Wednesday, July 1, 2020

COVID-19's Effect on Your Older Workforce

It seems like ages ago that modular construction was sailing along with the help of new awareness of its potential throughout the entire construction industry.

But in fact, it has only been about 4 months since the impact of COVID-19 began to shut down factories, force jobs in process to halt and everyone to shelter at home and work remotely.

Now, 4 months later and even though we haven’t beat it’s butt, modular factories, builders and developers are returning to work.

However there is one segment of the work force having a hard time making the decision to either return to their job or simply take retirement. Senior labor is making that decision every day now and it is having a two fold effect.

On one hand, retirement for those at the age able to and those that can afford to have found that either working from home was great and the idea of returning to the “daily grind” is not appealing or they are worried for their personal health and choose to stay at home and take retirement.

This means employers can bring younger employees and staff at lower pay, something that appeals to a lot of factories. Not only can they pay lower wages, these younger replacements shouldn’t have the need for as many sick days off work.

There is, however, another side to this situation. Many factories and builders don’t want to lose the experience of many years and even decades on the job these older, able to retire workers bring to the table.

With modular factories restarting, that experience allows them to play catch-up on all those orders that had been languishing waiting to be built. And that’s where experience pays off. Many of those older workers have been offered bonuses and/or more money not to retire.

Plus factory management knows there will be a lead time needed to get these the younger new hires up and running. The production line worker would be able to competently do their job quicker than say someone hired to replace an engineer that’s been doing their job at the factory for 30 years.

A younger first time sales rep in their first few months is worth about minimum wage at best. That isn’t a slam on new sales reps, it just means those first few months they have to absorb as much knowledge as the retired sales rep they are replacing who had 10 years experience.

Many modular factories, builders and developers are facing more than just material shortages, social distancing and masks and ever changing ‘shelter at home requirements’ recently being reimposed, they are about to face the loss of experience and modular building knowledge retirement of their older workers bring.

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of the ModcoachNews blog and Modular Construction Industry Observer and Information Gatherer

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