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Best practices for warehouse worker onboarding

After navigating the process to recruit talented blue-collar workers for your logistics site, you may be patting yourself on the back while thinking that your work is completed. Recruiting is simply the initial step. In order to retain employees, you must successfully onboard and train new workers. Use these best practices for warehouse onboarding to begin the training journey.

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Why Onboarding Matters

This may come as a surprise, but onboarding begins with the first contact of a potential new hire. Every interaction is an opportunity to build and establish engagement. It allows the newbies to quickly embrace goals and learn the necessary skills to be successful. As safety is a top priority in blue-collar work environments, onboarding communicates, and demonstrates, safety compliance measures. Over the course of the onboarding phase, share your organization brand and values. Warehouse workers should experience the culture as well as learn performance expectations.

Additionally, effective onboarding can boost growth, build trust, foster open communication, and reduce turnover.

Research supporting these ideas reveals four clear onboarding goals. 

  1.  Improves employee performance – Clearly communicating expectations and providing performance feedback during the onboarding phase leads to an improvement in performance. New employees that participated in onboarding programs experienced up to 11% improved performance. Given the ever-growing logistics industry, worker performance matters more than ever. Especially, third-party-logistics companies have to match their service-level-agreements in terms of time and quality to secure a contract extension.
  2. Accelerates time-to-productivity –  A solid structured onboarding will result in new employees achieving full productivity two months sooner. As recruitment for blue-collar jobs becomes more challenging, onboarding can provide the competitive edge you need to meet client demands. 
  3.  Increases employee engagement – Cultivating an environment of teamwork and mentorship is no easy feat. But onboarding can be the first step to achieving these goals resulting in greater employee engagement. Studies have shown a direct correlation between quality onboarding and high employee engagement resulting in a lower employee turnover.
  4. Increases employee retention – Manufacturing, logistics, and transportation sectors have historically high rates of turnover. The estimated cost to replace an employee is $15,000, other sources report costs up to a full years’ salary. The vast majority of new employees decide within the first six months if they plan to stay. Research suggests that companies are more likely to retain new workers if they participate in a well-organized onboarding program.

Strategic Onboarding Goals

When hiring new employees, your goal may be to see how quickly they deliver quality work independently. However, you may be treating onboarding like race instead of a journey.

In order to achieve the maximum results of onboarding, your goals must be clear. For this reason, strategic goals should be clearly defined and agreed upon by your training team and the site managers. General goals include making employees feel welcome, creating engagement, and introductions to partnering teams.

Ultimately, your goals should align with the value-system of your blue-collar worker.  

Strategic onboarding bridges the gap from “new hire” to “productive employee”. This form of onboarding allows new employees to forge relationships, enabling them to fully contribute. 

Onboarding goals for the logistics sectors include:

  • making sure the worker is safe while adhering to established safety protocols
  • ensuring that the employee has the tools necessary to complete job
  • confirming that the new worker is able to deliver the desired quality of work
  • providing an environment for the worker to be productive while achieving target goals
  • acceptable of the new employee as a valuable and integral part of the team

Over 60% of employers state that integrating employees into the organizational culture is a primary goal of onboarding. However, there is no “one size fits all” culture. Your individual culture is a result of hierarchy (or “red tape”), demonstrated values, and even subcultures at individual facility locations. Company leaders must define and display the desired culture before expecting new works to model the behavior.

Utilize Technology

As a new generation of logistics employees enter the workforce, incorporate technology into your onboarding and training processes. Digital training is cost-effective and allows for self-paced learning (and it can easily be used over and over again). Additionally, technology-based training allows new employees to complete short modules without burnout. 

Online learning is an efficient option for compliance training and early-theoretical skills training. Background, industry knowledge can be conveyed in self-paced tutorials. 

However, technology alone cannot replicate the relationship-building aspect of in-person training. Online training is 96%, not 100%, as effective as face-to-face. For this reason, blended learning should be used throughout the new employee development phases. 

Blended learning balances the more engaging in-person training with the online training that saves on human capital costs. This combination of training methods is appealing because it meets the needs of individual learning styles (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic). This solution truly is the best of both worlds.

Online training is multi-faceted. It may include virtual meetings and online work procedures. How.fm offers a digital training tool allowing you to document, update and share your how-tos in real-time. Warehouse workers can access this information 24/7.

Automated Onboarding

The use of technology for onboarding can begin the moment a worker accepts a job offer. Site managers, along with HR teams can save time, and provide a consistent hiring and boarding experience through automation. The process of preparing new hire paperwork and requesting security badges can all be automated. Furthermore, onboarding automation allows warehouse managers to improve ramp-up times, output, and quality while avoiding work-time delays.

When deliberate automation is used as part of a larger onboarding process, new employees are more engaged (49%) and confident (46%) with higher productivity (42%).

New Employee Development Phases

As previously stated, onboarding is the initial phase of new employee development. The entire process takes about two years.

When new employee development is broken down into phases, it is easier for managers, HR, and training teams to identify what needs to be executed. The goal is to create a mutually beneficial journey for you and your employees.

The new employee development phases allow you, the warehouse or operations manager, to better assess the goals, skills, and motivators of new workers. Investing in temporary, part-time, and full-time hires saves you time and money while reducing the odds of turnover

Onboarding: 0-3 months

Most organizations, across all industries, agree that 90-days is the gold standard for onboarding. Yet most onboarding programs end within one week. Some onboarding programs only last hours.  All too many organizations confuse “onboarding” with “orientation” and end the phase after new hire paperwork is completed. 

Best practices show that strategic and deliberate onboarding creates a solid foundation for the worker’s engagement and performance. 

Consider including the following best practices in the onboarding phase:

  • Pre-plan onboarding steps to include e-Learning, mentoring, and compliance training
  • Personally introduce new employers to teammates and site managers
  • Establish 30-, 60-, 90-day goals SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)
  • Schedule orientation as one-step in the onboarding phase
  • Demonstrate work tasks
  • Make SOPs easily accessible
  • Explain how the role fits into the greater supply chain
  • Provide and ask for feedback 

Initial Development: 3-24 months

During the initial development phase, blue-collar workers are starting to feel confident in their performance. They are ready to master their role and hone their craft. 

As they build relationships across your facility, and learn more about how they fit into the bigger puzzle, employees will start to consider future opportunities. 

Now is the time to have conversations about growth and development. By investing in individual employees, you are investing in the future and vitality of your company. Determine their goals. Does he/she have a desired career path? Or would they prefer to stay and grow in their current role?

The following activities should be completed during the employee’s initial development phase: 

  • Assign a mentor
  • Revisit SMART goals
  • Assess additional learning needs related to the role
  • Conduct a new hire survey after 90 days to measure the success of onboarding steps
  • Provide additional bite-sized training (online or in-person) about the company’s other product lines or clients
  • Organize teambuilding activities
  • Schedule one-on-one monthly “check-in” between employee and direct manager
  • Provide and ask for feedback

Ongoing Development and Retention: 24+ months

After two years with a company, employees are likely SME’s in their roles. Some are content to stay put, but many others are interested in continual learning. 

Acknowledge and discuss the future roles of the employee. Do they desire to be a shift leader? Or would they like to transfer to another line? Maybe they want to mentor new hires.

Recognizing employee desires and providing ongoing development reduces turnover.

As always, continue to provide and ask for employee feedback. In a culture of continual feedback, employees will be expected to give, and therefore receive, feedback.

Implement Now

The new generation of blue-collar workers has different expectations than years before. They are tech-savvy and more likely to change employers throughout the course of their career. Retaining quality employees is more important than ever. 

The first step to retain employees is to implement a thorough new employee development program, beginning with onboarding. In short, the best way to achieve the end goal is to focus on the beginning. 

Continue following how.fm to stay ahead of best practices for blue-collar onboarding and training.

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