Find warehouse workers: Navigating the challenges

If your company is having trouble finding warehouse workers, you’re not alone. Warehouse staff is harder to come by than ever, with great competition for available candidates. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the current challenges and provide tips on what you can do to address labor challenges.


Why is it so difficult to find warehouse workers?

find warehouse workersA recent article in Logistics Management examines the current challenges that companies are facing in attracting, hiring and retaining warehouse employees.

The primary challenge is that competition for warehouse talent has never been greater. There are many more open positions than there are candidates. This has led warehousing and logistics providers to get into a large-scale bidding war where large providers offer salaries and benefits that the small and mid-size providers simply can’t compete with.

Importantly, the article points out that this increased competition existed before the pandemic. A pre-COVID U.S. labor report showed that there was “one qualified candidate for every six supply chain job openings.” This talent gap exists among senior-level staff as well as entry-level associates.

The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, has only increased competition for warehouse talent. The 44% uptick in eCommerce sales in 2020 has meant that even more labor is required for eCommerce fulfillment, in addition to retail/B2B warehousing functions.

And it’s not just other shippers and 3PLs that make up the competition for labor. Industries such as food service, hospitality and construction also have severe talent gaps and are luring potential warehouse workers away with attractive wages, benefits and even perks like free iPhones.

In addition to this increased competition, there are additional factors that make hiring warehouse employees difficult. There is still a substantial number of prospective employees that, mainly for reasons connected to the pandemic, are not ready to return to work full time. Of those who are, many are seeking flexible schedules and the ability to work from home – accommodations that warehousing and logistics companies can’t provide.

And, after all this, there are still the omni-present challenges of retaining employees once they are hired. As we discussed in a recent blog article, the turnover rate among warehouse associates was estimated to be 32.5% in 2019 – before the pandemic. With competition even more heated, employees who are dissatisfied with their current positions and/or salaries have no shortage of potential suitors if they decide to jump ship.


So, what can be done?

If your warehousing operation continues to have difficulty finding warehouse workers, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of acquiring the staff you need.

Tap into diverse labor pools. At many warehouses, there are groups of people that are commonly underrepresented in the labor force. These include women, veterans and individuals with disabilities. Companies could do well to expand their efforts at attracting these vital workers.

Invest in automation. Logistics automation isn’t just a dark force that seeks to replace employees. There are many types of automation that assist employees and help them work smarter and more efficiently. Such automation can be attractive to prospective employees.

Lean on temporary agencies. During times of scarce labor availability like we have now, temporary staffing agencies can be vital in providing the employees to keep your operations running smoothly. As an added bonus, temporary employees that perform well and fit your company’s culture could be some of your best new hires.

Turn to a 3PL. If recruiting, hiring and retaining warehouse associates is part of your company’s core skill set, then continuing to operate your own warehouse may make sense. If, however, you find that you struggle to adequately staff your warehousing operations and that your customers’ experiences are suffering as a result, then handing your warehousing operation over to a 3PL may work to your benefit.

3PLs have resources that are solely committed to the recruitment, hiring, training and retention of employees. Additional advantages include the following:

  • Many 3PLs have multiple distribution centers and can cross train employees so that they can fill in gaps at other locations, as needed
  • 3PLs tend to have close working relationships with temporary staffing agencies, helping to ensure adequate coverage
  • 3PLs are typically well known to prospective employees in their markets, making recruitment easier


Lean on Kanban Logistics to keep your operations running smoothly

Kanban Logistics is a trusted logistics partner to companies in the manufacturing, food, pharmaceutical, aerospace, automotive, import and retail industries. At Kanban, our employees are seen as part of our family. In the last 5 years, we’ve only had a few departures among our warehouse team – and one was due to retirement. The majority of our warehouse associates have been with Kanban for many years and use that experience to guide the logistics operations of our valued customers. To learn more about Kanban’s warehousing and logistics services, contact us today.


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