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Is your conveyor belt of talent starting to look a little empty?

Are you starting to struggle to hire and retain Production or Warehouse Operatives? Here are the 9 positive behaviours of companies who seem to be doing a great job of managing this problem. 

Hannah Foster

Hannah Foster

Senior Recruitment Consultant

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As a seasoned and experienced recruiter of Production and Warehouse Operatives across the region, I get to see first-hand how my clients are adapting to the ever-dwindling pool of available jobseekers. I have noticed that those companies who are successful in hiring and retaining operatives demonstrate the same consistent behaviours, so here is my guide to snapping-up and retaining talent in the tightest candidate market we have ever seen (and it’s not just about the hourly rate!)

First, the economics. With EU net migration into the UK falling to its lowest level in almost six years, it’s more important than ever to retain the workforce you already have. There once was a time when EU migrants could be relied upon to help bridge the gap in the workforce however, since the referendum, net inflows have greatly decreased. The lower value of the pound is likely to have made the UK a less attractive place to live and work which doesn’t help when traditionally Production & Warehouse Operatives receive lower pay.

So, here are the 9 positive behaviours of my clients who still manage to hire and retain good quality, reliable staff when paying a premium is not always an option.

1) The Early bird…

By far the most common factor that my successful clients employ to snap up the available talent is speed. Production & Warehouse Operatives can rarely afford to be out of work or, if they are working, they can’t attend multiple interviews and they will often take the first option they are presented with.

Those clients who respond quickest to agency CV’s or direct applicants will almost always secure the best candidates. I know that line managers and decision-makers are busy and that their time is precious but interviewing quickly is well worth the short-term discomfort.

Should you decide there’s even a possibility of interviewing a candidate – arrange it. A two or three stage interview process for a low paying role is simply too much to ask, especially when there are more live vacancies than relevant candidates.

2) Bad news travels fast.

Try to provide feedback should the jobseeker not be successful post an interview with you, however unnecessary this might seem at the time. In my years in recruitment, I have spoken to dozens of candidates who will not consider working for a company who they interviewed for previously because they still have a bad taste in their mouths – sometimes from years before.

Reputations can be damaged quickly and that can make attracting talent into your business even harder. Try to leave a good impression of your company – that person could be a perfect fit for your team in the future.

3) Listen up!

Allowing staff to feel that their opinion is listened to and valued has a significant impact on morale. Once you’ve gathered their feedback, highlight the recurring themes and think about how whether some of their frustrations can be alleviated which needn’t necessarily incur major operational changes or extra expense. Grumbles over minor issues can often fester and grow into productivity-sapping issues which could have been avoided.

4) Be thankful.

The companies I work with which retain employees successfully never underestimate the vast impact a simple ‘thank you’ can have. Their genuine gratitude and recognition is a huge motivator. Feeling unappreciated is one of the main reasons jobseekers tell me that they want to leave their current employers.

5) Praise.

In the same vein as showing gratitude, praise goes a long way. Most Production & Warehouse Operatives are aware that they are a small cog in a big wheel, but they often start to consider their career options when they stop feeling valued or believe they’re simply just a number.

There is often little in the way of reward when targets are exceeded and, all too frequently, the focus tends to be on how workers should be reprimanded should productivity wain. Whilst I’m not condoning a poor work ethic or lack of effort, there needs to be a balance. Praise, like gratitude, is free so why not use it liberally.

6) What’s the plan, Stan?

Operatives should understand what’s expected of them and how they can develop their career within the company. Even if vertical progression isn’t an option, the chance to gain new skills and take on additional responsibilities with time can be alluring. Not sharing company news and developments with staff can result in them feeling unimportant and under-valued. Let them know the bigger picture so that they can then have the satisfaction of working towards a greater goal.

7) Adapt and evolve.

Change is normal and often inevitable if a company is to promote a positive work culture and grow. Longevity can’t excuse continuous poor performance or negativity but before taking drastic action, some of my clients take the time to understand the reasons for a drop in performance. Perhaps re-training is required or there are personal issues to address. We would advise carefully outlining a plan to get the individual back on track. Should the situation not change over an agreed period of time, unfortunately, it’s probably time to cut your losses.

8) Don’t write off the 'Steady Eddies or Edinas'.

Whilst it’s understandable to expect the best jobseekers on the market to want to join your team, is it right to hire an individual hell-bent on career progression if you simply cannot offer it?

The ‘Steady Eddies’ of this world can often slip under the radar because they don’t have a five year ambitious career plan. However, these candidates can offer stability to your teams and loyalty should you make them feel valued. My clients who understand the importance of this know that the applicant may not currently have the exact skill set required but they believe that if they’re eager to learn and are a good fit for the team based on their characteristics, it’s worth the time to train them up.

9) Commitment issues.

The days of “try before you buy” are dwindling. A temporary workforce is a necessity for peaks in workflow but seriously consider taking somebody on permanently if you can guarantee the work. With so much uncertainty in the UK, now more than ever, candidates want security. Probationary periods are in place to protect hirers from the occasional misfire so be bold and be proactive in areas where your competitors are not.
To conclude;

Implementing any of these suggestions could significantly impact your company’s productivity and promote a positive work culture. The benefits far outweigh the little extra time it takes to engage your workforce and could result in less money being spent on regularly back-filling within your team. As demand for quality staff continues to outstrips supply, those companies which adapt will survive and possibly even thrive.

So ask yourself the question – can you and your business afford not to?

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