Canadian Packaging

Labour Relations

By Jorge Izquierdo   



How to overcome workforce turnover in times of acute labour shortages

With the ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere you look these days, every business seems to be short-handed. That’s because turnover is higher than it’s ever been, with more than four million employees quitting each month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Workforce retention is a problem in every sector of the economy, but it’s a particular challenge in industries like packaging and processing. According to the BLS, roughly 2.6 per cent of the manufacturing workforce left their job each month between August 2021 and May 2022, an average loss of 330,000 every 30 days.

Not only is it difficult to run production lines with skeleton crews, but it requires considerable time, effort and expense to interview, hire and train a replacement for an employee who opts to leave. In fact, it typically costs 50 per cent of their salary to replace an entry-level employee.

To retain personnel, it’s vital for employers to continually invest in employees and make it clear that they have opportunities to learn new skills, change roles, and grow professionally within the organization. Encouraging internal mobility enhances retention, engagement and agility, and it reduces time and money spent on hiring.

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As a recent report by LinkedIn notes, “Companies that excel at internal mobility are able to retain employees for an average of 5.4 years.

“That’s nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it, where the average retention span is 2.9 years.”

Manufacturers must therefore communicate what paths can be taken to advance within an organization or move from one role to another.

Noting that the best employees want to grow, learn or advance, the Work Institute recommends: “Establish clear benchmarks with your staff that indicate their expected advancements based on performance accomplishments.

“For those that don’t want to advance, but still want to learn new skills, make an effort to find what they enjoy and offer learning opportunities that will challenge them.

“This will motivate employees to perform,” the institute states, “but more importantly, it will encourage them to stay.”

With the increasing use of automation, mechatronics, robotics and AI (artificial intelligence), providing the training in the technical skills needed to support these advanced technologies is one way to offer growth opportunities that employees crave to build a skilled and loyal workforce.

Automation not only can eliminate monotonous and physically arduous work, but it can also free employees’ time for more satisfying tasks.

Here at PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, we have also noted in our recent research that promoting from within and improving training and career development are critical needs for CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies.

Manufacturing employers must also provide better clarity to their employees on how to transition to new roles and opportunities.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for workforce development support.

These include the TechEd 365 course, Troubleshooting Packaging Machinery, which is available online in English and Spanish. Designed for newcomers to the industry, it also can serve as a refresher for seasoned employees, and it’s available from PMMI for members and non-members alike.

We also offer the PMMI Mechatronics Certification program, which consists of a series of tests based on industry-developed skill standards. It’s recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Manufacturing Institute’s Skills Certification System. The program seeks to narrow the skills gap by:

  • Helping employers assess workers for core skills;
  • Guiding schools in developing curricula to prepare students for the manufacturing workforce;
  • Providing a career pathway for students looking for rewarding careers in advanced manufacturing.

In the nearer future, next month’s PACK EXPO International 2002 exhibition in Chicago, PMMI’s designated ‘Partner Schools’ will present various educational mechatronics, packaging, and processing offerings, as well as an opportunity for attendees and exhibitors to meet students interested in careers in packaging and processing. Students will also participate in a machine-building competition, while the show’s Future Innovators Robotics Showcase will provide attendees with the chance to network with potential employees who have an interest in manufacturing technology.

With time and attention focused on communication and training, manufacturers can stem the tide of employee turnover and build loyal, stable workforces.

Jorge Izquierdo is VP of market development at PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

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