How To Prosper During A Pandemic With A Labor Shortage

Plant Performance

Many headwinds are currently challenging all facets of manufacturing. The current pandemic has forced many workplace changes, including the physical facility, limited available workforce, and new regulatory requirements.


How can businesses learn to deal with these challenges and yet still seek and accept new business opportunities? We believe that this path starts with taking care of the people providing the service for these new business ventures.


With over 65 years in business and thousands upon thousands of happy clients, we have a proven track record of success in dealing with challenges as they arise and meeting them head on with the ability to turn them into opportunities for growth.


In this article, we will explain how we helped to build quality teams of happy people who, in turn, allow for the ability for Industrial Packaging to grow better.


Meeting New Regulatory Requirements During A Pandemic


Regarding new regulatory requirements, those aren’t optional and you’ll need to comply. At Industrial Packaging, we were quick to react to the changes that needed to be completed within the plant in social distancing and team member safety. We created a team to evaluate the current conditions and implement improvements at an expedited pace.


regulations during a pandemic


An additional break room was added with tables for each production line to keep teams segregated. The tables have dividers to prevent face to face contact. We added barriers and walls to production lines. In some instances, we altered the configuration of a line to provide more team member separation.


We introduced a thermal imaging system and the mandatory use of face masks in early March. We implemented all of these, along with many other additions and changes to enhance safety for employees.


We are determined to ensure that no team member will become ill due to conditions inside our facility. These changes provided the team members with confidence that Industrial Packaging is concerned with their health and overall safety.


Key Items To Consider Implementing:


  • Quickly adopt new regulations
  • Listen to the experts
  • Put employee safety first
  • Implement new technologies to ensure a safe environment
  • Ensure social distancing protocols


Operating With A Limited Workforce During A Pandemic


The constraints of a reduced workforce also forced us to look at different ways to attract and retain valuable team members.


Employees during a pandemic


A fair wage is always essential. Monitor the current market conditions and make decisions as needed. If you can, consider offering incentives and bonuses as well as adjusting your starting wage. While these methods are somewhat effective, we needed to look at other longer-term solutions.


Key Items To Consider Implementing:


  • Offer fair wages at or above national average
  • Offer sign-on bonuses
  • Provide additional incentives for new positions


Managing Team Member Development During A Pandemic


One area that has helped us to be successful is team member development. We have always been aggressive with cross-training and development tactics to enhance our production and provide opportunities to help our team members grow.


Hand with marker writing We Believe in Making a Difference


Through the early months of the pandemic, we had several weeks with many key people that were home due to illness, childcare concerns, or other issues. During this period, we had to rely on employees other than the normal decision makers.


Oftentimes, we needed to rely on entry level employees who were new to this decision making process. However, due to our intensive and quality training processes, these employees were able to rise to the occasion and help us to not only meet our goals, but exceed them.


This reliance allowed us to continue to meet our production goals despite the decimated ranks. While other businesses in our industry were unable to operate or did so with great difficulty, by working within our ranks as we did, we were able to ensure that the proper decisions were made, and we were able to stay productive.


Key Items To Consider Implementing:


  • Offer quality training
  • Let your team members know you value them
  • Prepare each employee to be ready for unexpected challenges
  • Allow employees to adjust to sudden changes


Finding Opportunities For Growth During A Pandemic


The inability of other businesses to meet customer production needs has opened the door for Industrial Packaging to gain more of the market and strengthen the relationship with our largest customer. We have proven that we are reliable and flexible when there is increased demand for what we do. Without the right people in place, this would not be possible.


So, we have further recognized the need and value of the continuous development of our team. We have built a vital cross-training and development system with several critical supervisory, management, and team-lead individuals.


growth during a pandemic


To do this, we first identified the skills that are essential for production. Next, we had to determine the key components that were required to be competent in these skills. We wrote out clear job descriptions for each job performed.


We learned the key points that needed to be emphasized during training with the job descriptions in place. We put an evaluation system in place that measures the abilities of our trainees. We also developed a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of their trainers.


Key Items To Consider Implementing:


  •  Identify key responsibilities
  •  Provide superior training
  •  Provide further opportunities to better understanding of job functionality
  •  Audit both trainers and trainees and improve the process as you go


Improving Training Protocols During A Pandemic


Finally, we found a method to track each person's progress. It is essential that team members can follow and be part of the plan to further their development. This system allows this to be possible.


Next, we looked at who was conducting the training and how they administer it. Before this, there was no standard training method, and in many cases, the trainers had limited ability to train properly.


Training and Development during a pandemic


We developed a Certified Trainer Program that ensures value and consistency throughout the training process. We have recognized that there are several benefits to this development program.


First, we have people who are happy to be here. They see that there is a road for further growth and learning. Many feel that their efforts are appreciated. We are a company that values them as individuals and not just faces in the crowd.


Many team members come to us seeking their first real job. We provide them with a chance to learn and advance. With advancement, the opportunity to earn more money or perhaps be hired as a full-time employee can present itself.


We’ve also found employees report a reduction in stress levels with both team members and leads because expectations are consistent and clear.


Key Items To Consider Implementing:


  • Offer entry level workers quality job opportunities
  • Give temporary workers the potential for full time work, based on experience
  • Provide the tools necessary for growth within the company
  • Implement certified training programs
  • Track individual employees growth and offer opportunities for advancement


Reducing Turnover During A Pandemic


All of these measures help reduce turnover and provide more consistent staffing levels for each shift. With the same people reporting each day, we don’t have to continually train new entry-level people, which takes time and affects productivity and throughput.


With more people capable of doing an increased variety of jobs, we can run more lines and even take on other projects that may originate from other customers.


Key Items To Consider Implementing:


  •  Cross train employees for various duties
  •  Reduce turnover by offering quality training and work dynamics
  •  Offer opportunities for other responsibilities


Creating New Business Partnerships During A Pandemic


So, in the end, Industrial Packaging can seek out new business partners and grow our operation. This opportunity is a clear advantage over many other companies in our industry.


partnerships during a pandemic


It also provides more opportunities for the growth of our team members, thus beginning the cycle all over again. Our people are our most valued asset, and we feel there is an obligation to help them improve and grow.


By focusing on helping our team members evolve in their job, we open up the entire company to opportunities to grow better while offering a pleasant ecosystem where every employee has the chance to flourish.




About David Connolly, Plant Manager

I find myself surrounded by an honest, passionate, hardworking group of people with the IP team, here. Being the proud Dad of beautiful twin girls is the highlight of my life. Go Pats!