The labor market has become extremely competitive. Between high turnover and the Great Resignation, businesses are challenged not only to find workers, but also retain them.  

Many workers are moving from other industries to warehousing, creating an opportunity for employers in this space. The cost and time to hire and train these new employees can be high, but losing them drives up costs. In an environment of low employee availability and high demand, job seekers are looking for the best opportunity. While interest is high for warehousing roles, the challenge of retention exists.  

According to various surveys, individuals are changing roles due to a lack of recognition and growth opportunities, as well as a desire to have the business invest in them through skills development and training.  

Work in the warehouse can be demanding. Management needs to create a structure that gets the most from employees while showing them how invested the business is in their success. In addition, management must navigate the complexities of generational differences, as well as large variances in staff tenure. Many warehouses have either long-term, tenured staff or new employees, with not many others falling in-between that range.  

Businesses with lower employee turnover take advantage of strategies that prioritize employees, challenge workers, recognize success, and offer opportunities to grow.  

Building the culture 

It can appear challenging to engage employees at the warehouse. The position involves repetition, and a worker dynamic where some employees simply want to do the job while others strive for career growth and advancement. Unlike other roles where working remotely is an option, warehouse work happens on site.  

The most important step is to establish a culture that emphasizes the employee. This starts during the onboarding process with the establishment of clear goals and measurement. Explicitly identified standards, processes and goals streamline the onboarding process, reducing the time-to-value of the new hire and giving them an understanding of how their performance will be assessed. 

Following the onboarding process, communication, continuous feedback, coaching, and development will be critical to driving retention.  

It’s not just about measurement — it’s about employee investment 

Businesses invest in warehouse management (WMS) and labor management solutions to drive productivity gains in the warehouse. These technologies automate processes and simplify work for the warehouse staff. When leveraged as part of a broader strategy, these technologies can offer a conduit to deeper employee engagement, and ultimately, higher retention. 

Consider a busy forward pack area with multiple lines. With WMS and labor management, the supervisor has a clear view to the work being performed and productivity levels. Like any coach, this supervisor can walk the floor to engage with the packers, letting them know how they are doing and providing encouragement. What may seem like a simple action shows the staff that the company has made an investment in them – through technology – to help them be successful.  

Measure more than units per hour  

Warehouses that have yet to leverage advanced labor management solutions still measure employee productivity. Typically, this is some calculation such as units per hour. Unfortunately, in larger warehouses with complex activities with varying distances, weights, etc., these types of simple computations can lead to frustration on the part of the warehouse worker. Measurements such as units per hour don’t consider variables such as weights, cube, distance traveled, etc. In addition, this type of measurement encourages staff to prioritize the easier tasks as they will drive up their units per hour.  

New labor laws are being passed, such as the California Labor Law AB 701, to help ensure employees’ required work does not interfere with meal, rest periods or occupational health and safety standards. A labor management solution helps create a safe work environment by leveraging discrete standards for granular work assignments with defined methods for each task, including proper allowances for breaks.  

Investment in a labor management solution shows that the business understands the complexity and different types of work to be performed, and that the company cares about accurately measuring employee performance. This means that more complicated tasks are accounted for in productivity measurements and will be less likely to be avoided or delayed. In addition, standards set realistic expectations on how to perform the task safely, accurately, and at a high-quality.  

Be an active, inspirational coach 

Any list of effective employee retention strategies will include continuous feedback, training and key areas of focus. Why? Employees want to know that the business is invested in their performance and wants them to be successful. Labor management solutions offers the ability to identify those individuals that may need more help. In some cases, this may uncover training issues (going to unnecessary screens, for example) or identify process issues that need to be addressed (bottlenecks in an aisle, machinery issues, etc.). 

In each of these cases, taking action shows a commitment to continuous improvement and a clear feedback loop. Employees want to be coached so they can improve in their current roles, opening doors to advancement and growth opportunities within the organization.  

Encourage employee growth 

As mentioned previously, some workers are content to perform their day-to-day activities, while others want to be challenged with new assignments and growth opportunities. Labor management solutions can offer an avenue to uncovering those advancement-minded employees and expanding their toolset through cross-training. With the ability to establish learning curves, the successful picker can move to forklift operation without putting their incentives at risk. 

Reward and incentivize workers 

Rewards and recognition are among the top strategies used by companies focused on employee retention. With clear, equitable, evaluation criteria, businesses can establish reward and incentive programs to recognize workers for their success. By regularly rewarding good work, the business establishes incentives for workers to engage and improve.  

Labor management can help drive employee retention 

Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Labor Management solution compliments a company culture built on people. By establishing standards and measurement in compliance with regulations, Blue Yonder’s Warehouse Labor Management solution makes it easy for the business to onboard, engage and retain workers.  

In a Part 2 blog article, we will explore how automation drives engagement, retention, and opportunities for employment for warehouse workers.