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Doing Right by our Employees Makes Good Business Sense: Rhino’s Employee Exchange Program

September 5, 2019 at 03:33pm

In 1993, we faced a big challenge. A number of factors contributed to a slow down of work and less hours to go around. Layoffs weren’t an option; Rhino invests a great deal in and cares deeply about its workers. So, like so many great ideas at Rhino, the Employee Exchange was born out of an employee brainstorm session. We envisioned a program in which staff could use their unique skills at other companies while work was slow at Rhino, then return when it picked back up, with new ideas and energy.

Since then, the program has grown. Each year, as staffing needs change, employees from Rhino volunteer to work with a partner company, such as Lake Champlain Chocolates, for a short time, ranging from a few weeks to a few months. As a result, employees don’t have to worry about seasonal layoffs, and feel confident that there will be a position waiting for them when they return.

While avoiding layoffs was the primary goal of the program, it’s been beneficial for employees in unexpected ways. Josh Panton, Logistics Coordinator at Rhino, participated in an employee exchange with Lake Champlain Chocolates a few years ago, appreciated the benefits of the program right from the beginning. “It’s great to be able to keep your hours and keep working with a partner like Lake Champlain Chocolates,” he pointed out during a recent conversation. “[They] give you all the training you need, and you still receive all your Rhino benefits and pay.”

Not only do employees get to develop new skills, but they also return to Rhino with a new appreciation for the way Rhino does business. “They begin to see even more how important it is that Rhino participates in this stuff,” says Lorri Miller, HR Generalist at Rhino. The program has been so positively received at Rhino that there is rarely an issue with having enough volunteers. According to Lorri, “Now we’re to the point where people will come to me and say, ‘Are we going to be able to do an exchange this year?’ It works out really well.”

The Employee Exchange Program has been positive for employees but it also makes good business sense. Laying off skilled workers that we’ve trained and invested in would be a real loss. We don’t want to lose good people! The program lets Rhino retain its seasonal flexibility, while doing right by our employees. When they don’t have to worry about being laid off during slow seasons, employees are happier, more at ease, and more productive. It also saves thousands in staffing costs associated with hiring and training new employees. When people feel valued as part of the community, they want to stay at Rhino and give the company their best, just as they trust Rhino to give its best to them.

Our local business exchange partners, like Lake Champlain Chocolates, see the benefits of working together, as well. “Both companies are invested in the success of our employees and we work together to create a positive employee experience all around,” says Fran Tobin, HR director at Lake Champlain Chocolates. “We know that we’ll be working with dedicated employees who have a strong work ethic, understand the value of team-work, and are skilled in manufacturing[…] There’s a great benefit in knowing that your ‘neighbors down the road’ are coming back to work with you during the next season!”

While we’re proud that the Employee Exchange Program got its start at Rhino, we don’t want to keep it to ourselves. Rhino has shared its framework for its workforce exchange program with hundreds of other businesses, so both the organizations and their employees can realize the benefits in their own communities.

Sound like something you’d like to learn more about? Whether you’d like to learn more about working for a company like Rhino or you’re interested in bringing a program like this to your own organization, we’d love to connect. Email cgoss@rhinofoods.com to get in touch with Caitlin Goss, Director of People and Culture, to learn more about this great program.

If you’re an organization who wants to implement a similar program for your employees, download our Employee Exchange Whitepaper here.