By now, we're all very familiar with the issue of a worker shortage. This isn't new, of course. Companies and consultants alike have been warning of a coming shortfall. At first the worry was about finding skilled workers like toolmakers. Now companies are finding problems filling even low-skill jobs, despite increasing hourly pay and offering hiring bonuses.
It's not unique to the plastics industry.
Last week, our sister paper Automotive News ran a package of stories on how the workplace shortage is impacting automakers and auto suppliers. While some employers hoped the labor shortage would end with the end of supplemental unemployment insurance payments authorized earlier in the pandemic, that isn't proving true.
"The labor shortage is everywhere. Automotive. Restaurants. Hospitals," Steve Wybo, senior managing director for consulting group Riveron's automotive practice, told AN. "Last Saturday morning, I went out for a cup of coffee here in Michigan. I drove past three different Starbucks near my house here in the Detroit area, and they were all closed. At 8 o'clock in the morning. Not enough workers."
Even if you've got your staff in place, you may be caught up in shortages elsewhere.
"It's just being able to get truck drivers," said Garry Craft, director of sales at Alabama injection molder Koller Craft South. "There are times when we've had to call our customer and say, 'We will not be able to get a truck out today because we can't get a truck driver. We will get a truck tomorrow.'"
It turns out that problem has a name: The Great Resignation.
Anthony Klotz, an associate professor at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, is credited with developing the phrase to sum up why employees are leaving their jobs.
The concept isn't new. Employees frequently leave jobs they find unrewarding, but Klotz notes that the big social and business changes caused by COVID-19 have prompted more people to seek out something better.
"Workers from across the spectrum are saying: This pandemic has been horrible, but could one silver lining be that we make the world of work better coming out of it? So, let's talk about people who've traditionally had systematic disadvantages in the workplace and how we create a space to cut those systematic disadvantages away coming out of this pandemic," Klotz said in a Q&A with the website The Verse. "As opposed to just saying, 'Let's go back to the way it was, or, fine, remote must be good, so everybody go remote and let's hope for the best.'"
The job search website CareerBuilder has even developed a new series of ads focused on workers seeking something beyond what they see as a dead-end job.
In one ad, for instance, a woman who has been named Employee of the Month for several months in a row at a factory job but, with no chance to advancement, gets recruited to be a supervisor for another employer.
Klotz notes that employers should be thinking now about what they can do to provide workers with reminders of "how their job contributes to the well-being of the world," rather than leaving them with the question: "What am I doing for eight hours a day?"
One way to do that is to be able to call your business one of the Best Places to Work in the plastics industry. (How's that for a transition?)
Plastics News' annual ranking of the Best Places to Work is handled by an outside consulting group, and companies that make the list have another recruiting tool when they go out to hire new workers.
The deadline to apply for Best Places to Work is Friday, Oct. 15. Go to www.bestplacestoworkplastics.com to start the process.
Rhoda Miel is a Plastics News assistant managing editor and author of the daily Kickstart blog. Follow her on Twitter @PNRhodaMiel.