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Food Industry Labour Shortage: How to Retain Employees

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Being able to target and attract candidates is key to addressing the labour shortage in the Food & Beverage industry in Ontario. However, these efforts will be wasted if your company does not develop internal strategies to maintain new and existing employees.

Throughout their employment, workers may indeed be tempted to leave their current job for career development purposes, work-life balance or management issues. The good news is that you can prevent these departures and help reduce the estimated 25,000 worker shortage in the industry by 2025. Here are 3 ways to do this.


#1 Offer quality working conditions

Workplace Flexibility

According to the Work Institute, the search for career development, work-life balance, and better salary conditions are among the top reasons why U.S. employees voluntarily left their job in 2019. It also claims that 3/4 of voluntary turnover could be avoided through targeted actions. Training programs, flexible scheduling and a good mix of compensation and benefits are vital to improving working conditions.


How can I optimize compensation and benefits in the Food & Beverage industry?

The Food and Beverage industry is not known for being high-paying, so every little pay raise can make a big difference for employees. By implementing yearly pay raises and keeping your pay scale at or above the market average, you can increase your retention rate.


Among the compensation models, two stand out as having a powerful impact on employee retention through performance accountability. By implementing competency-based pay, you can indeed motivate workers to achieve their desired income by giving them the responsibility of improving their skills. The alternative is Revenue sharing. By making a portion of your employees' salary dependent on your company's profits, this model can offer employees a sense of ownership in the company's performance, which might encourage them to excel and to stay with you as you grow.


Besides compensation, consider benefits, especially those related to health and well-being. Lack of health support by employers may indeed have a significant impact on employee stress levels. Providing group health insurance or reimbursing gym memberships are critical to improving employee wellness and preventing costly absences from work. For the same reason, it’s important to provide your staff with sufficient time off. Allowing workers to go on sick leave, enjoy a family vacation or welcome the arrival of a newborn helps them stay motivated and productive.


When it comes to added perks, consider implementing employee incentive programs. These can help you retain talent by offering rewards or benefits to motivate positive behaviour. Depending on your employees' needs and your business’s values, these incentives can include tuition reimbursement, company childcare and a cafeteria with attractive prices or discounts on company products. Since the food industry produces basic necessities, allowing employees to benefit can have positive economic repercussions on them.


How can I help my employees develop their skills and grow in my company?

Provide your staff with continuous training to give them opportunities for advancement. At the same time, it opens possibilities for internal promotions or transfers to more specialized jobs. This approach gives employees a long-term vision of their future in your company while allowing you to meet the growing digitization needs of the Food and Beverage industry. Not to mention that keeping staff motivated avoids time-consuming recruitment processes.


How can I offer flexibility in the food manufacturing industry?

With the Covid-19 pandemic, many employees got used to flexible work locations and schedules. Remote working can, however, be tricky to implement in the F&B industry because it includes a lot of in-situ production operations on the supply chain, factory work, transportation and other on-site positions.

To compensate, consider acting on time flexibility. By rearranging schedules in a way that allows employees to have denser but shorter weeks or flexible arrival and departure times, you can significantly improve their comfort level and engagement.


#2 Create a great company culture

Workplace Collaboration

A positive company culture can help your employees feel respected, valued and connected to the organization. By implementing onboarding programs, creating pleasant work environments and encouraging workers to leave their mark, you ensure that employees thrive in a positive work culture that will keep them loyal.


How should I welcome new employees?

The guidance newcomers receive in their first weeks is crucial to their long-term perception of their employer.

In that regard, setting up an onboarding process allows new employees to understand their new environment from day one. Briefing them on company culture and values and training them using food manufacturing software and technical equipment increases your chances of retaining them.

This can also be done through a mentoring program that involves senior staff accompanying less experienced employees in their new missions.


How do I create a pleasant workspace for my employees?

Creating a quality work environment that has adequate space for tasks to be completed and common areas to relax helps reduce stress and create bonds between team members. If you can, offer healthy snacks and design human-friendly work spaces (plants, light, large tables, etc.). Organize team-building activities from time to time to help new members integrate into the team and release possible tensions among workers. All the socializing opportunities that you create for your employees are an important retention factor.


How can I foster a sense of belonging to my company?

By giving workers the opportunity to leave their mark on the business. This can be done by involving your staff in decision-making processes. Whether it be through surveys, anonymous suggestion boxes or interviews, consulting employees on major decisions can be a source of motivation because it gives them a sense of responsibility in the evolution of the company and its performance (good or bad). Additionally, leaving room for initiatives while promoting open dialogue is a great way to foster a sense of belonging. Encourage workers to help you identify weaknesses and strengths in their working conditions and welcome all suggestions aimed at improving performance and daily life at the company. Carefully consider these ideas and give employees honest, timely and recurring feedback. This keeps them informed of what's going on and demonstrates their importance to the company.


#3 Adopt a healthy management style

Healthy Management

Running your business with a management style that your employees can relate to will foster a lasting working relationship and reduce turnover rate. Focus on autonomy, caring and communication.


How can I increase my employees' sense of autonomy?

Don't be afraid to delegate and be transparent about what needs to be done and when. This will not only free up your time for other duties, it will also create a virtuous circle by increasing worker autonomy.


This implies learning to trust your employees and being upfront. It’s important to give them responsibilities without exercising excessive control. Employees also have to accept their share of the risk. This approach will only strengthen employee engagement in the company.


Lastly, empower your managers to make decisions. In manufacturing, managers are sometimes your only link to workers which makes the manager-employee relationship so crucial when it comes to keeping workers on board. Consequently, offer your managers the training they need to deal with their teams and strengthen the bonds within your workforce.


How should I implement a caring management style?

Though incorporating care and empathy into management may seem obvious, it goes beyond making yourself available to your employees to ensure the well-being of the organization. It also involves being alert to the early signs of burnout or discomfort and maintaining constant contact with workers wherever they are on the production line. Creating a culture of caring increases employee engagement.


How can I nurture open and transparent communication within my company?

The importance of facilitating open and transparent communication has already been underlined. When communicating internally about business decisions, make sure to involve all stakeholders so that employees feel they’re being considered. Accept comments and be proactive in providing additional explanations or adapting your communication to the realities raised by your employees. To keep track of all the feedback you receive, know that retention automation tools are available, such as the Officevibe software. These systems allow you to measure and track data on engagement, satisfaction and peer-to-peer relationships within your organization.


The ability to retain employees is as important as the ability to attract and maximize the number of applications you receive. Mastering the 3 realities discussed in this article ensures you can come out on top of the labour shortage in the Food & Beverage industry.