We are a food packaging plastics manufacturer in the middle of the U.S. and regularly hire a fair number of people for entry level Packer positions. We spent the last 3 years rebuilding our new hire orientation into a face-to-face event with a strong focus on our core values and connection, lots of hands-on learning activities and team building interaction, in addition to the nuts and bolts introduction to expectations of tasks when these entry level new hires first step foot onto the production floor. We saw our turnover percentage reduce significantly, leaders were taking an active part in welcoming and developing new hires and we were very happy with how things were going.
Then COVID-19 happened and classes all but stopped temporarily. A good number of packers chose to stay home for awhile due to fears of the illness and we found ourselves needing more and more people to keep up with demand. The company is doing everything we can based on CDC guidelines to keep people safe while at work including partitions in breakrooms, hourly surface sanitization, mandatory masks, etc. Recruiting and interviews were all completed over the phone. Managers and supervisors are doing everything they can with their labor counts to keep essential products coming off our production lines.
We are still facilitating New Hire Orientation in person and it is not without it's challenges. We no longer take new hires on tours because we don't have the resources for 1:1 tours with safe distancing. Interactive group activities are no longer possible. With a 1-person per table every 6' apart rule and mandatory masks, it is difficult to get and keep engagement, people are not as willing to participate, connections are not being made and we are seeing a rate of turnover that's higher than ever before. We are losing our new people at an astounding rate within just their first few days of working on the production floor.
We know we are not alone in this New COVID World struggle and we're wondering what other solutions manufacturing companies have identified when it comes to hiring, onboarding and keeping people in these crazy times?! We're thinking about taking the majority of our new hire orientation online; then bringing people in to the plant briefly to answer thier questions, reiterate our core values, meet our VIP Squad, engage in some hands-on training before sending them to their shifts.
What struggles and solutions have you experienced and implemented for new hires entering your manufacturing facilities?