Warehousing and distribution operations often have difficulties hiring and retaining order fulfillment associates. A logistics labor shortage and record low unemployment in the years leading up to the pandemic haven’t made recruiting and retention easy for fulfillment centers.
Even before trade wars and a global pandemic complicated warehouse employment, the warehousing sector averaged 32.5% turnover at the end of 2018. Warehouse operators have often turned to wage hikes and investments in better perks, benefits, and cultural elements to attract new employees and keep current associates from leaving.
COVID-19 brought additional volatility to warehouse hiring and retention. Coronavirus outbreaks in fulfillment centers dominated headlines and drove many essential workers away from the industry for months. As the pandemic dragged on, this trend reversed. By the end of 2020, the warehousing sector experienced a hiring boom as laid-off workers from other sectors began to view the logistics sector as an option for gainful employment.
8 Tips for Hiring and Retaining Warehouse Associates
As eCommerce sellers and their third-party logistics (3PL) providers compete for a growing pool of available talent to support rapidly growing demand, facility managers must incorporate practices and policies that appeal to new and existing warehouse associates. The following tips will help you get noticed by new order fulfillment associates and retain existing staff in your eCommerce order fulfillment center.
Tip #1: Keep up with market wages
Paying wages equal to or above the facility’s local market standards remains one of the most effective tools for attracting and keeping labor. If your order fulfillment associates can make an extra $0.50/hour at another eCommerce distribution center down the street, the chances are good that they will pursue the higher wage. To attract labor, make sure you pay a fair starting salary. No existing employee wants to see new employees coming in at higher rates than they make, so retention requires offering raises to current associates that keep them at or above the market value for their role.
Tip #2: Build a better company culture
Corporate culture isn’t just for the boardroom. It extends from the CEO’s office to the warehouse floor. Think about your fulfillment center and the working conditions. Take a look at how your managers treat and interact with your order fulfillment associates. If you were out on the floor picking and packing orders, would you want to come to work every day in your facility? Would you feel valued for your contributions? Would you be proud to tell people where you work? If the answer to any of these questions is no, your corporate culture needs improvement.
Tip #3: Engage your warehouse associates
If you aren’t sure what it will take to retain employees, then ask them. While this may seem like a simple concept, many organizations fail to ask employees what the company could do to improve their experience. Your workforce has ideas for improvement regarding their jobs, your operation, and your customer relationships. Engagement is an essential part of the employee experience, so rely on regular employee reviews, suggestion boxes, and anonymous surveys that give your employees the chance to feel heard.
Tip #4: Give your order fulfillment associates opportunities for career growth
If your order fulfillment associates feel stuck, they will eventually look for better opportunities elsewhere. Don’t overlook good performance and company loyalty when promotion opportunities arise.
Tip #5: Provide the training your fulfillment team needs
Employees who understand their job functions and responsibilities will ultimately be more productive. Your onboarding should cover everything your order fulfillment associates need to know, and you will see increased throughput as a result. Knowledgeable employees feel empowered to make snap decisions during their day, avoiding the delays that happen when they otherwise need to seek a supervisor to clarify instructions.
Tip #6: Provide the right technology support
If you do everything in your warehouse manually, your associates are probably exhausted. You can relieve some pressure and optimize each associate’s capabilities through wearable technologies, advanced warehouse management systems, robotics, picking solutions, and more. Good data-based forecasting capabilities will also allow for better labor planning, so your warehouse team doesn’t get overworked. These capabilities ease the stress of recruiting and retention by helping you optimize a smaller workforce.
Tip #7: Show a little appreciation
A little appreciation from management can go a long way. Thank employees who do a good job or go above and beyond. Offer small and affordable perks, such as free coffee and snacks. Buy the entire shift a meal once a week or once a month. Institute more formal acknowledgments that come tied to gift cards or cash bonuses, like an Employee of the Month program. These are just a few ideas, but it’s important to understand how these types of perks help your employees feel that their contributions to the company are appreciated.
Tip #8: Find a 3PL to handle recruiting and retention
If running a fulfillment center is not your company’s core competency, you may want to consider outsourcing to a fulfillment 3PL. The right fulfillment partner can scale services to keep pace with company growth and help you expand into new markets without having to worry about adding infrastructure and staff.
Is outsourcing the answer?
If you’re having trouble keeping your warehouse staffed, consider letting a 3PL like Amware Fulfillment take over this responsibility for you. With a nationwide fulfillment center network spanning the entire US, we can support your needs today, and tomorrow. Learn more about Amware’s team and culture, or visit our careers page to explore employment opportunities.