Not Just Another Pretty Face

            Never in my 25 year career of managing processing plants have I ever been faced with such a daunting problem.  I now work with cutting edge technology.  We have the best processing equipment in the industry.  We are located strategically to deliver our perishable product to many major markets literally overnight.  Our parent corporation has us well funded as it gives us the experience and clout of the largest company in the industry.  Our suppliers run to our beck & call.  And our competitors carefully watch what we do, but otherwise stay out of our way so our wake won’t capsize their smaller boats.  So the only thing lacking in this formula for success is our local work force.  The man in the trenches, or more accurately described, the man in the plant.

Because of the nature of our business, the facility is located VERY rurally.  Even the small town of 3000 people, which we claim in our mailing address, is fifteen miles from our plant.  And the closest larger cities are about 90 miles away.   

Since moving here, four and a half years ago, I have struggled to maintain an adequate staff.  The pool of potential full time permanent workers just isn’t very large here.  Along with working closely with our government employment agency both locally and state wide, we have worked with all the temporary employment services who offer any service to our area.  Anyone, far or near who can appropriately show that they can legally work are given opportunity with us.  We found some success with an international employment company who could fill the arduous government paper work requirements allowing a workforce from Asia to come fill our man power deficit.  The problem with that government program was that it was only allowed on a temporary basis. 

So now for the last three months, we have been back to square one, and struggling to find the manpower to keep the plant running.  Corporate officers and management have spent many hours brainstorming for a solution.  Any innovative thinking “outside the box” is quickly squelched by our corporate lawyers and personnel experts. 

While all of this is going on, I have been forced to work my undersized staff to the breaking point.  An average work day has been extended to twelve plus hours.  Those who are willing are encouraged to work extra days in the week.  Some have not logged less than 70 hours a week for four months.  When I do find someone to add to the workforce, they are so quickly overwhelmed with the long days that they won’t stay.  This vicious cycle forces my core of “superhero” workers, who have stayed with me through all of this, to continue on with the long days and longer weeks.

“What else could I do?  I have tried everything that corporate will let me try.”

“No you haven’t.”

“What?”  I didn’t know my Beautiful Wife was really listening to my rant.

She continued, “Why do you have to work them soooo long?”

I knew what she meant by the question but I had no choice.  “We HAVE to run that long BECAUSE I don’t have enough help.”

“But they just quit anyway, so why don’t you break it up.   Instead of having one new hire working the whole shift, have two share one position.  One could work in the morning, and then have the other one work that same position for the afternoon.  Why do you have to hire only people who are available to work 7 days a week, or even a full 40 hours a week?  Why can’t you hire people who want or can only work a few days a week?  Hire enough part time people fill out your full time positions.”

We were driving to town as she described to me the one obvious thing I hadn’t tried.  It was something that no one from all that corporate level experience and talent could think of.  And it hit me so hard that I almost ran off the road.  I had been so buried in the forest that I couldn’t see the trees anymore.  

The next day, I took out large a newspaper ad offering my new policy of part-time flexible positions. 

I have now worked for about a month with my part time work force and I have discovered an unexpected bonus.  Not only have I added to my available man power and taken the punch out of the long days by splitting the shifts up, but I have found some wonderful workers who really do want to work but wouldn’t have considered the full time job because of family responsibility.  Like my Beautiful Wife, there are many ladies who are more than capable of handling the job, and who plan to be around for a long time.  Work performance is up.  Morale is up.  And I give credit to my Beautiful Wife, who isn’t just another pretty face.   

11 thoughts on “Not Just Another Pretty Face”

  1. Great story.  That’s what David would call "non-compartmentalized thinking".  (What can I tell you, he’s graduating in psychology in April.) There are always solutions.  We just don’t always see them.

  2. Hi Ron,
    Why didn’t you ask her in the first place??lol. She is definitely more than just a pretty face. I know for myself, even tho my kids are grown now, I still don’t want to work full time, I just have too many other things to do and a finite amount of energy. When I got laid off from my 3rd part time job last year, I just gave myself a raise at the paint store,lol!!!

  3. That is great.  I was having a staff shortge in Houston so we started hiring retired people.  They did not want to work full time but they wanted something to keep them busy.  We love them and they have become the backbone of our workforce because they have experience in supervision and doing what it takes to get the job done.  If there is a problem or weather disaster they are the first ones there keeping the staff and patients calm.

  4. Ron,
    Thank you for stopping by to visit once again.. You are so right , You do have a very intelligent wife who is also beautiful. God has blessed you both. He knew that you needed one another and would also compliment another, you both are truly blessed.
    I am going to ask you to do my a small favor. Please go visit Alien Hunters space. I think you will be pleased by what you read.
    God bless you and your precious family,~Marilyn~ 

  5. Two minds going down the same path work miracles….  Am so glad that you found a solution that works…. Good job Vallerie for coming up with a new and different idea. 
    Whenever you find time to let me know about the family tree info about greatgranddad is fine.  I do know you are busy and greatly appreciate that you are helping us with this at all.
    take care.. lottiemae

  6. Hi Ron, At first I thought you were writing about Wal-Mart. We always have too much work and not enough people. Kudos to Vallerie and to you. My hubby would never listen to any suggestions about his work. That’s okay. I was looking at the pictures of your house on your wife’s site and my first thought was that she should be in the real estate business. Those photos were great. I would buy that house!  LOL
    Can you believe how fast time speeds by, it seems like yesterday that I read about the engagement and now its wedding week! Not sure if Vallerie got my comment. Hope the wedding is a happy, loving, funny, memorable time for all. You know, the kind that will make the bride and groom laugh, smile, hug, and kiss when they look back 10, 20, 30 years from now! God bless, Pam:)

  7. Kia ora Ron,
    Im a friend of Vallerie’s and just dropped by for a quick look at the other side of the equation.  Looks pretty good to me.  LOL.  I agree with part time workers.  All my staff are part time.  I work in the tourism industry and my staff work here because they enjoy the atmosphere (it certainly isn’t the money)  Other managers can’t believe how many staff I have.  I think its great.  They cover each other for sickness or holidays, swap shifts with each ohter to enable them to go to special events and all rally around and rescue me when I get snowed under.  Most of my contemparies have one or maybe two other staff members other than themselves.  I have six!  Communication and new procudures can be a bit of a mission but you just have to set up procedures for everyone to follow and it covers most problems.  I even have a few other mangers phone me for relief staff when they have emergencies, and I always try to figure something out so my staff can experience other work environments.  Well enough for now I guess. 
    Happy New Year.  ka kite ano. Wendy.

  8. Ron,
    Hey fella, I can once again read your blog w/o those darned pop-ups obsuring my view.  YaHOOOO! Although I don’t have time now to read the entries that follow this one I’d already read, I romise that ol’ Daddio WILL read what I’ve yet to read this weekend.  ‘Cause what you say is SO worth reading . . . 

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