environment.
Whether these changes are permanent remains to be seen. While some employers may be taking these stabilizing measures only temporarily until the supply-demand equilibrium is restored, 41% of organizations surveyed currently have no incentive plan payments for their hourly employees. If adjustments are made on a wider scale and these steps are taken seriously over the long term, it could signal a more holistic recalibration of the employer-employee contract.
The post-pandemic hiring dynamic has presented employers with unprecedented challenges. The prospect of getting back to work has perhaps been permanently altered — meaning it's not a question of if, but how the pandemic has changed the employment proposition for shift workers.
In the end, the most successful hiring measures will be those that effectively address workers' concerns, reward risks and sacrifices in the workplace, and help workers achieve a meaningful work-life balance.
To explore the complete Work Incentives and Shift Premiums report, or to learn more about Korn Ferry's comprehensive surveys, contact us here.