Tag Archives: labor shortages

Holly Mockus, Product Manager, Alchemy Systems
Food Safety Culture Club

Improve Employee Loyalty and Food Safety by Building Better Leaders

By Holly Mockus
No Comments
Holly Mockus, Product Manager, Alchemy Systems

No matter where you look, labor shortages continue to linger. Good workers are in short supply, whether at a coffee shop, retail store, or food manufacturing plant. In some states, the problem has gotten so bad that lawmakers are proposing changes to child labor laws. Iowa, for example, has introduced legislation to make it legal for 14-year-olds to work in meat packing plants, which could present significant challenges to food and workplace safety. We shouldn’t have to resort to such drastic measures to maintain a stable workforce.

In addition to using higher wages and bonuses to attract workers, more manufacturers are creating workplace cultures that foster a feeling of importance, opportunity for advancement, and employee well-being—which all hinge on the strength of their frontline supervisors.

Bad supervisors or managers are among the most common reasons people cite for leaving their jobs. Last year, the employment and background screening services company GoodHire conducted a survey to determine why employees quit their jobs. Of the 3,000 workers surveyed, 82% identified bad managers as the top reason for leaving.

Set Up Leaders for Success

Being a good manager or supervisor is about displaying leadership qualities and habits that foster employee loyalty and best practices. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in leadership development. Good leaders can impact employee engagement by up to 70%, which improves safety and quality, enhances productivity, and reduces absenteeism and employee turnover.

In manufacturing, leaders are often selected based on their attendance or job performance. But we know it takes much more to be a good leader. Leaders must learn how to properly coach frontline workers, conduct constructive conversations, resolve conflicts, and more.

Frontline supervisors need leadership and soft skills training to improve communication, create good first impressions, provide and receive feedback, and conduct difficult conversations. Leadership training can also build trust and employee engagement in a manner that values differences.

Balance Empathy with Discipline

One of the biggest challenges for supervisors is maintaining a balance of empathy and discipline. While it’s important to understand and appreciate the challenges that manufacturing workers have endured over the last two years, supervisors must still hold employees accountable for their actions.

Many employees who were classified as essential workers during the pandemic are still working without a significant break. They’re watching friends leave for other jobs with higher pay. And they are taking on more work while replacements are slowly hired. They’re struggling financially as inflation outstrips their pay. And they might still be working without a path for promotions.

So, it’s important for leaders to understand their pain without looking the other way when safety policies go unfollowed. Leaders should be taught how to listen and ask questions about the general well-being of their teams while holding workers accountable for mistakes and shortcuts that can lead to safety issues.

While it might seem like a time to tread lightly around employees, letting safety issues go unfollowed can lead to significant consequences and allow other workers to develop bad safety habits.

Actively Listen to Employees and Value Differences

Frontline employees often complain that their supervisors rarely listen to their concerns. Active listening skills are needed to create an environment where employees feel included and valued. Training can help emerging leaders improve their listening skills and turn that feedback into something actionable.

Employees also need to feel included, which means leaders must learn how to understand and appreciate different backgrounds and cultures. In manufacturing plants with employees from multiple cultures and nationalities, it is essential for leaders to understand what drives and motivates employees before, during and after work.

This is also the time to improve overall listening skills, such as maintaining contact and eliminating distractions during conversations. Effective communication involves more than speaking clearly; it’s also about knowing when to stop talking and give others a chance to speak. Not all employees are comfortable with face-to-face meetings and being asked questions in a crowd. So, it’s important to know how employees like to communicate. This might involve email vs. direct or group conversations.

Make the Leap from Co-Worker to Leader

As leaders are selected from their groups, one of their biggest challenges will be transitioning from co-worker to supervisor. Too often, this conflict creates an environment where exceptions are made for friends. Training can help new leaders set clear expectations and boundaries for their friends and understand when they need to be firm and when they can be flexible.

These are just a few training areas that can help set new leaders up for success. Other areas of leadership training may include anger management, how to deal with difficult people, disciplinary actions, performance evaluations, and providing and receiving feedback.

When it comes to recruiting, new employees might come for the perks, but they’ll stay for a good supervisor.


Omicron Disrupting Food Supply Chain, Impacting Grocery Stores

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments

Year three of the pandemic is pushing industries to the limit, as the highly contagious omicron variant is resulting in even more severe labor shortages that are impacting all angles of business. The food industry is no exception. The food supply chain has already been significant impacted by COVID-19, resulting in empty grocery store shelves. Last year, BSI’s Jim Yarbrough and Neil Coole wrote an article for Food Safety Tech about the fact that COVID-19’s Impact on the Food Industry Reaches Far Beyond Supermarket Shelves. Now eight months later, the omicron variant is further disrupting food operations, with a considerable amount of the workforce being sidelined with the virus.

“The entire food-at-home supply chain is being impaired by deeper labor shortages than anticipated—this much seems clear to us—and it’s only a question of how bad the impact is,” stated JP Morgan analyst Ken Goldman in an article by The Wall Street Journal.

Companies such as Conagra Brands, Inc. are struggling to keep up with consumer demand while also maintaining that food safety and quality is of the utmost importance. The company has stated that inflation could be even worse than initially expected as a result of higher costs for proteins, transportation, dairy and resin, which could all translate to higher price tags for consumers. “The word of the year this year is perseverance,” the company’s CEO Sean Connolly stated.

Kevin Kenny, Decernis
FST Soapbox

COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions on the Horizon

By Kevin Kenny
No Comments
Kevin Kenny, Decernis

On the one level, it’s still too early to see full supply chain stoppages, other than growing port and customs delays. While one does not need a crystal ball to see that significant issues are already on the horizon, it takes time for both positive and negative supply impacts to wend their way through the chain.

My company, Decernis, a FoodChain ID Company, provides a complete regulatory intelligence software suite that covers more than 100,000 global regulations in 219 countries, and as such, we have a unique global perspective on how the pandemic is going to affect the supply chain.

Among the countries to watch is India, which imposed a nationwide 21-day shutdown on March 25 and thus far is the tightest lockdown in the world. In the large cities, the lack of public transportation has forced newly unemployed to walk home, often over a period of days, to their home villages. This creates a challenge for the economy because India depends on seasonal migrant and factory workers.

Unlike most countries, pharmaceutical and supplement manufacturers, as well as food processors, are entirely shut down. While farm operations and their supply chains are exempt, there is no harvest without migrant labor. Moreover, truckers transporting frozen goods often are stopped en route due to uneven permit enforcement across states. Add to this the problem of export foods stuck in containers or ports with limited market access, combined with import/export restrictions, and a crisis is at hand.

And, while the Indian government has not banned rice exports, India’s Rice Exporters Association effectively suspended exports because of dramatic labor shortages and logistical disruptions. So, while buyers exist, there is no practical way to harvest, process or ship those exports.

Combine the lack of migrant agricultural workers with the closing of restaurants and schools in many countries and economies are left with a steep drop in demand. As a result, unprocessed food including pork, eggs, milk and early-harvest fruits and vegetables are being destroyed or “tilled under.”

Countries whose leadership is turning a blind eye to the pandemic (i.e., Brazil) will ultimately see a more significant impact.

Another major player to watch is China, where the tariff crisis initially exposed supply chain vulnerabilities. Combined with the current pandemic, businesses now see that sourcing can often be a more substantial factor than price.

Prior to COVID-19, the United States, among other countries, initiated a trend toward blatant economic nationalism, which significantly accelerated this year. In an effort to protect their populations and national security, countries (i.e., Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine) halted the export of vital commodities. As a result, critical supplies have been diverted to more developed countries that can outbid and pay a higher price, leading to food security risks in smaller and weaker markets.

These factors will trigger a rethinking of supply chains in the medium and long term. The cost savings realized in China, India, Vietnam and Thailand will be weighed against the threats to supply chain stability. The result may be a subtle new form of supply chain nationalism, where companies prefer more reliable local production to lower-cost, more vulnerable foreign production. The recent sourcing trend for large multinationals to partner with fewer, trusted providers could reverse once the dust settles from this pandemic.

The decrease in air cargo capacity (due to the grounding of passenger aircrafts) has also played a significant role in supply chain disruption and will lead to dramatic short-term increases in the cost of air freight.

Last, but certainly not least, will be the fallout from obvious bankruptcies. As an early indicator, 247,000 Chinese companies declared bankruptcy in the first two months of 2020, with many more closures expected.

Obvious candidates include movie theaters, airlines, cruise ships, retailers, and hotels, but any company caught carrying a large debt load is also endangered. Pharma companies and those in oil, gas and petrochemicals will also be affected by a perfect storm of oil market collapse.

On a positive note, any supplement (i.e., Vitamin B, C and D) food commodity (i.e., blueberries, oranges) and processed food products (i.e., juices, yogurts) perceived to have immunity-boosting potential will likely see a short and long-term boost in sales. Botanicals, however, may soon have significant new sourcing problems.

As they deal with consequences of this pandemic, global companies will need to strategize for building a more durable and flexible supply chain. These unprecedented times are sure to spark more innovation and technological growth to address the challenges industry is facing.