As COVID-19 Continues To Cause Staffing Shortages, Food Companies Opt For Temp Workers

The Need for Temps During the Surge

Companies involved with both direct food production and food distribution, like supermarkets, are finding themselves hiring more short-term workers amid staffing shortages. When employees began calling out sick more frequently, executives tried to fill the gap by hiring temp workers in order to avoid production shutdowns or closed stores. Responsibilities include the unloading of trucks, in-store cooking, and lift operation.

Record levels of employees calling out sick have been reported at stores nationwide as the fast-spreading Omicron variant sent COVID-19 case numbers soaring. It’s been an expensive problem for food companies to fix, as temp workers typically cost more per hour than typical employees. Employers also need to spend more time training and some companies are offering housing in hotels as well as transportation. These extra costs can weigh on bottom lines.

Food Companies Hungry for Employees

The pandemic has led to a number of disruptions in the labor market during the early lockdowns as well as more recent sick leave. Economists have also described a separate phenomenon impacting staffing known as the “great resignation,” as a number of people have voluntarily left their jobs. Both people taking up new lines of work and retirements have spurred the trend.

Companies have responded and started working with multiple temp agencies, offering boosted pay, and sometimes flying in employees from out of state. In other non-COVID-19-related cases Kroger (KR) turned to temp workers when King Soopers staff went on strike in Denver. Kellogg (K) followed a similar path last year during a two-month strike at a cereal plant.

Even Temp Agencies Are Getting Stretched Thin

While the situation at hand would seem like a good thing for temp agencies, many outline their own challenges. Referral bonuses have risen from around $20 to $100 in some cases as they also face struggles hiring. National hiring events have been launched as well as product giveaways to encourage the discovery of new temp workers.

In addition to higher costs for both companies hiring temp workers and the temp agencies themselves, staffing with temporary employees decreases efficiency and strains productivity.

Mistakes are more common as well, such as deliveries being dropped off improperly or at the wrong address, including perishable items. The national labor shortage is causing a number of industries to adjust. Food companies and temp agencies are trying to figure it out together.

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ABOUT Meg Richardson Meg Richardson is a writer specializing in markets, technology, and personal finance. She loves breaking down seemingly complex ideas and making them readable and interesting for everyone. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University. When she is not writing about finance, she enjoys running in Central Park and drawing cartoons.

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