Mhlnews 4853 Warehouse Workers

What Warehouse Workers Want Is to be Heard

Dec. 19, 2016
The best plan for retaining a productive and engaged warehouse workforce is to ask the right questions and listen to the answers.

Let’s review what’s been covered so far in our series on the ProLogistix Warehouse Employee Opinion Survey:

  • Pay remains the most important factor to warehouse workers.
  • Job security follows second.
  • Enjoyment of the job is a very close third factor.
  • Layoffs are greatly declining and hourly workers are most likely to leave a job for more money.
  • 1st shift is the most desired shift.
  • It takes an average of $1.25 to make a different shift more appealing.
  • 8-hour shifts are most appealing.
  • Only 13% of the workforce likes 12-hour shifts.
  • The average number of days workers say is acceptable to miss a year is less than two.
  • All else being equal, the vast majority of workers (87%) prefer five days off over the equivalent increase in pay.

Of course these are generalizations. But this list represents some of ProLogistix’s main findings in its Warehouse Employee Opinion Survey, a project that includes input from nearly 5,400 hourly warehouse workers.

Logistics companies already gain so much value when the ‘frontlines’ are given a voice, from lean initiatives to improved productivity and quality to safety programs to other continuous improvement efforts, and so on. It only makes sense for these same companies to consider hourly worker input on topics of direct importance to them.

So in that spirit, and with the survey results clearly in mind, here are a few recommendations:

1. Pay

Get the starting pay right: it needs to be competitive and fair. Take the time to research your market for companies recruiting for the same skills or experience you seek. Be in the top pay rate quartile. It will pay dividends in recruiting (time to fill), in the quality of the candidates available to work in your facility and in retention, among other important factors such as employee engagement and productivity.

2. Job Security

There are certainly no guarantees of this in the logistics world, but getting your hourly people 40 hours per week, with consistent, predictable schedules, communicating about upcoming projects or workload changes, and identifying opportunities for them to advance or learn new skills, will go a long way toward building a sense of stability and security that is so important to the workforce.

3. Attendance

Recognize that most workers do not think missing a lot of work is OK. Consistently and visibly reward reliability and attendance. Focus on the ‘silent majority’ who are getting the job done for you.

4. Shift Work

Avoid non-traditional (i.e., 12-hour or rotating or weekend) shifts whenever possible. The labor market is tight enough without trying to recruit people for a shift schedule that only about 13% prefer. When non-traditional or off-shift (i.e., 2nd and 3rd shift) work is required, be sure your shift differentials are significant enough to entice associates to not only accept the shift but stay on that shift. Our survey suggests that number is over $1.00 per hour.

5. Paid-Time-Off

Don’t forget paid-time-off (PTO) as a significant part of incentive plans, contest prizes or similar efforts. Although pay is critical, our survey also suggests that it’s not always all about the money. Remember, when given a choice between five days paid-time-off or $.25 more per hour all year long, our respondents overwhelmingly chose the PTO.

As we all know, there are no magic bullets when it comes to recruiting and retaining a productive, engaged logistics workforce. But there is some basic ‘blocking and tackling’ that logistics managers should take into account.

And often the best plan is built around asking the right questions, and listening to the answers.

Gary Glaser is division vice president for ProLogistix, the logistics specialty division of EmployBridge, a light industrial staffing company. EmployBridge also operates other specialty divisions focused on the supply chain: ResourceMFG (manufacturing), ProDrivers (transportation), and Select (general light industrial). Glaser has over 21 years of experience working with companies in the supply chain to develop workforce strategies to attract and retain top contingent talent.

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