Fulfillment Warehouse Worker Retention in the Wake of COVID-19

October 20, 2020 by Amware Fulfillment

Warehouse employee retention has long been an opportunity for fulfillment companies, but the challenge has been magnified in the wake of COVID-19. Along with attracting and onboarding new talent, retention is now at the forefront of nearly every fulfillment company’s labor efforts. In this article, we’ll talk about current retention challenges, what you can do about them, and how a 3PL fulfillment partner can help.

Current fulfillment warehouse worker retention challenges

warehouse-worker-retentionWith the COVID-19 outbreak, new challenges have confronted companies seeking to attract, hire, and retain top talent. These challenges include:

  • Significant numbers of associates are reluctant to work in a warehouse environment due to fear of exposure to the virus, causing some to leave the profession (at least for now).
  • Warehouse workers who are parents of school-age children face a host of issues related to childcare and online schooling, which has led to them staying home as caretakers.
  • Stimulus payments and generous unemployment benefits may have dissuaded some workers from entering or returning to the warehouse.

This is not to say that the retention landscape was peachy prior to COVID-19 either. Before the outbreak, the economy was strong, and unemployment was low. This led to a wage battle between companies trying to attract and retain quality warehouse associates.

Companies were routinely offering escalating hourly pay to attract new associates, leaving competitors to do the same for new employees and matching such offers to keep the ones they already had.

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COVID has added fuel to this fire. The wage battles rage on as companies compete for limited available talent and try to coax workers away from other companies. The net effect is a significant increase in warehouse labor cost.

What you can do to improve warehouse worker retention?

Fortunately, the retention outlook is not all doom and gloom. There are several things that your company can do to keep your quality associates. These include:

Listen. Employees want to feel that their supervisors care about them and appreciate their input. When this is not the case, employees may look for greener pastures. A Gallup poll found that 52% of associates who leave a company say that their departure was preventable. So, make time for your employees and try to uncover concerns or ideas they may have.

Invest in hiring and keeping great distribution center managers and supervisors. There is a saying: “Employees don’t quit their job, they quit their boss,” and that’s certainly true in the warehouse. An employee’s supervisors can have a profound impact on his or her job satisfaction. Look to hire and retain supervisors that have excellent interpersonal skills as well as operational talents.

Show appreciation. In any workforce, a little appreciation can go a long way toward making associates happier and more committed to their jobs. Showing appreciation, then, is a simple retention strategy that can be performed in many ways with little to no cost to implement – from a simple “thank you” for a job well done, to personal notes, gift cards and employee incentive programs.

Make your facility a place people want to be every day. Think of your warehouse from the perspective of an employee. Would you want to work there? Your employees want to work in a clean, well-organized facility. Make sure that you’re doing all you can to make it that way. Even seemingly little things like uncluttered break rooms and regularly stocked employee vending machines can make a big difference in an employee’s perception of his or her environment.

Improve training. A major reason why warehouse workers choose to leave a job is that they don’t feel that they were adequately trained. This leads to dissatisfaction and discomfort as the employee feels overwhelmed and that his or her performance is judged unfairly. Take the time to ensure that your employees are adequately trained for their required tasks.

Leave warehouse worker retention to a 3PL

Even with the above boxes checked, you may find warehouse labor recruitment and retention is pulling too much of your attention away from your core business. When that’s the case, you can turn your fulfillment warehouse operations over to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider. There are many advantages of doing so.

For starters, fulfillment specialists are focused solely on warehousing and fulfillment operations. As such, they can focus all staffing efforts on the warehouse, without concern for manufacturing, sales and other departments.

Additionally, many 3PLs run multi-client warehouses in which space and labor are spread among multiple customers within the same facility. This is a major advantage, especially when it comes to the ability to scale fulfillment operations. 3PLs can cross train employees so when Company A is experiencing low volumes, associates who normally work on Company A’s business can be leveraged to handle volumes spikes with other accounts.

This not only ensures adequate coverage for all customer operations, it also helps 3PLs retain employees as there is always a need for labor across multiple clients. This is quite different than insourced fulfillment operations in which you pay for a set amount of space and labor – whether it’s needed or not.

Speaking of scale, 3PLs generally have close relationships with temporary labor agencies for the times when volumes are well above normal (e.g., during peak season shipping). At Amware Fulfillment, for example, we have close relationships with agencies in each of our markets, along with relationships with national agencies to ensure that we always have coverage during volume spikes or special projects. We will also bring exemplary temporary or part-time labor on as full-time staff to bolster our workforce.

So, if you find that your operation is overwhelmed by warehouse worker retention struggles – or if you are having a hard time scaling your labor to match volumes – consider working with a fulfillment 3PL to handle fulfillment for you. And, when you consider prospective 3PLs, be sure to keep Amware in mind. With 11 facilities across 6 key markets nationwide, we have the ability to remove your labor headaches while satisfying your customers across the U.S. To learn more, contact Amware today.

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Filed Under: Marketing/Sales Literature Fulfillment, Fulfillment Operations