3 Ways To Get Ahead of Absenteeism in Manufacturing and Warehousing

Workers wearing yellow vests walk into warehouse

The recent surge in demand for warehouse and manufacturing employees has created an empowered workforce within those industries. Often, employees in these industries know they can walk off the job without risking a long-term downturn in their employability. They believe they can jump back into the workforce when a better opportunity emerges. 

In some ways, absenteeism is an entirely rational behavior.

As society at large gradually reopens, this rush of sudden quits is likely to continue. To find out how employers can stay ahead of the curve, we spoke to Aerotek Senior Employee Relations Manager Stacy Gomes.

Control what you can

The hard truth is that manufacturing and warehousing employers have a limited ability to prevent or mitigate absenteeism. Those who accept this and move their focus to what they can control will have an advantage.

So what exactly is under employer control?

On-site, you can control the conditions, policies and rules. When employees feel valued, they’ll want to come to work, and a big part of that is making them feel safe and cared for. Other proven strategies include amenities like gyms and cafeterias, solid PTO availability and employee discounts. Even extending an invitation to the interwork softball team can help create a more welcoming environment.

In general, you’ve got to incentivize. Make sure your pay, perks and amenities are up to snuff. 

Extend employee perks to contractors

Many employers in manufacturing and warehousing offer competitive perks and benefits to attract and retain their employees — but stop there. This can lead to spikes in absentee rates among contract workers and creates an atmosphere of inequality and resentment that can also sour the workplace culture for full-time employees.

“Some customers view contingent workforce as their workforce. Others don’t give them any perks and blame the staffing partner for any issues. The ones that do better with retention and preventing absenteeism tend to treat all workers (contract or full time) on similar terms. When your contingent laborers see privileges they don’t get, they feel undervalued and left out. Sharing privileges makes contract labor more motivated to stay,” says Gomes.

There are limits. Offering contractors all the bonuses enjoyed by your full-time employees may cause confusion. However, perks like gym or cafeteria access will make contractors feel more valued.

Extend accountability and training to contractors

It’s not just perks that should be extended to contract workers, it’s accountability and clarity on expectations as well. 

“A lot of people don’t realize — some people treat [the job] like “it’s only a temp job” — but when there’s accountability, the structure of those expectations actually tends to motivate people well,” Gomes says. 

Of course, some people aren’t going to react as well to accountability. But to Gomes, that’s not the worst thing in the world. “If it scares people off, it’ll scare the right people off,” she says.

Regardless, there must be clarity on what those expectations are — sometimes contract labor doesn’t have visibility into the actual mechanisms by which their performance is judged. If they have that transparency, they’ll be better motivated and better prepared to do the job.

While manufacturing and warehousing employers have limited ability to stay ahead of absenteeism, there is good news.

You don’t have to go through it alone.

Lean on a staffing partner that has clear processes and procedures for managing contractor expectations and see which of those processes makes sense to import across the entire employee base.

As Gomes says, “Walk into your staffing partnerships with an open mind, ask questions, and involve them in strategy. Not everything is black and white, there’s always a gray area, but it doesn’t have to be blurry.”

For a more specific conversation related to your specific needs, reach out to Aerotek.