COVID-19 has created a 'new normal' that all businesses - and particularly HR departments - are now working hard to keep up with.

One industry that is experiencing some of the biggest repercussions from the pandemic is food manufacturing. The sector and its related supply chains are facing a range of unique challenges that will require dedicated, effective solutions if organizations are to stay competitive during this time.

Research by Food Industry Executive has shown:

  • COVID-19 has exacerbated issues that were already present in the sector, particularly around employee safety and productivity.
  • Almost three-quarters (72.5%) of food processing and packing firms said they had changed their business strategy or operations in response to the pandemic.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents predicted the food industry will emerge from the crisis stronger than it was before.

To succeed in achieving this ambition of coming out of the current situation in a better position than before, companies must be ready to negotiate some unprecedented HR challenges.

employee safety

Since COVID-19 is primarily a health crisis, employers must take responsibility for keeping their workforce safe and ensuring people aren't put at risk of infection.

Physical distancing has been central to efforts to tackle the spread of the virus around the world and must now be a priority for employers. But that presents difficulties for companies like food manufacturers, whose traditional way of working involves people being closely gathered together on production and processing lines.

Personal protective equipment and screens will become common sights in the manufacturing environment, as businesses look for ways to stop the virus from spreading while allowing people to come into the workplace and get on with their jobs.

Organizations will also be relying on each other to share best practices and discuss any successes or setbacks they've experienced in getting back to work amid the ongoing pandemic. Transparency between food manufacturers has been one of the most positive trends to come out of the current situation.

For businesses that have lots of questions and uncertainty about adjusting to this new environment, Randstad, in collaboration with other HR services industry leaders, has produced a range of resources on getting safely back to work in the new normal.

You can access sector-specific health and safety protocols and information on best practices to implement within your own business.

free guide: key HR challenges in the food manufacturing sector.

staying competitive

Keeping people safe and healthy should be the primary objective for employers getting back to work during this health crisis, but companies will also be focusing on how they can maintain a productive, sustainable workforce that allows them to stay competitive.

In a sector like food manufacturing, factors like price and on-time delivery are critical to business success. On-time delivery has been particularly important during the COVID pandemic, as retailers have had to respond to sudden increases and fluctuations in demand from consumers, especially for items like frozen foods.

Research by Credit Suisse showed that, in the US, packaged food sales increased by an estimated 15% to 30% between March and May, due to a 'massive shift in eating patterns'. Frozen food sales spiked by 79% in the week ending March 15.

'We expect food consumption to remain elevated over the next 12 months as consumers choose to keep eating food at home to save money, much like they did during the last three economic recessions in 1990, 2001 and 2008.' - Credit Suisse research analyst Robert Moskow.

Many businesses are responding to this volatile environment by rethinking their HR strategies. Goals like finding the right combination of permanent and flexible staff in your workforce have become more important than ever, as you navigate the challenge of balancing cost concerns with the need to provide a continuous, reliable service.

These are just two of the HR challenges you could face as your Food manufacturing business comes to terms with the new normal created by COVID-19.

Another possibility is that you will have to leverage HR tech to plan your workforce and hire and onboard new workers.

Randstad has produced a guide that explores these and other issues in more depth, and provides further guidance on how your food company can navigate this unique business environment.

free guide: key HR challenges in the food manufacturing sector.

About the Author
wilbert mulders
wilbert mulders

wilbert mulders

global workstream lead enterprise clients

Wilbert Mulders is one of the leaders in the digital factory of Randstad and has a long track record in workforce dynamics within the manufacturing industry and food industry. In his current role he leads new initiatives that will improve the performance of enterprise clients by co-creating new HR Tech solutions such as data driven hiring, global data analytics and up/re-skilling initiatives.