I consider myself a contrarian, so when I see a headline about a business that's "bucking a trend" I take notice. Sometimes, what's described is simply a case of pigheadedness--a refusal to change with the times. But often a company that bucks a trend has actually decided to do the right thing where its employees are concerned. Of course, that doesn't mean it's been miraculously transformed after a swig of the milk of human kindness. Almost always, a company determines that being a more decent employer could help its bottom line. To quote Gomer Pyle: Surprise, surprise, surprise.

This is the case in a recent Wall Street Journal article about a few fast-food and retail chains that are hiring more full-time workers instead of leaning heavily on part-timers. "Companies report better customer service, lower staff turnover--leading to higher profits," the headline reads. Well, I'll be!

As a manufacturer, I often hear employers bemoan their hiring problems. Sometimes I keep quiet--challenging business executives' long-held beliefs point blank is about as effective as telling a bullfrog not to croak. But if called on to offer my perspective, I have to say that at Big Ass Fans we don't have a problem finding loyal, hardworking employees.

The reason is not just that we try to treat employees as we'd like to be treated ourselves, though that's a big part of it. Loyalty begets loyalty--a well-known fact that most employers stubbornly refuse to acknowledge. But equally important is that we know that workers who are treated decently in terms of salary, full-time hours, benefits and promotions are more productive too. You don't need a randomized controlled trial to prove it, because it's common sense. When people feel appreciated on the job and don't have to scramble to make ends meet, they care more about the work they do. That loyalty turns into experience, which ultimately pays off in spades. We see it borne out at our company every day.

Furthermore, employee turnover is expensive. The costs of providing people with steady, full-time work don't come close to the costs associated with constantly recruiting and training new employees. Employees who languish in part-time or--as is commonly the case in manufacturing--temporary positions will leave when something better comes along. Wall Street Journal writer Rachel Feintzeig notes that voluntary turnover at one company that switched to more full-time workers dropped two percentage points in a year, saving it nearly a million dollars. At Big Ass Fans, our retention rate for production workers is 98 percent, and for all employees it's 85 percent--25 percent higher than the national average. We've never laid off anyone, even during the last recession, because we knew we'd need them again soon. We make sure our new hires know that. As one salesperson in the WSJ article points out, the feeling of job security "is a huge thing."

Today, seven years after the recession, nearly 14 million people are still looking for work or stuck in part-time jobs, unable to find full-time employment. But hopefully, as the WSJ article suggests, more businesses will eventually wise up to the fact that by relying on part-timers to fill their schedules, they're depriving not just their employees, but their own bottom lines as well. Shortsightedly counting pennies, they've been losing out on dollars.

Published on: May 13, 2016
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