Are your DC Managers a leading cause of turnover?

Over the past few months, we’ve been sharing content on hiring challenges and turnover issues. In this post, we’re going to cover one of the top reasons that employees leave a job and what you can do about it.

Research from global staffing firm Robert Half suggests there’s truth to the saying, “People leave managers, not companies.” About half of professionals surveyed (49%) have quit a job due to a bad boss. This fact highlights the extreme importance of the front-line management team in your DC. This team is the cornerstone of your operation and will heavily influence your hiring and retention success or failure.

Many operations fail to build a successful front-line management team because they fail to hire the right management talent to begin with. In many operations we’ve observed, DC Managers are promoted from the floor – meaning 10 years ago they were picking orders. These individuals have the technical chops to know what needs to get done, but they often lack the soft skills required to get their teams to do the work. The key to creating a successful front-line management team today hinges on the ability to identify the soft skills required for the job and hiring and training around these skills.


Skills Today’s DC Managers Need

Today’s DC Managers need to be experts in sales, communication and coaching.


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. Today’s DC Managers need to experts at selling their operations.

Unfortunately, most DC Managers aren’t trained in the “art of interviewing”. Many resort to grilling candidates and fail to sell the benefits of working for the organization. If this is the case, it’s time to leverage the skills of your Human Resources team. They can help get your managers up to speed on winning interview techniques.


Warehouse management involves interacting with both employees on the floor and management outside the building. This may involve communicating with a team that represents multiple generations and therefore has varied communication styles. Or, it may mean navigating language barriers with non-English speakers. Today’s DC Managers need effective written and verbal communication skills to communicate needs upwards and facilitate tasks downwards. In many warehouses we visit, we see good looking signs and detailed manuals, but we don’t see enough one to one communication that is essential for ensuring team members clearly understand requirements and managers clearly understand team member concerns.


Performance coaching is an ongoing process which helps build and maintain effective employee and supervisory relationships. With performance coaching, supervisors and employees work collaboratively to develop the skills and abilities of every team member in the distribution center. Successful coaching programs boost performance and help mitigate performance issues before they become serious problems. A successful coaching program includes:

  1. Setting clear expectations
  2. Regularly observing performance
  3. Asking questions and listening
  4. Capturing and sharing performance metrics
  5. Weighing skills, tools, and environment


How to Hire the DC Managers You Need

When hiring management talent for your DC, it’s good to value technical warehouse expertise and experience, but it’s just as important to look for the soft skills outlined above, which are much harder to teach. According to a recent Industry Week article, more and more companies are beginning to view leadership skills, discipline and motivation as more important than technical skills which can be learned. This is the case at companies like Mohawk, a Georgia-based flooring manufacturer, who recently hired Nathan Bennett, a candidate with no manufacturing experience.

As a two-time NASKA World Martial Arts Champion, Bennett demonstrated strong discipline and leadership skills. And while he did not get the job he originally applied for, a Mohawk hiring manager saw his potential and offered him a job in another area. The hiring manager told Bennett that Mohawk wanted him for his leadership skills and they could teach him the rest.

In the end, the company’s focus on finding the right fit for their team paid off. Bennett is now the safety manager of two plants, leading more than 650 people and looking for others who are adaptable, motivated, and willing to learn new skills in order to cultivate new leaders in the organization.
Given the sheer number of employees that your DC Managers interact with and influence on a daily basis, it is clear that soft skills like sales, communication and coaching are critical skills to hire and train for. If you believe your front-line management team could be contributing to retention issues, the implementation of Labor Management System System that can help you put in structure in place to facilitate the regular communication and coaching required to recruit and retain top talent today. If you’re ready to learn more, let’s talk.

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