As most of the country envisions a return to something close to “normal,” or perhaps a new normal, let us look at a few changes that I believe will impact the plastics industry for a long time, perhaps for a generation.
Many jobs in plastics manufacturing cannot be done remotely. However, companies learned that many jobs that required employees to drive into an office every day can be done remotely. It was always a business decision not dictated by technology. I think everyone knew that on some level, but norms are slow to change without a disrupting force. COVID-19 was that force, and if someone has been doing an effective job remotely it is going to be difficult to rationalize having them come back in five days a week. You need to have the tools in place for this, even if your policy is to bring everyone back in at some point because of the next change.
My father-in-law worked for General Motors for 36 years with a perfect attendance record. I am sure many people reading this have a similar story, either their own or one from their parents or grandparents. I would have to guess there were some days when Henry should have stayed home, but it was a badge of honor to push through a cold or mild case of the flu. The new normal will be that if you have a fever or other symptoms that might make you contagious, you do not come in, especially if your job can be done remotely.
Many companies were forced to conduct their interviewing and hiring differently during the pandemic, and they have learned some new best practices along the way. The old norm was to bring candidates on site after an initial phone interview, preferably several candidates and sometimes more than once. The COVID-19 best practice — and I believe the new normal — is to do as many interviews as possible via video calls. We had several hires where the candidate did not visit the facility. In addition, companies began to bring in only the top candidate, and only when their intent was to make that candidate an offer if the interview went well. This has made it easier on all parties and saves time and money versus scheduling flights and hotels.
About the author
Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at firstname.lastname@example.org.