Surviving a Tight Labor Market

Feb. 1, 2001
In Consultant Forum, Alex Metz offers some concrete methods for attracting and retaining warehouse workers.

Surviving a Tight Labor Market

Here’s how to attract job candidates to your warehouse.

by Alex Metz, president, Hunt Ltd.

It’s tough assembling a good warehousing staff in today’s economy. To begin with, a warehousing job is not a very high-profile career choice. Second, with most warehouses located in the suburbs, there’s usually poor, if any, public transportation. If your labor pool is from the inner city, this is a problem.

Warehousing is not always a comfortable job, either. Facilities tend to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

It’s at times like these that companies with warehouses should re-evaluate their hiring practices and their standards. Far too often their established requirements eliminate people who would do a more-than-adequate job. A good candidate can succeed with a grounding in the three R’s, yet some companies insist on some college. This reduces the pool dramatically. Do picking, packing and putaway really call for a degree?

You need to sell warehousing to today’s job candidates. Remind potential employees that this could provide an entry to greater opportunities in your company. Where better to learn as much or as quickly about a company’s products than in its warehouse? It might also add another dimension to a manager’s or a supervisor’s role: that of trainer or mentor to new employees.

Here are some other suggestions for finding good warehouse workers.


Let your people know you’re hiring and ask them to recommend candidates. For the most part, you can expect to get good recommendations because their reputation is "on the line."

Consider offering an incentive for each hire. It needn’t be monetary. One of our clients turned it into a contest, awarding a T-shirt with "FOUND 1" or "FOUND 2" on it. Competition among peers drove the success of this program. Would you want to be the one in your facility who didn’t have a hand in finding good co-workers if you had the opportunity? At the end 45 to 60 days, a grand prize was awarded to the individual with the highest number — an expense-paid weekend at a local resort.

Is it worth movie tickets, dinner for two or tickets to the ball game to get recommendations from your current staff? This could be all it takes.

Another company in Florida hires between 100 and 125 people for its manufacturing and warehousing operations. All the people working there are related to each other. I’ve been told they’ve never had a problem or had better quality workers in the past 10 years.

Look to schools

Most schools will gladly recommend students if you ask for their assistance. This could be a good source for summer employment when your regular staff takes vacation or during peak holiday times throughout the school year. You might find a student you’d want to hire full-time upon graduation.

This might also be a good opportunity for you to establish a relationship with the school by teaching a class and starting a mentoring program. Your company would benefit by having access to an educated talent pool and by generating positive publicity about your corporate citizenship.

Strong seniors

If your facility is located near a retirement community, you may find senior citizens who are willing to work part-time to subsidize their fixed incomes. Surely there are some duties they can do on a job-sharing basis. Companies that have tried this have been very satisfied with the results.


Temporary services give you a chance to see how some people fit into your organization on a trial basis. This often leads to full-time permanent work. Many companies offer these services, so don’t overlook them.

Public servants

Police officers, firemen and school bus drivers have free time during the workweek. Many would be proven, dependable additions to your workforce.


It’s time to think outside the box, or at least the four walls of your warehouse. Work with your human resources people on unusual and creative ways to reward and attract a work force. And, remember, your neighbors and competitors in industrial parks are in the same boat, so the more creative you are, the better. Good luck! MHM

About the Author

Alex Metz is president of Hunt Ltd., a Lyndhurst, NJ-based supply chain staffing firm that helps place senior management and supervisory-level personnel. Hunt also counsels on salary trends, organizational structure and competitive employee packages. Contact him at (201) 438-8200, x208, or [email protected]. Visit on the Web.

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