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  • Kevin Kulp

Turnover & employee fatigue

CCG has seen several large-scale trends in production facilities over the three decades we have spent in shiftwork consulting. In the 1990s, we helped 24x7 factories and manufacturing plants change from 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts; in the 2000s, it was operations moving from 5 and 6-day production to 7-day continuous operations to increase organizational capacity before opening new sites; and in the 2010s, we supported a greater focus on production and warehousing efficiency as companies were forced to become more flexible. A global pandemic in 2020 brought new health and safety protocols, with surges in demand clashing with labor shortages. If the last two years are anything to judge by, the next 10 years will be focused on managing absenteeism and employee turnover among a younger workforce that has more job mobility. Turnover is through the roof in most plants that reach out to us – and good employees are rejecting traditional shiftwork schedules in favor of flexibility and predictability.

Absenteeism due to fatigue and burnout is plaguing businesses, especially those running 24 hour operations. In some plants, employees are scheduled 5 days a week but on a regular basis are asked to stay late or come in for a weekend shift to make up for missed capacity goals. New and trained employees quit due to the pandemic or to find jobs with higher pay or a better schedule. With fewer employees, everyone remaining is forced to work overtime to hit production goals. Employees who don’t want excessive overtime (usually your most experienced and valued employees) will retire or find more predictable jobs elsewhere, which means the remaining employees become even more squeezed. Safety risks increase as employees become fatigued, and the revolving door of new hires all need to be trained and acclimated to the operation.

If you are experiencing this costly cycle in your plant, you are not alone. Competition for younger employees is high, and it often takes an alternative schedule and the ability to rethink shifts that are in place just because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. I know from working with hundreds of clients that it is possible to break that costly spiral through shift schedules that provide a higher quality of life for employees. Innovative schedules can help you reduce your shiftworker fatigue, can identify areas for improvement in terms of capacity and efficiency, and can be the reason your best employees stick around.

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