How to Optimise the Return to the Office

The world of work is going through a period of seismic change. Prompted by the pandemic, employees have begun to reconsider their relationship with creation and their employers.

Office-based food manufacturing team members now have new career priorities and concerns.

The return to the office promises to be a complex and diverse experience for most businesses. Around 44% of employees now agree they feel anxious about returning to the workplace. At the same time, employers are dealing with a slew of new demands, from hybrid work to the rise of the four-day work week.

To retain the existing workforce, attract new talent, and sidestep the impact of the Great Resignation, every manufacturing business will need a clear plan for what happens next.

The following steps will help to ensure you align with the needs of your team.

Step 1: Redefine Working Structures

As food manufacturers look forward to life after the pandemic, they'll consider various employee working structures. The standard 9-to-5 workday where everyone is present in the same office building is no longer the norm. However, not every company will be able to transition instantly to an all-remote ecosystem.

Employers will need to rethink the options available to their team members for working in a "hybrid" environment. This could mean allowing some people to work from home more often than others, depending on their daily tasks and roles. Around 51% of employees already have flexible working arrangements, and many want to maintain these structures.

Business leaders in the food industry will need to consider the individual "employee personas" in their workforce and determine how each transition back into the office can be tailored to each person. The more flexible you can be, the less likely employees will need to seek new roles.

Step 2: Invest in the Right Technology

The emergence of new working structures and environments has also prompted a greater need for technology in the food manufacturing space. We now rely on digital tools for collaboration, communication, employee engagement and productivity.

According to a 2021 report from the World Economic Forum, most companies are now seeking additional technology to assist with the transition to post-pandemic work. Cloud computing tools are particularly popular, alongside apps for video communication.

Around half of the CEOs are already planning on increasing their investment in digital transformation by 10% or more. However, ensuring you're investing in the right technology is essential. For instance, 16% of employers use digital methods to monitor employee performance, while many others focus on tools to improve team relationships, like messaging apps.

Step 3: Invest in Inclusion

The rise of flexible work in the food industry can boost Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategies by allowing companies to hire staff from anywhere. However, the right policies must be implemented to ensure the right results. 75% of managers still say on-site employees are more likely to receive promotions than remote workers.

As employees focus more heavily on seeking employee empathy and respect, it will be crucial to ensure the right DEI strategies are in place. According to the CBI, SMEs focusing on diversity attract more clients, improve staff commitment, and boost productivity.

To support all employees in a hybrid future, you'll need to ensure you're reaching out to minority groups, make your business more accessible to disabled people, and showcase D&I initiatives in your job descriptions. This should help to retain existing talent and attract new candidates.

Step 4: Adjust Hiring and Recruitment Strategies

There's a significant shortage of food manufacturing talent today, enhanced by the effects of the Great Resignation. To fill skill gaps, companies must broaden and optimise their approach to recruitment and hiring. This means working with specialist recruiters to highlight your EVP (Employee value proposition) to potential candidates.

It's also important to consider how you can make your company more appealing to all kinds o workers, offering everything from remote opportunities to four-day work weeks. Turnover is likely to increase in the years ahead, so having a talent pipeline in place could be critical.

A strong talent pipeline full of people ready to embrace all forms of hybrid and remote working opportunities with your business will ensure you never run out of critical skills. Working with a specialist recruiter will help you to ensure you're concentrating on the benefits most likely to bring new people into your workforce.

Step 5: Invest in Management Training

The numerous changes happening in the manufacturing landscape mean the roles of leadership professionals are evolving. These team members need to be able to monitor and support employees from a distance and show higher levels of empathy too.

Managers must be more intentional in developing relationships with team members and making them feel like a crucial part of the organisation. Business leaders must think carefully about the leadership strategies and techniques taught to other supervisors.

Specifically, managers must be aware of the apparent issues that could negatively impact their teams. For instance, around 55% of leaders in a PwC report said they believe delivering better support to burned-out workers and boosting engagement would be crucial to future growth.

Be Ready to Evolve and Adapt

We're still in the early stages of the work revolution in the food manufacturing industry, and new trends are constantly emerging. To stay ahead of the curve, business leaders must collect the correct data about their teams and candidates and work with the right parties. Starting a relationship with a specialist recruitment company could be the key to ensuring you can stay one step ahead of the complex hiring landscape.

By Scott Williams

I’m an independent owner of Food Recruit.

Passionate about the Food Manufacturing industry, having spent time as a Supply Chain Manager and Business Development Manager for two of the UK’s largest meat importers.

High Care, Low Care, Chilled and Ambient I have worked across all markets, including B2B, Foodservice, Wholesale and Retail.

I fell into recruitment in 2016 to start a Food & Drink desk in a long-standing Engineering Recruitment business in the West Midlands.

Progressing on to Business Development Manager, covering multiple markets before starting my agency in September 2020.

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