Curbing staff shortages with better places to work

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kemp: 'We're starting to see that people are recognising that everybody should feel proud to work where they are'
Kemp: 'We're starting to see that people are recognising that everybody should feel proud to work where they are'

Related tags: factory design & Maintenance

Providing a more desirable place to work is the first step towards improving staff retention and handling labour shortages within the food and drink industry, according to Pentadel managing director James Kemp.

As Kemp pointed out, it’s not a lack of people in the labour pool, but rather a lack of people who want to work in the food and drink industry that is the real challenge presented to food and drink manufacturers.

The problem, he claimed, was that manufacturers were not doing enough to make their businesses desirable places to work for production staff.

Whenever you went to food manufacturing site, there'd be a shiny entrance for the management and visitors and then there would be some grotty side door around the back where all the people who were doing the actual making and production went through to work in the bowels of the factory,”​ Kemp explained.

“We're starting to see that people are recognising that everybody should feel proud to work where they are. Once we do that, then we're not talking about a staffing crisis – of how do we get people to do these perhaps less desirable jobs – the thought process becomes, how do we make this facility somewhere that's inspiring for people to go to?”

The COVID-19 pandemic has done the industry no favours in making it a more desirable place to work.

Praise for the industry

In Kemp’s eyes, not enough had been done to praise the work of the people working in the food industry to keep food on the plates of Brits. Much like the NHS, food workers have been on the front lines, putting themselves at potential risk at a time where the prevailing message was to keep home and as far apart from people as possible.

“We ​[as a society] just don't recognise the work that people do within food factories, which might be that some of the reasons why it's so hard to fill those positions,” ​he added.

The culmination of these factors has prompted more and more manufacturers to re-evaluate their factories and places of work in order to provide their staff, and potential new recruits, a place to work that they can be proud to return to every day.

“So now clients are all of a sudden sort of getting on board and saying, look, I understand why I want to have an inspiring journey to work for everybody in the team,”​ Kemp continued. “I understand why we want to have natural light in the into the facilities rather than having very low, oppressive ceilings.

“How can we make it more inspiring for people to work in? How do they recognise what time of day it is? You wouldn't like to go to work, nor would I be stuck in an artificially lit white box all day not knowing if it was light outside, dark or raining.”

Pride and accomplishment

One of the first steps any food business can take is to eliminate the ‘them and us’ mentality that can be created by forcing shop floor workers to enter the business through a side door or concealed entrance. As Kemp explained, the use of a single entrance for both management as production staff can help instil a sense of respect among staff for themselves and the building they work in.

However, some manufacturers could look at the restructuring of their facilities as an unneeded cost for little turnaround, but Kemp couldn’t disagree more.

“I think I think that's a misconception that a lot of owners have – it doesn't have to cost any more,” ​said Kemp. “It doesn't mean that they have to have gold plated taps or you have to spend any more money or fixtures and fittings. It means you have to think about how you're using your spaces.

“You don't have to spend money on fancy things. I think we all have to evolve and change all the time, and I think what I'm discussing is an evolution. It's about being an employer of choice and it doesn't actually matter what the work is that you're asking people to do. It's about how you are treating people. It's the environment that you're creating – that is why people want to work there.”

Related topics: People & Skills, Operations

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