Insights on Staffing and the Location Decision
When selecting a new site, companies today confront an ever-changing landscape of factors to consider, from site and facility planning to workforce analytics and training. Christine Chandler, president of AdvantaStaff, and Lovora Brown, AdvantaStaff’s director of Operations, who bring a combined 50 years’ experience in the manufacturing and distribution industry, provide their perspective on workforce issues that are important to companies’ location decisions.
Workforce Q4 2023
Chandler: That is an especially important question because pay rates have increased dramatically in the past 12 months, and this is having an enormous impact on staffing. Companies are losing talent simply because they haven’t been able to keep current — or ideally, get ahead of, instead of chasing — the prevailing rates and workforce analytics for common positions.
Brown: On a positive note, we are seeing signs that pay rates have finally stabilized to a degree. Still, it remains challenging for individual companies to predict without the benefit of a wide lens that accounts for different factors, skillsets, and requirements. It is important for a company establishing a new site to gather information on current rates for a variety of positions within a range of manufacturing settings.
Can you share some perspective on the availability of skill sets?
Chandler: A company entering the market today needs to be very thoughtful about its approach to attracting a specific, qualified skillset. One important consideration is how positions are changing over time. The skills foundational to core positions like managers have remained somewhat of a constant, while manufacturing positions overall are becoming more technical.
Companies must investigate the availability of the desired skillset in the workforce, not only to see if there’s a strong match for the company’s needs, but also whether the area has the right education and training opportunities. When site planning, the company will want to look at the full range of available educational and workforce training resources — four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, workforce development programs, and programs for veterans re-entering the workforce.
It is important for a company establishing a new site to gather information on current rates for a variety of positions within a range of manufacturing settings. Brown: To use Virginia as an example, programs include the Community College Workforce Alliance, which provides training on workforce-ready skills at facilities. There are several four-year colleges with excellent engineering schools, and community colleges that partner with engineering and tech programs. The state also is a strong base for veterans, which is another hub of recruitment for employers. By delving into a region’s specifics, companies might uncover resources that aren’t apparent at first glance, especially given the rapidly changing manufacturing landscape in the U.S. right now.
What are some other considerations that companies need to keep in mind?
Chandler: Considerations may differ depending on factors like the proximity and demographic of the target employee. With high competition for qualified workers, companies need to understand what it will take to attract employees, but also how to set themselves up for longevity. An employer might be more focused on attracting full-time employees but find more available skillsets in the temporary pool. It is also important to gauge what employees in the area are accustomed to in terms of extras like shift differentials, schedules, benefits, holidays, and days off.
Brown: When appealing to a particular demographic, companies must be up to speed on expectations. The younger generation might want to know if there’s free Wi-Fi in the breakroom and whether they are allowed to wear headphones on break. They might be wondering whether the employer offers quality-of-life perks, like having a food truck come on site.
Companies need to understand what it will take to attract employees, but also how to set themselves up for longevity. How should companies be thinking about pay and benefits?
Brown: It is critical that companies understand a specific region’s fair wage for the work to be completed, especially with hourly employees. Salaried employees will likely be more interested in the overall package including benefits, and employees across the board are considering opportunities for growth.
Chandler: Employees want to understand, “If I do a good job, what are the opportunities that could be available to me next? How do I get there? What are the training and evaluation processes?” Employers must make clear from the outset what paths for growth look like, and continuously communicate how employees are doing in their current positions and what they need to do to access future opportunities.
What can you say about work environment considerations?
Chandler: Regarding the physical work environment, the COVID-19 pandemic elevated expectations. Because employees and supervisors are keenly attuned to whether a facility is clean and safe, communicating about related practices is key. This includes expectations around tech. You can better position a company to attract and keep employees with technology like geofencing that allows people to check in and out on a smartphone and mass, two-way texting to reach all employees at once when time-sensitive issues arise.
Employees want to feel like they’re a part of a team, have positive relationships and interactions with coworkers, and be proud of where they work. Brown: With regard to management and supervision, employees want to feel like they’re a part of a team, have positive relationships and interactions with coworkers, and be proud of where they work. The younger generation expects to understand the “why” behind the tasks they are asked to do. Identifying managers and supervisors who excel at this, or training them in this skill, will go a long way toward keeping those employees.
When international companies are new to a market, what unique issues do they face compared to domestic companies?
Chandler: When locating a facility in the U.S. for the first time, international companies might have a learning curve regarding infrastructure and processes. There’s a risk they will get bogged down setting up payroll and establishing federal and state ID numbers. Domestic companies already have that experience, so they have the luxury of focusing on the other important elements we mentioned, i.e., getting to know the local workforce and market, the available skillsets, the prevailing wages, and expectations around benefits and desirable shifts and hours. There are other facility planning obstacles that can affect the timetables of companies across the board, from the time involved in retrofitting a building to region-specific concerns like heat safety and natural disaster preparedness.
Brown: When a company establishes a new geographic location, they have an important opportunity to step back and see what appeals to their workforce now and set it in place, versus trying to make changes down the road. Although the many factors involved might make the prospect intimidating, companies new to market have the advantage of being able to design processes, programs, and a facility to support how people work today with competitive pay rates — and reap the benefits in the long term.
AdvantaStaff specializes in meeting temporary and full-time staffing needs in the central Virginia region for distribution, manufacturing, and light industrial businesses.
2023's Leading Metro Locations: Hotspots of Economic Growth
The Logistics Analysis That Drives Industrial Site Selection
2023 Top States for Doing Business Meet the Needs of Site Selectors
Technology’s Influence on Workforce Development
Workforce Q4 2023
AI 101 for Site Selection
First Person: Realizing the Inflation Reduction Act’s Full Potential
2023 Top States Commentary: Top-Ranked States Have What It Takes to Win Mega Projects