Sustainability is an important topic for warehouses all over the world. Over the last 5 years, the e-commerce boom has skyrocketed demand for logistics services worldwide and the labor market has become more competitive. You may have already heard about the importance of environmental sustainability best practices in your warehouse. Transport (road, air, rail, and ocean freight) is a major contributor to climate change, accounting for about one-fifth of global CO2 emissions. As a result, logistics companies are racing to cut net emissions in half by 2050.
Social sustainability is also vital to a warehouse’s success. For example, high turnover can cost a warehouse $5,000 per worker or 150% of a worker’s salary. Moreover, a logistics sector survey revealed that 39.1% of warehouse employees are lacking valuable job skills. In 2019, warehouses and distribution centers were scrambling to attract an “additional 452,000 workers” before the end of the year.
Constantly hiring and training new warehouse workers who soon leave or must be let go negatively impacts your business. It also increases operating costs by overburdening your Human Resources department with paperwork, training, and interviews. Thus, preventing warehouse managers from focusing on other important tasks by forcing them to spend their time training new workers. For your employees, high turnover can mean a loss of knowledge and productivity on the warehouse floor that damages staff morale and hurts profits.
The good news is that you do not have to rely only on offering significantly higher wages to prevent high fluctuation. According to a survey of blue-collar workers, 78% of turnover actually has nothing to do with wages. By providing appropriate training and education to warehouse workers, you can keep employees happy and ensure they are continuously improving. This prevents high fluctuation in a time when warehouse managers are facing extra challenges in recruiting and retaining enough qualified workers.
Currently, an aging workforce, unattractive schedules, and long training processes are making it harder for managers to find and keep good employees in their warehouses. In a survey, 77% of warehouse managers stated that there are fewer suitable applicants for warehouse jobs than in recent years. At the same time, the e-commerce boom has increased demand for warehouse workers earlier than the usual peak season.
Social Sustainability Through Continuous Improvement
So – how can you strengthen your employees’ loyalty to their job to prevent high fluctuation and reduce costs? The answer is by investing in employees’ training and education and creating a positive workplace.
Workers who feel valued and are able to grow their skills with their company are less likely to leave in search of better opportunities and will be more productive. This in turn helps you to cut costs by reducing the time, money, and resources spent on constantly finding, training, and onboarding new employees.
Talk is cheap. Action proves your commitment to your workers’ wellbeing. Simply telling your employees they are valued is not enough. Additionally, although following onboarding best practices is crucial to an employee’s long-term success, a one-time training period does not build social sustainability either. Uplifting and upskilling employees through concrete actions they can experience first-hand encourage them to stay with the company longer.
When employees are happy and motivated to stay with your company, turnover is lower. As a result, your Human Resources department saves time and energy. It is important to remember that time is money. Without a steady stream of new and untested people to train, you will be able to dedicate your focus to other important responsibilities in the warehouse. By ensuring a stable, satisfied workforce, you save the company money and have a better, more productive working environment for everyone, including yourself. In this way, both warehouse workers and management benefit from a more socially sustainable workplace.
Create a Positive Work Culture
Some actions you can take to create a positive workplace that empowers warehouse workers and prevents high fluctuation are:
- working with your employees to help them achieve a good work-life balance
- communicating honestly and often with warehouse workers
- providing regular feedback and encouraging them to voice their concerns or ideas
It is important that warehouse employees feel like their opinions are heard and that their time and efforts are valued. A June 2020 study of social sustainability in the logistics industry found that 82% of workers feel like their company appreciates their ideas. The same percentage of workers feel like their employer appreciates their good performance in their role.
One way you can make warehouse workers feel heard and valued is by regularly hosting transparent and motivational meetings for teams and individuals. This gives you an opportunity to listen to employees’ important insight into the warehouse’s day-to-day operations. It also allows you to find areas for improvement. You should use this time to encourage employees to try new things and be creative in their problem solving on the job.
Remember, this should be time well spent for you and the warehouse workers. That means being careful not to waste your time or theirs. Keep employees engaged in the success of the warehouse and the company by regularly showing them exactly how their input during team meetings and individual interviews can directly impact warehouse operations.
Provide Training and Education
While maintaining a positive and constructive workplace is important for preventing high fluctuation, it is only one part of the solution. According to that same June 2020 study of social sustainability in the logistics industry, only 59% of workers receive regular training. You can better motivate and retain qualified warehouse workers by investing in their success. You can also attract new workers in the competitive logistics labor market by showing potential applicants that your company is willing to go above and beyond to ensure its employees’ professional development and long-term success.
Here are some of the important actions you can take to build strong social sustainability in your warehouse through how.fm-approved educational opportunities and innovative training solutions:
- Offering a clear career path that inspires warehouse workers to stay with your company longer.
- Providing workers with continuous on-the-job training and upskilling programs after the initial onboarding process (for example, technical skills or supply chain training).
- Empowering students and young applicants to be successful with your company through apprenticeship schemes and flexible or annualized hours.
- Optimizing the onboarding process to train workers faster. This allows workers to get on the floor and start earning in less time, and it allows the company to reduce training expenses.
Social Sustainability Best Practices Benefit Everyone
High fluctuation can cost your company time, money, and resources. The increasingly competitive logistics labor market is making it difficult for warehouse managers to find qualified applicants. Meanwhile, the current e-commerce boom is increasing demand for more trained warehouse workers, even outside peak seasons.
To stay competitive, warehouse managers will need to build social sustainability that prevents high fluctuation and cuts costs. You can implement social sustainability best practices in your warehouse by:
- ensuring a positive workplace for your employees where they feel that their ideas and concerns are listened to and valued.
- upskilling warehouse workers with training and education opportunities that motivate them in their role and give them a clear career path within your company.
Time Is Money
Being a sustainable business is not just about the eco-friendliness of your packaging materials or the energy efficiency of your warehouse or transport vehicles. It is also about recognizing that time is money. Excess time spent finding, hiring, and training people can be a major detriment to your warehouse’s success. By investing in the people at the heart of your logistics operations, the warehouse workers, you can cut costs and save yourself and your employees a lot of time and hassle. When you empower your employees to deliver their very best performance, you enable your company to deliver best-in-class service to your customers as well.