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A shift-based workforce has some unique challenges, including high turnover. Studies have shown that some shift workers, especially those who work non-traditional hours, have a higher turnover rate, lower commitment to their organization, and lower job satisfaction when compared with workers who have traditional hours.
High worker turnover is costly for businesses. Every departing worker means a recruitment and hiring process for a replacement, the cost of training a new employee, and the productivity reduction during the process. One employee leaving costs about 33% of that worker’s salary in business costs.
High employee turnover can also be bad for morale since departures can pressure remaining employees to cover extra shifts until a replacement is found. Seeing others leaving and needing to accommodate additional work can encourage even more workers to consider quitting. For a business, meeting demand and organizing schedules also becomes more complicated if the workforce constantly changes and more resources need to go into ongoing recruitment and onboarding.
How Can Employers Lower Employee Turnover in Shift-Based Environments?
Below are seven ways you can create a shift-friendly work culture, whether most of your workforce consists solely of deskless shift-based workers or contains a mix of office and non-office employees.
Vet New Employees Carefully
While some employees are not suited to shift work, others prefer it and have lives better suited to working non-traditional hours. When talking to potential candidates, gauge their familiarity with shift work and whether they have reasonable expectations of this type of employment. Encourage open communication by transparently sharing a position’s demands and how scheduling happens at your company. Allow candidates to ask questions and engage with you about how they can make shift employment work for them. This can help you see whether a potential employee is ready for the position.
Offer Additional Support and Training
Even experienced shift workers can use additional training on how to make the most of shift work. For example, workers who work long shifts in industries like healthcare may benefit from training on maintaining a good work-life balance and ways to get proper sleep when time off is limited. Workers who work non-traditional hours may benefit from training on circadian rhythms and changing sleep patterns.
Consider offering online or self-paced training your staff can access at any time. Connecteam, for example, enables you to create digital courses that deskless workers can access from any mobile device. You may want to offer training on:
- Safety, since some shift workers may experience a heightened risk of fatigue and may be at greater risk of injury.
- How to explain shift work to family and friends and how to set healthy boundaries with loved ones.
- How to manage changing shift times.
- What resources are available in the company for shift workers.
- What resources are available outside the company for shift workers.
- Good sleep practices and the importance of regular sleep schedules.
- How to reach out for extra support.
- Mental health best practices.
- How to recognize when extra support is needed.
- How to deal with changes in appetite with shift work.
- How to create a healthy balance between work and personal time.
- How to stay healthier on the job.
A great way to get ongoing ideas for company training is to conduct surveys with Connecteam to find out what your employees want to know more about and what they may be struggling with.
Studies have shown that workers with high salaries think a better income may offset some of the disadvantages of shift work. Offering competitive wages and bonuses can be one way to retain workers. Incentives that work with traditional employees–recognition, gift cards, snacks, and gym memberships, for example–can also be welcome to shift workers.
Another option is to offer more time off, if possible, to give workers a chance to adjust to new shifts and to offer them more personal time and more time with loved ones. Some countries are even experimenting with four-day workweeks. While this is not possible for all businesses, being mindful of offering generous paid time off can help.
If Possible, Keep Shifts Consistent
It can be hard to adjust to a new schedule, so try to avoid switching a worker back and forth between day and night shifts often, for example. A regular schedule helps workers maintain consistent sleep hours with fewer disruptions in sleep patterns and social lives, which makes shift work a little easier. Connecteam’s shift scheduling feature enables you to track shifts easily, and you can even create multiple shifts so you can replicate schedules for workers week after week.
If Possible, Allow Employees To Give You Input Into the Shifts They Take
A scheduling system that lets workers sign up for shifts gives employees more control over their schedules. Connecteam enables you to create shifts you need covered and set them with an “Enable users to claim this shift” designation so app users can claim the spots that work best for them.
If this level of flexibility isn’t an option, at least give your workers a chance to express preferences. If one employee prefers not to work specific days or prefers a specific shift, try to accommodate that.
Make Sure Your Company Culture Reflects the Working Environment
If most of your workers are working shifts, make sure your work culture reflects that. This may mean championing work-life balance, discussing mental and physical health more often, and offering as much flexibility in work and scheduling as your business permits. If shift-based work is part of your company’s DNA, start from the question of “What do our shift workers need?” and build your culture around those needs.
Another thing to consider with a primarily shift-based culture is that company communication may need to be different. Not all shift workers will meet each other regularly and some deskless workers, in particular, may not meet other colleagues at all. You may not be able to create water cooler get-togethers for shift workers, but do create a culture where workers can talk to each other and enjoy some of the social benefits of a workplace.
One way to do this is to offer asynchronous communication options, such as an online platform or email or text chats. To help keep internal communications more secure, you can do this with the Connecteam employee team chat app. It enables workers to connect in teams or individually, in real-time or when convenient, from any mobile device.
If your company includes both shift workers and employees working traditional hours in-house, consider building a special culture just for shift employees. This may mean creating an online platform for them to communicate or holding special events for shift workers only. Try to include shift workers in meetings and events where possible, even if it means you need to hold more than one holiday party or all-hands meeting, to make sure everyone feels included. If you do have a mix of shift workers and traditional employees, you might also want to appoint a person as the voice of the shift staff so they can champion the needs of the group with leadership and management.
Check In Often
Ask for feedback from shift workers and gauge their job satisfaction regularly. If something is making an employee consider leaving, you may be able to retain them by listening and making adjustments. If you want to avoid having to schedule too many check-in meetings, you can take advantage of Connecteam’s employee survey features that enable you to take the pulse of your workforce in minutes.
Shifting the Shift Work Conversation
In some ways, shift workers have the same needs as any employee. They want to feel valued and need a good work environment. The extra stress and health concerns of shift work, however, do require a slightly different approach. By following the tips above, you can keep morale high and reduce turnover amongst your shift workers.