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The Great Resignation: Lincoln Electric transforms to meet workers' new needs

Northeast Ohio-based Lincoln Electric invited 3News crews inside to see what's changed, and how workers are at the heart of it all.

EUCLID, Ohio — Employment is changing, especially in the United States. 

Record numbers of employees are quitting their jobs as the pandemic continues, and it is causing many employers to pivot their way of thinking as worker shortages loom. 

3News reached out to the largest employers in Northeast Ohio to see how they are responding to employees' new needs. One of Cleveland's legendary companies, Lincoln Electric, invited us in to see how they are adapting.

For a company founded on $200 in 1895, Lincoln Electric's welding and its workplace are still incredibly state-of-the-art.

As employees at the Euclid headquarters are transitioning back to the campus since October, they're noticing all that's new -- new space, new approach.

"Employees want a place that's light and bright that they can collaborate. They can communicate, they can engage in the right way with their fellow employees and not having people in the building was a great time to do it. So we made a significant investment in this workspace," says Michelle Kuhrt, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Lincoln Electric.

It's a stark change from the past. In March 2020, like many companies, Lincoln Electric was shocked into action. Prior to the state's stay-at-home order, none of the company's employees worked remotely.

"We really didn't have any formal type of flexible work arrangements," said Kuhrt. "We saw the pandemic, believe it or not, as the lemonade side of the lemons, as an opportunity for us to rethink how we work and where we work."

The period of working from home was like a trial run for a company that's always been guided by the golden rule. Now, 15 percent of Euclid campus workers have stayed in permanently remote roles. Another 50 percent have flexibility in their work location. Lincoln Electric expects that number to keep growing as more jobs are adapted or hired as remote roles.

"Even before the pandemic, we actually did not have any type of real work-life balance. We were in the office every day. Usually eight to five," said Senior Marketing Manager Elizabeth Berry. 

Her communications team is in the office on Monday and Wednesdays. Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays they work from home. Called 'focus days,' that's when the quiet work gets done.

"We've set up for WebEx's. We set up for daily calls so that we can have those interactions and build that team environment, even though they're not physically here in this building," said Berry.

For those workers who are 'hoteling,' they can reserve a seat, both in spaces to collaborate or spaces where they can work uninterrupted.

"I have an app on my phone and I can say, 'I'm going to be in the office today' and I can reserve any one of these particular spaces and plot my stuff down," said Kuhrt.

Similarly, Nestle in Solon also launched a new app to guide its office experience. It allows employees to book workspaces and see where their colleagues are sitting. Nestle employees can order food or drinks and request IT and the support will come to them. Both companies hope these innovations help with retention and recruitment. 

We made this investment because we believe our employees and our talent is our most important assets," said Kuhrt. "And if we didn't, there's no reason to make these types of investments. There's no reason to really force, ask ourselves to rethink how we work, but it was worth it."

Employees are noticing the benefits, too.

"I think out of anything, the pandemic has really brought the ability for us as a team to really communicate and gel even more than what we did before," said Berry. 

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