The "future-proofing" that businesses have done did not fully anticipate the impact a global pandemic would make. Here are 3 new realities that businesses on the food supply chain are facing.

The gap between desk and non-desk workers is widening

37% of jobs can be done entirely from home. As social distancing measures solidify in the American workplace, it is clear that telecommuting will continue long after the pandemic. This division is not penetrating the food industry though.

As the demand for consumer packaged goods and boxed meals skyrockets, food manufacturing employees on the line are working double time as are their managers. The option for those managers to work remotely is still not in play. Managers and executives who largely employ a frontline workforce, a production workforce, employees who operate kinesthetically day in and day out, cannot work from home.

Despite the admin requirements, facilities and production managers don't traditionally fall in the desk-worker category. In my facilities days, I would never have dreamed of working from home. Even in the thick of preparing for a global audit which required mountains of paperwork, my job was on the floor. Some management teams are rotating WFH days now and the reasoning is there. Why put your staff at risk? The less dense and exposed your team is, the better. But this brings to the surface the reminder that the option to work from home is still only restricted to a minority.

Compliance training is on the rise

Employers are being proactive about training that they anticipate will be regulated. COVID-19 safety is the lowest hanging fruit. Many companies are choosing to stay ahead of what state authorities may soon require. There is no primer for this, but there are SOPs that are increasingly accepted as the norm. How often to wash your hands, When you can remove your mask, How to politely ask a customer to wear a face covering. The list goes on.

Over 4 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for Coronavirus and new cases have started to trend higher than ever. Employers are seeking to instill long term behavior change within company culture. We do not know what the future holds with COVID, but we know that ongoing training can mitigate the risk of a sudden shut down.

Reskilling is the new upskilling

Up-skilling is when you learn new skills, stay on top of new best practices, and achieve higher levels of employee retention of productivity. This is only one portion of the structures being built to achieve long-term sustainability in a business. Re-skilling is learning new skills to succeed in a different job. It is an equally important measure that businesses are taking to ensure they are maintaining high levels of productivity in the new era of work.

The need to cross-train frontline teams has grown exponentially since April 2020. If you lose a key player, your operation falls flat. Now, the need for cross-training is increasingly due to entire departments having to be shut down or reconfigure when an employee tests positive for Coronavirus.

How do you train a drive-through cashier on the fry station? How do you train a packer to be a receiver? Re-skilling ensures that employees can be reassigned within a company at a moment's notice so that production doesn't slow while demand is high.