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Bakers are reinventing the workplace to tackle labor shortages

One of the biggest challenges facing the baking industry today is the widespread labor shortage. Today’s workforce has many choices of where to work, and the tougher environment and longer hours common in a bakery cause many workers to look elsewhere. In order to better hire and retain workers in the midst of this shortage, bakeries are creating a culture that prioritizes the needs of their employees in a way that many have never done before.

“Days where you punch a clock and are a number will keep you from having people work for you,” said Bill Quigg, More Than a Bakery, Versailles, Ky. “It’s as simple as that.”

At More Than a Bakery, Mr Quigg said the focus is on nurturing the whole person. Employees are called family members, and Mr. Quigg meets with them weekly to discuss the company’s mission and values.

“At this meeting, I tell them the the most valuable thing they can give us is their time,” Mr. Quigg explained. “They can take that time and use it wherever they want. For this reason, they really enjoy what they do and who they work with. If your work has no purpose, it won’t be a good prospect for them or for us in the long run.

Employee strikes at big companies like Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Michigan, and Starbucks, Seattle, have made it clear that workers expect more from their employers, whether it’s better pay, flexible hours or the right to form a union. Successful bakeries are those that meet these ever-changing needs.

For example, after receiving feedback from his employees, Mr. Quigg implemented three-day weekends. However, this required 12-hour shifts, which excludes many subsets of the labor market, such as single parents. To solve this problem, More Than a Bakery started offering part-time jobs.

“Part-time work starts after school starts and ends just before school ends, so single parents in particular can come in and get a really good paycheck and a job that suits their lifestyle. life,” Mr. Quigg said.

More than a bakery is in a college town, so Mr. Quigg has also set up a Friday, Saturday and Sunday shift to accommodate student schedules.

“The key is to listen and be flexible and throw out all ideas about how you structure salaries, benefits, work hours,” he said. “It’s all up for grabs now, and it never was before.”

This versatility is key to helping bakeries compete against competitors like Amazon who have already become more accommodating to worker schedules.

“We have two Amazon warehouses in Lexington, and they’re very innovative when it comes to on-demand Uber work,” Quigg explained. “And frankly, it’s upped our game for us. We need to be more aligned with what people want, because Amazon will do that too, and they’re a major contender for us in the labor department.

5 Generation Bakers, McKees Rocks, Pa., has made a similar commitment to investing in its workers. President Scott Baker buys lunch for the crew every Friday, enters employees into a $50 raffle if they’re on time for their shift, and offers a loan program to help employees in case of need.

“We’ve lost a few hundred dollars a couple of times, but that won’t stop us from still trying to do what I can to help my employees,” Baker said.

The bakery has increased its pay by 30% since the pandemic, and Mr Baker said he has no plans to reduce rates, always ensuring he pays more than other bakeries in the area .

More Than a Bakery and 5 Generation Bakers are not alone. Rowdy Brixey, president of Brixey Engineering, said more than 80% of bakeries he spoke to were raising wages and expanding benefits to anticipate employee losses.

“In the past, we’ve waited for someone to knock on the door and say, ‘Hey, I’m giving my notice,’ and then you approached it because you could replace the position a little easier,” he said. -he declares. “But those days are long gone.”

There is no quick fix for bakers’ labor issues, but those who invest in the development of their workers will be able to weather the storm.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the full article on Workplace Improvements, click here.

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