Overcoming Staffing Struggles in the Warehouse Labor Market

Evelyn Cools
July 17, 2023
Overcoming Staffing Struggles in the Warehouse Labor Market

Discover effective strategies to overcome staffing challenges in the warehouse labor market. We recently presented at the IWLA Warehouse HR Summit in Philadelphia, where we addressed this ongoing issue. In this blog post, we’ll recap our presentation and provide valuable insights to attract and retain warehouse workers.

The Current State of the Warehouse Labor Market

Before we dive into strategies for hiring and retention, it’s important to understand the current state of the labor market. 40% of deskless workers are at risk of quitting (BCG, 2022). On top of that, 52% of employees with less than a year’s experience actively seek new employment. The supply chain industry is also facing a widening gap of talent, with only 60 workers returning for every 100 leaving. Replacing a warehouse worker costs an estimated $8,500, a figure set to rise due to increased specialization in new technologies and automation.

The Importance of Employee Engagement for Warehouse Workers

Employee engagement plays a vital role in retaining and attracting warehouse workers. Engaged employees are shown to be more committed, motivated, and passionate at work. They go above and beyond, resulting in heightened productivity, improved customer satisfaction, higher retention rates, all affecting the company’s bottom line.

Key Takeaway: Oftentimes companies think they need to make drastic changes that require a lot of money and resources to make their employees happy. However, we have seen that small changes that address your employees’ specific needs usually have the biggest impact when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.

💡 Check out these 5 ways to keep your employees engaged

Attract Talent for Culture Add vs. Culture Fit

In order to build a cohesive and diverse team companies need to consider the difference between culture fit and culture add. Culture fit seeks individuals who align with existing values and behaviors, while culture add embraces new perspectives and experiences. Hiring new employees who align with culture add, on the other hand, will fuel innovation, creativity, and a wider range of ideas.

Understanding the Reasons Frontline Workers Quit

Contrary to popular belief, pay and compensation aren’t the primary reasons frontline workers leave. Emotional needs play an even bigger role, such as fair treatment, respect, feeling valued, and finding purpose and enjoyment in their work. A positive relationship with managers is also critical. Research shows that employees who are dissatisfied with their managers are 2x more like to leave and 3x less likely to recommend the employer (BCG, 2022).

The Impact of Managers on Retaining Employees

As the data shows, managers have a significant influence on employee retention and well-being. Bad managers contribute to higher turnover rates, burnout, and diminished employee advocacy. This is why investing in the development and training of frontline managers is so important.

Key Takeaway: By understanding their team’s needs, implementing regular feedback mechanisms, and leveraging real-time data, managers can create a better work environment and have a direct impact on retention rates.

Best Practices for Smooth Onboarding

Quick quitting is prevalent among warehouse workers. A good onboarding experience can make all the difference, and this once again requires proactive managers. To ensure an effective onboarding process, managers should prioritize making employees’ first days special, set clear expectations, and provide ongoing support. New employees will also benefit from job-specific training, buddy systems, mentoring programs, and clear communication channels.

Supporting Managers to Attract and Retain Warehouse Labor

Frontline managers face unique challenges. They often lack awareness of how their teams are feeling due to language barriers and physical distance, and many frontline managers have never received training in people management and leadership skills. Support your managers by implementing regular feedback so they understand their teams’ needs, leveraging technology for real-time data, and encouraging open communication. And to address the leadership gap you can offer leadership development programs, mentoring, and continuous learning opportunities.

The Role of Feedback in Cultivating a Positive Warehouse Culture

Feedback is crucial in understanding employee needs and fostering a unified organizational culture. One of the biggest challenges supply chain companies face as they grow is how to maintain a consistent culture throughout their organization. Cohesive communication and feedback mechanisms help to promote shared values, align objectives, and foster a sense of connection to the company’s mission.

Navigating Change in the Era of Automation

It’s no secret that the supply chain industry is undergoing rapid transformations with automation and robotics. While these changes are inevitable, it’s important to note that humans will always remain essential to warehouse operations, offering flexibility and adaptability as the world continues to evolve. As fears arise around job loss and becoming redundant, make sure you communicate effectively with your people, ensuring employees feel valued and secure during technological transitions. In addition, regular feedback is also essential so you can address concerns and ensure a smooth implementation.

Key Takeway: Successful implementation of new technologies requires effective leadership, change management strategies, and a focus on the human element.

Tackling Today’s Warehouse Labor Market

Overcoming staffing struggles is an ongoing challenge in the warehouse labor market. By prioritizing employee engagement, utilizing feedback, and navigating change in the era of automation, you can create a positive work environment that attracts and retains talented individuals. We hope this recap has given you some insights you can take with you and implement at your organization.

We already support 30,000+ frontline managers worldwide

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