Chipping away at turnover Featured

11:17am EDT January 30, 2006
In 2004, Shearer’s Foods Inc. was facing huge increases in employee turnover. Retention and recruitment issues threatened the stability of the Brewster-based potato chip company as it headed into its peak season and was preparing for a significant expansion.

Chief Operating Officer Scott Smith knew something had to be done, not only to find better job candidates but to also find ways to make people want to stay with Shearer’s once they were hired.

After bringing in a new director of human resources, the company embarked on creating a Retention Task Force. Smith and his fellow executives solicited volunteers from all departments and levels of the company to join the task force to find a solution to the turnover issues.

The task force came up with a number of programs and initiatives, including in-house job fairs, a new associate orientation and training program, and better methods of submitting feedback to the company.

Smith says the orientation and training programs has had the most successful impact on the company.

“Any new job is going to be challenging for folks,” he says. “If you don’t get people acclimated and brought up to speed, you’re probably going to lose them in that first 30 to 90 days.”

The training program gives new hires the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the company and its culture. They spend a day meeting executives, touring the plant, listening to presentations on the history of the company, and learning about safety issues and performance expectations.

They also have the chance to participate in team-building exercises and get basic training on the equipment and products they’ll be working with.

Since implementing the retention and recruitment initiatives, turnover has declined by 65 percent, allowing Shearer’s to save $1,800 in training, recruiting and orientation costs per job opening.

Smith says morale has also risen among employees because of fewer overtime hours worked and more flexible work schedules. And existing employees also say that the quality of the new hires has greatly improved — they are more integrated and more willing to work.

Shearer’s fiscal year 2005 brought a 26 percent increase in sales, which was translated to even higher profits for the company with the savings in recruitment and retention costs.

HOW TO REACH: Shearer’s Foods Inc., www.shearers.com