Flexible Shifts Gain Traction

Since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, flexibility appears to be the new normal. Even the distribution and manufacturing sectors, typically foot draggers, seem to be slowly warming to the idea.

On the plant floor, inflexible shifts are the standard. But the number of committed young workers is declining while baby boomers in manufacturing are retiring.

The Pew Research Center projects that 75 million boomers will leave their jobs by 2030. How can this exodus be reversed? One possibility is to embrace a flexible work schedule. Among the pioneering factory owners that have found an alternative to rigid shifts are the Land O’Lakes dairy plant, GE appliances, Graphic Packaging, and tool manufacturer De Walt.

At Land O’Lakes in Minnesota, employees choose their own starting times and shift lengths. At GE Appliances in Louisville, Kentucky, workers using the MyWorkChoice app commit to a minimum number of hours per week, but they pick and choose between 10-hour and five-hour shifts.

Furthermore, they can volunteer for overtime. This approach attracts different candidates to the plant, such as mothers with young children, college students, or semi-retirees looking for a part-time job. “If I need to miss a day for my kids’ appointments or games, I can do so without penalty,” explains Sydney, an app user quoted on MyWorkChoice’s website. “Temps typically survive an average of six weeks,” MyWorkChoice contends, whereas “70% of workers with flexibility last over one year.”

Flexibility can be an efficient tool for attracting and retaining talent. JCPenney’s Human Resources division discovered this when implementing the Open Shift app for its department stores and distribution centers. Associates can now exchange their time slots with colleagues or offer their shifts to a group of employees to find a replacement. They can also pick up overtime at another store or warehouse. Andre Joyner, JCPenney’s chief Human Resources officer, is delighted by this solution. Before the Open Shift pool, 13% of positions in the company were unfiled; now, it is less than 5%.