How to Think About the Shifting Preferred Shift Start Times

We’ve already written about the fact that this age of accelerating, disruptive change has wreaked havoc on traditional shift schedules. So much so, in fact, that we have written a post explaining how we explain these changes to the temporary candidates we place with our clients. These changes have required that our temporary employees rearrange their lives outside of work to accommodate the new shifts required of businesses in a 24/7/365 world. 

That said, we are also committed to sharing with our clients the reality of finding the talent they need in an ever-tightening labor market. As the workforce makes changes to adjust, it’s also necessary that we identify and obtain the workers we need. 

This graphic is from our 2017 Employee Preferences Survey of 1,018 candidates taken in January of  2017. 

How to Think About the Shifting Preferred Shift Start Times

1st Shift is still 1st Choice

Over 68% of all employees still prefer 1st shift. We are not surprised by this number, but there is another insight worth your attention. Traditionally, 1st shift in light industrial work has been 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The numbers reflected on this survey show the preference almost equally split between 6:00 AM (29%) and 7:00 AM (33.2%), with preferred shift end times at 3:00 PM (29.1%) and 4:00 PM (23.4%).  

A Misleading 2nd Shift

Roughly 20% of candidates prefer 2nd shift. Here we see the same split, with start times divided between 2:00 PM (27.4%), 3:00 PM (34.6%), and 4:00 PM (26%). 

The significance of this statistic? By selecting any one of these times, you have lost almost 67% of the people who want to work 2nd shift. It’s not that all of those people would refuse a job that started an hour earlier or later, but it’s our experience that shift dominates the decision to select an assignment—especially with the potential for full time. That decision is being driven by the constraints of family and child care considerations. 

We believe that this statistic understates the shortage of 2nd shift workers. It is our experience that there are still many more 2nd shift positions than there are workers who prefer that shift. 20% of the population isn’t a large enough number to accommodate the demand. 

A Stable 3rd Shift 

At something just over 11%, this is the highest number of people who prefer 3rd shift than any of our prior surveys. 

Again, we see the splits. Because so many companies have changed their shifts to accommodate the demands of their clients, there are now three preferred start times: 9:00 PM (35%), which would be considered a very early 3rd shift, 10:00 PM (34.2%), and 11:00 PM (25.6%), the traditional 3rd shift, and now preferred at a lower number than the earlier start times. 

As we move into another year of a tightening labor market, we believe it makes sense to make decisions about how you can acquire the talent you need, and shifts is a large part of your employee value proposition, and to make adjustments where it makes sense for your business.