KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Companies everywhere are struggling to accommodate workers' demands of better pay, better benefits and more flexibility as millions of Americans leave their jobs at unprecedented rates.
But as many face labor shortages, one of the region's largest employers has hired 3,000 new employees nationwide during the pandemic.
Clayton Homes is re-imagining the workplace with a multi-million dollar renovation at its headquarters in Maryville.
The home manufacturer now offers different work styles for many of its team members, including options to work on and off-site.
"You'll see lots and lots of open collaboration. The idea is to make it more like a coffee shop," CEO Kevin Clayton said.
The renovation includes 10,000 additional sq. ft. featuring state-of-the-art technology and dozens of phone booth-style pods where employees can escape the noise of the office to focus on their work.
Smaller meeting spaces equipped with video conferencing technology allow team members to connect virtually from anywhere.
"In a lot of companies, upper management had flexibility. Well, the whole workforce wants flexibility and there are ways to do that, and that's been a good thing for us to learn," Clayton said.
The quest to improve the team member experience at Clayton Homes started several years ago after employees who were surveyed said they wanted more flexible working options, but the pandemic sped up the process.
Now about half of employees visit the Blount County office each week.
"Many years ago, we went after creating the best customer experience, and you really can't do that until you pull back and create the best team member experience," Clayton said. "So, that journey around competitive wages and creating the right culture, being a purpose-driven organization, without those things is going to be really, really hard to be able to attract and retain top talent."
Mary Beth West, a marketing strategist with Fletcher Marketing PR, says it is a balancing act for companies in a time when employees seem to have the upper hand.
"We are advising clients to know their employee base, to have those conversations with their staff teams from all areas of the company in order to understand what their concerns are, understand what are these drivers or motivators for employees to consider leaving the company and trying to stave that off has a true bottom-line impact," she said.
As companies try to figure out what works, Clayton believes adapting to employees' needs is essential to surviving and thriving in a changing workforce.
"The company is operating more efficiently than it ever has. Things are working wonderfully. We're getting the job done," he said.
Disclaimer: CEO Kevin Clayton is a family member of WBIR's Heather Waliga.