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Fulfillment Warehouse Worker Retention in the Wake of COVID-19

Warehouse associate retention has been a longstanding challenge for high-volume Business-to-Consumers (B2C) shippers, including subscription companies. The coronavirus pandemic made matters worse – whether you handle order fulfillment yourself or rely on a third-party logistics company (3PL).

This article will focus on current retention challenges and how they can be solved.

 

The Impact of COVID-19 on Warehouses 

With the COVID-19 outbreak, new factors are impacting the ability to attract and keep warehouse workers:

  • 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. 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. 

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.  

How to Improve Warehouse Worker Retention

There are several things that your company can do to keep your quality associates:

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. Make time for your employees.

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 associate’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 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. 

Improve training

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

Delegate your warehouse worker retention 

Even with the above boxes checked, you may find warehouse labor recruitment and retention is pulling your focus away from growing your subscription business. When that’s the case, you can partner with a 3PL to handle your fulfillment operations.

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 to keep pace with growth. 3PLs can cross-train employees so when one customer is experiencing low volumes, associates who normally work on that company’s business can be leveraged to handle volumes’ spikes with other accounts.

So, if you find that your focus is being deflected by labor management struggles in your fulfillment operation, outsourcing may be the strategic choice.  


Amware Fulfillment is a SUBTA supplier that specializes in warehouse fulfillment services for direct-to-consumer brands. 


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