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© 2018 Copyright Key Media and Research All rights reserved. 
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.

8
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The Revolving Door on the Plant Floor
How to Recruit and Retain Today’s Young Workers
BY ERIN JOHNSON
W
e are talking a lot as an
industry about automation
as a solution for quality, effi
-
ciency and addressing challenges with
finding and retaining skilled labor.
And automation is a solution for all of
those things. But what if it’s not in the
budget right away to move to a fully
automated plant? Or, even if you have
invested in some automation, how
do you find good, qualified people to
operate that equipment?
Say Hello to Cody ...
At the end of day, people are still
our most important asset — and they
always will be. People have the power
to create inefficiencies, create safety
concerns and ultimately put a major
drain on your bottom line if they are
not engaged and inspired enough to
stay with your organization long term.
So let me know if this sounds
familiar ...
You have a new recruit on the plant
floor—let’s call him Cody. Cody eager
-
ly shows up on day one. He is curious
about how long his breaks are and
what opportunities he might have for
advancement. He spends the next sev
-
eral weeks training and getting up to
speed. By month two he really has the
hang of things. By the end of month
three, he decides its time to move on
to greener grass (or so he thinks).
You devoted a lot of time to Cody,
and now you find yourself back to
square one in search of the next new
recruit.
If you cannot relate to this, con
-
gratulations. Somehow youve man-
aged to crack the Cody code. But for
those of you nodding (or shaking)
your head right now, know that you
are not alone.
According to 2017 Gallup polls,
only 33 percent of U.S. employees are
engaged. And every actively disen
-
gaged employee costs their organiza-
tion $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary.
Training, retraining, recruiting,
re-recruiting. Its all expensive and
exhausting. Why is it so hard?
Tips for Breaking the Cycle
I didnt choose the name Cody out
of thin air. Cody is one of the most
common names given to millennial
males. I could have just as easily cho
-
sen Brittany, Zach, Kelsea or Kyle. The
point is that our skilled-labor pool has
changed, though I’m not going to reit
-
erate the countless stereotypes and
stats related to this generation.
Today’s workers have changed,
and we have to evolve or that door
will only continue to revolve. It might
not be as difficult as you think. After
conversations with some human-re
-
source professionals, I learned that a
few simple shifts can engage employ
-
ees and keep them motivated longer.
1. Compensate. The one thing that
has not changed with the new gen
-
eration of workers is the value of
money. Financial rewards, wheth
-
er in the form of salary, retirement
plans or bonuses, still top the list
when it comes to employee satisfac
-
tion. Even the most nominal boost
in pay from another company might
be enough to entice your workers
away, so looking at your pay scale
is a great place to start. Remember
how much a disengaged employee
costs you, so a boost in pay up front
could save you money and head
-
aches in the long run.
2. Motivate. Implementing perks
is a lot easier for office workers.
However, plant employees cant
operate their equipment from
home,” and flexible schedules are
nearly impossible. But there is one
key way to motivate and engage
plant workers: get to know them.
Its easy to post the production
schedule and send employees off
to work. But taking the time to
create a dialogue, learning about
their aspirations and creating an
environment that encourages new
ideas can go a long way when it
comes to morale, engagement
and retention. (This is particularly
important for many millennials.)
You might also learn that he or she
wants to go back to school, and
tuition-reimbursement programs
might help with retention.
3. Educate. You might as well put away
the 100-page manuals and lengthy
presentations. Important messages
about job safety, performance and
basically anything else should be
frequent and bite-sized—and pref
-
erably in video form. This “micro-
learning” approach has proven to
help employees feel more invested
(and therefore more loyal), and they
are also more likely to retain what
they’ve learned.
Our New Reality
Worker shortages are not going
away. But you have a business to run
and you want it to run safely, efficient
-
ly and smoothly. You can transform
your plant with new equipment and
new technologies. But you cant ignore
the people factor. Survival in the 21st
century means taking a hard look at
both your processes and your people
and adapting your business to fit the
demands of today.
y
Erin Johnson serves as marketing director
for Quanex Building Products.
F E N E S T R A T I O N F O C U S
Erin.Johnson@quanex.com

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© 2018 Copyright Key Media and Research All rights reserved. 
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.