According to research by Bristol Associates, as many as 73% of food and beverage manufacturers are having difficulty finding talent. In the 2022 survey, respondents reported they frequently lost applicants to other job offers, or they never had enough applicants to begin with. The impact bleeds into multiple manufacturing challenges, including meeting production demands, keeping costs down amid inflation, and maintaining food and beverage product quality and safety.

These food and beverage companies aren’t just competing with each other for market share — they’re competing for workers in an increasingly small labor pool to keep running smoothly. What does it take to succeed in food manufacturing recruitment in 2023? Here are five tips for improving company culture and winning over workers.

1. Increase pay and benefits

Experts attributed the Great Resignation to a collective desire to escape burnout and find more meaningful work. While that’s the case for many, research has since found that the primary motive was finding better pay. It worked: as much as 60% of job hoppers achieved real wage gains. Now, with more leverage available to workers, employers need to raise salaries and offer more benefits and incentives if they want to attract top talent to their open positions. Better pay could be the primary differentiator between your company and your competitors — one that shows how much you value workers.

2. Improve scheduling

Lifestyles changed dramatically during the pandemic, and as a result of inflation, especially around the logistics of child and dependent care. Both have made it more difficult for people to secure reliable and affordable childcare, which in turn impacts parents’ ability to work. As a result, today’s workforce may not be able to accommodate last-minute scheduling by employers. Be prepared to overhaul the way you schedule shifts, so employees can know weeks in advance exactly when they’ll be working. Also consider more flexible scheduling on shift start and end times so workers can better manage their lives outside work. These changes will increase employee retention as well as strengthen your food manufacturing recruitment strategy. Just remember to mention updated policies in the job listing.

3. Upgrade facilities

Some manufacturers hold back on remodeling their spaces because it’s not cost effective — but this could cost more in the long run. Employees want to spend time in bright, well-maintained, modernized spaces, and failing to provide this environment can deter candidates from accepting job offers. Since employees spend so much time at work, they may be inclined to work for a competitor that carefully designs its environment, even if their pay remains the same.

4. Invest in automation

Aside from higher pay, workers who left their jobs during the Great Resignation were also seeking more fulfilling employment. Focusing on repetitive and mundane work can be a major driver of burnout — a problem employers are increasingly solving with automation. Robots and cobots can streamline processes like food sorting or packaging, freeing up workers to focus more on food safety skill-building and training. Automation can also reduce exposure during dangerous processes, such as cutting slabs of meat prior to packaging. Companies that prioritize employee convenience will have an easier time with food manufacturing recruitment. And of course, automation has the added benefit of lessening the burden of unfilled jobs.

5. Enhance training and skill development

Fulfilling workplaces offer employees the chance to learn and practice new skills that advance their careers. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management found that as much as 68% of employees would stay at their current employer for the duration of their career if that employer promoted upskilling or reskilling them. Helping employees develop could create a pipeline from the plant floor into management and even executive positions for employees who want to someday shape their organizations’ food safety policies. Growth opportunities would not only increase retention but also attract recruits with larger aspirations.

Succeeding in a New Era of Food Manufacturing Recruitment

Food manufacturing recruitment remains a major challenge, on par with supply chain disruption and inflation. Companies that improve working conditions and prioritize employee growth will have an easier time not only attracting new talent, but keeping (and improving) what they have.

Well-rounded development for frontline employees involves training and certifying them on food safety and sanitation practices, crisis management, and other skills they need to thrive in food and beverage manufacturing. AIB International offers a wealth of courses for manufacturers trying to upskill their employees, as well as consultation services to develop custom programs. Learn more about how our courses can help you transform your approach to food safety and its position in the labor market.

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