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Integrated Logistics and Future of the Warehouse Workforce

Posted by Susan Denman on Sep 6, 2016 8:30:00 AM

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When we start to talk about the future of integrated logistics and the workforce, many immediately turn to drones, Six Sigma innovations, or 3-D printers. Though these are some of the fastest growing components around the future of logistics, we need to remember the most crucial aspect of our efficient and innovative warehouses:

People.

Labor is the biggest resource at any 3PL, and we need to invest in the people who comprise the workforce just as heavily as any other innovation. When you invest in labor, you are investing in a part of your company who constantly give back—through work, time, culture, and relationships.

Where Do You Start?

You first have to address the core issues your workforce faces: geography and competition. For example, inland California provides a different economic and industrial environment than Memphis, Tennessee—so how do you recruit and retain your ideal employees in both areas?

How do you get them to come back and enjoy their job day-after-day?

Building a strong and reliable workforce is no easy task, but you should start by investing in these areas for a top-tier workforce.

Be Competitive In Integrated Logistics

You do not have to pay the highest in the 3PL in the field, but you must be competitively priced to similar 3PLs in the geographic market. We like to use the term "equitable." Outside of pay, there are various benefits and engagement programs to help build competitive value (for instance, we have an education reimbursement program.) Prospective employees should see you as a positive, equitable leader as they ask themselves, "At which company could I see myself as a happy team member?"

The physical environment you provide for your workforce must also be competitive. Warehouses should be clean and well-lit with modern amenities, parking, innovative technology, and perks that match your company's culture. A nice workspace makes sure employees perform their best in a comfortable, healthy environment.

Just like the technology-driven startups in Silicon Valley, we have learned to provide valued benefits and to treat employees with respect increases their happiness. In turn, happy employees = dedicated and motivated team members = your company's competitive advantage.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of benefits you should provide in your warehouses. However, you do need to maintain the employee-focused, equitable mindset to recruit your ideal workforce.

After you are primed competitively, you should focus on engaging your workforce.

Building Employee Engagement

To retain your top employees after they have passed the initial welcome into your company culture, you can shift your focus to their learning and development. (If your employees' career was a timeline, think of this as the next phase.) For example, every associate at a Kenco warehouse goes through hours of training before they even step onto the floor. We want to make sure they are fully prepared and have the best advantage to do their job well.

As a best practice, we then suggest advance to a next phase: Assign a mentor to each associate to help and advise their everyday work and growth. This ensures productivity and excellent work. Supervisors who oversee these relationships should also put through separate, continuous training—even the most seasoned supervisors.

Continued education is an incredibly underrated program in the warehouse workforce. According to a Louis Harris and Associates poll, of employees with poor training opportunities, 41 percent planned to leave within a year. Investment in your employees is an investment in your business, so your team needs to create a comprehensive engagement plan to consistently question, assess, and improve your warehouse workforce. One of the ways Kenco offers opportunities for advancement is through our Supervisor Training, Leadership Skills Training, and Leadership Development Programs.

How to Measure Warehouse Workforce Performance

Each warehouse is unique. At Kenco, we have over 100 sites––each with their metrics and management. Consistency across every warehouse and the metrics you collect/analyze is key to proper measurement of your labor force.

Employee improvement programs truly help employees see how they measure up against the metric. For example, if you determine and openly discuss the average time for a delivery unload, your supervisors can use this metric to help individual employees assess their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. This also allows for transparency across the warehouse, as everyone can see how others perform compared to your set standards.

While the sheer possibilities of metrics and opportunities for improvement might seem daunting at first, do not forget a genuine conversation with your employees is an incredible tool in identifying warehouse issues or concerns. It provides the employee stories and context you need to see the above metrics as more than just a number––but an opportunity.

To Sum It All Up

Putting in the time and effort to make sure you have a great labor force are resources well-allocated. When employees are engaged each day—they show higher quality work, better safety, less frequent turnover, and greater efficiency in your supply chain.

It's a win-win situation.

At Kenco, we are currently in the first year of a three-year program to create better employee engagement. So far, the data we collected in year one has shown an increase in engagement—things are working!

With this increase in engagement, we pass our efficiencies on over to our customers, saving them time and money where applicable.

Best Practices Selecting a 3PL

Susan Denman

Written by Susan Denman

VICE PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES offering an outstanding, prolific record of achievement in building and managing robust HR organizations within diverse industries (pharmaceuticals to consumer goods), including Asian Pacific, Latin American, and European markets.