Hiring Warehouse Talent is Getting Harder – Here’s What You Should Know

Hiring warehouse talent has been a challenge for years. While forecasting hiring trends continues to be a challenge, warehouses and distribution centers are continuing to face a shortage of qualified workers as the number of opportunities in the sector continues to grow. If you’re hiring warehouse talent, here are three things you need to do in order to recruit and retain valued employees.

#1 Define your ideal employee

No business is a “one size fits all” solution. There will always be certain people who love your product or service and others who won’t see the point or value in what you offer. All great businesses understand their “ideal customer” – the person who finds the perfect solution to their problems or needs in the services or products a company provides. The most successful companies spend heavily on identifying their ideal clients and marketing to them.

What many businesses fail to do however is spend time identifying their “ideal employee”. We’re currently seeing that a significant number of warehouses are experiencing turnover in the range of 20-40%. Many of the managers we talk to can’t seem to figure out why. One reason is that they are hiring the wrong candidates to begin with. Just like your product or service may not be a fit for everyone, working for your company might not be either.

So, how do you find the ideal employee? You identify the competencies required for success in the role you are hiring for and you screen for those competencies during the interview process.

If you’re hiring warehouse talent, here are a few things to look for:

  • Experience: Warehouse work can be physically demanding, at times requiring heavy lifting, which means these jobs are typically better suited to those who enjoy or thrive in a hands-on profession and have the energy and fitness levels for it. Does the candidate have previous experience with jobs that are physical in nature?
  • Skills: While many skills required for warehouse work can be learned on the job quickly, some skills such as operating a forklift or a familiarity with warehouse terminology will help a candidate hit the ground running. Does the candidate have any specific skills that will increase their likelihood of success?
  • Abilities: Practical abilities such as time management, teamwork, physical stamina, the ability to read product descriptions and the ability to match numbers from an RF gun to a location label are needed for warehouse work. Does the candidate have these abilities?
  • Motivations: Is the candidate a good fit for the particular environment, culture, or organization? Will the candidate like performing the specific tasks of the job? You can gauge this by probing to see what roles the candidate has enjoyed most in the past.
  • Personality Traits: Does the candidate contain the traits and characteristics needed for successful job performance? How does he or she compare to your top performers?


#2 Reimagine the interview process

When the economy tightened, many predicted that hiring warehouse talent would get easier as the market would be flooded with job candidates. That hasn’t been the case. Warehousing and distribution employment numbers have actually reached all-time highs making it more challenging than it’s ever been to find candidates. Once you do find a great potential match, the interviewing process needs to shift from simply qualifying a candidate, to both qualifying and selling.

According to Lauren Smith, vice president in the Gartner HR practice “Recruiters and hiring managers must be prepared to have authentic conversations with candidates and answer their questions about all aspects of the job and employee experience.” If you’re grilling candidates and not selling the benefits of working for your company and giving individuals an opportunity to ask lots of questions, you may end up with a mismatch that results in turnover.

Most distribution managers aren’t trained today in the “art of interviewing”. Be sure to leverage HR in the hiring process. They’re skilled at conducting primary screenings which can help ensure you’re meeting with candidates who are most likely to be a fit.

#3 Create a culture of retention

In many environments we work in, the majority of people who leave have been on the job less than a year. When you consider the cost of turnover can run as much as 2.5 times an employee’s salary depending on the role, that’s a lot of money walking out the door. Retaining employees in your DC today hinges on creating a culture of retention.

That may sound scary or difficult, but it’s not. It boils down to having three things in place: effective onboarding, ongoing engagement, and positive recognition. If you do these things well, you will emerge as a “preferred employer” and be successful in recruiting the best available talent.

Effective Onboarding

The first days after a new employee starts will set the tone for their time with your company. A great onboarding program will ensure your employees are set up for success from day one. Unfortunately, many of the environments we’ve observed don’t have such programs. Too often, a DC’s onboarding program consists of having a new team member shadow a top performer for a few hours over a few days. This doesn’t work.

Effective onboarding includes a range of activities including setting specific goals for the employees being onboarded, on-the-job training, mentoring and continuous performance feedback. A labor management system can be especially helpful during onboarding as it can help you determine and track performance metrics along a predefined learning curve and trigger engagement as needed.

Ongoing Engagement

It’s one thing to establish goals, but you’ll never meet those goals if an employee isn’t given the training and tools needed to do so. Getting your managers to engage with your employees in a consistent and effective manner creates a culture of winning and caring. With performance coaching, supervisors and employees work collaboratively to develop the skills and abilities needed to ensure success.

Performance coaching involves a formal program that identifies scenarios where defined expectations are not being met and generates an engagement that helps an employee build the skills needed to meet the expectations. A labor management system provides supervisors the tools they need to develop an effective feedback loop. Tier One systems can create custom observation forms, enable on-floor observations using a mobile device, and track the status of assigned coaching tasks to ensure completion.

Positive Recognition

Performance coaching also includes consistent positive engagement. According to a recent Happy Office Survey, 80 percent of people say that feeling appreciated is important to their happiness at work, ahead of salary (58 percent) and feeling trusted (55 percent), but only 45 percent of employees actually feel appreciated by their company.

Recognition is such a simple thing to do, but it is often overlooked in the rush of day-to-day activity. All too often, feedback is provided after the fact or too late to change behavior. With a labor management system, you have the ability to provide accurate and detailed feedback on a daily basis, if not multiple times throughout the day. It’s a very rare occasion that employee feedback and recognition can be provided as frequently and with as much accuracy as with a labor management system. This can be a strong selling point with prospective employees.

Labor Management System Supports Retention

If you’re hiring warehouse talent and looking for ways to create a culture of retention, a Labor Management System Program can help. A Labor Management System Program combines labor management software, engineering services and management training to facilitate onboarding, engagement and recognition. Organizations that deploy a Labor Management System Program see improved productivity and increased job satisfaction. If you’re ready to learn more, TZA is here to help.

To find out how an LMS can help identify improvement opportunities within your organization