While the fulfillment industry continues to maintain a warranted focus on the truck driver shortage, they may be missing a similar crisis under their own roof: a growing fulfillment center talent shortage. Much like the carrier shortages, warehouses are losing workers to retirement and position-shifting, and the talent pool is proving sluggish to refill. It's critical that managers are being proactive to make sure you aren't left with unexpected gaps in your workforce during a crucial sales period.
Here are three things that should either be in play already, or high on your managerial to-do list.
1. Stock the Pond
When a property owner wants to ensure plentiful fishing in a man-made pond, they'll add a number of fish, encourage them to multiply, and monitor their numbers before breaking out the rod and reel. Stocking the talent pool isn’t that dissimilar: It involves making sure that quality potential is entering the "race" and remaining long enough to secure a position. Managers can contribute to this population effort by encouraging their companies to connect with universities offering logistics programs, or even setting up a branded "school" with incentives for applying, in order to properly train incoming candidates. Partnering with area high schools for tours and career day presentations is also an excellent move. It may seem like a long game, but ultimately kindling a spark of interest early helps students later embrace industry professions, rather than simply occupying them.
2. Use the Right Bait
Your job posting is often the first contact a potential hire has with your company, so it needs to not only be enticing for employment, but a platform for a positive impression as well. Make sure your job ad is comprehensive and captures the culture of your fulfillment center accurately. Use positive language to emphasize that new hires will be working in a supportive team environment, and don't dangle carrots—health care, time off and other benefits—that require lengthy hoop-jumping to achieve. It's easy for these "gotcha" lures to be considered disingenuous. While a paycheck is a driving factor, Karsten Strauss notes in an article for Forbes that a corporate culture that encourages growth, not necessarily money, is what ultimately pushes employees to provide the best quality of work. When everyone's happy, the company wins.
3. Keep the Environment Healthy
While initial acquisition of talent gets most of the hiring credit, retention is just as important. Looking back to the carrier industry for a moment, the driver exodus isn't entirely spurred by retirement or aging out. Some drivers simply don't find the work rewarding or "worth it" any longer. That same problem could haunt your warehouse if you aren't careful. Make your open door policy more than lip service and take steps to ensure satisfaction within your workforce. Simply knowing they have a viable forum for complaints, or that upper management cares about their needs, can be enough to entice fulfillment professionals to stick around. This effort will also help allocate resources intelligently. If, for example, you find that your workers care more about flexible schedules than an FSA, you can shift benefit dollars and resources to where they'll have the greatest effect on worker satisfaction.
No matter how efficient you make the processes within your fulfillment center, without minds and hands to move the engine of commerce, they're just speculative concepts on paper. Your workforce is the beating heart of fulfillment success, and it's your duty to supervise not only current members, but future ones as well. If you treat your hiring process like an aquatic ecosystem and keep it balanced and populated, you'll have a much better experience when you do finally cast your lines in.