Distribution Centers, Recruiting & Retention: 3 Tips for Keeping Quality Workers

January 30, 2020 Brandon Barborka


In recent years, two factors have combined to make it difficult for distribution centers to find and retain quality workers. One is relatively low unemployment rates. A lower unemployment rate means a smaller pool of potential workers from which to recruit. The other factor is the rising sophistication of distribution centers. Greater technological complexity means that distribution centers require workers with more skills, and not everybody has them. Taken together, these two factors illustrate that the availability of talent must be a key component of where you locate a distribution center, and your recruiting and retention efforts must be thorough.

Here are three tips to help you find quality workers and keep them on the job at your distribution center.

Tip #1: Partner With Public Institutions

To help with the talent shortage, some companies are partnering with public institutions and nonprofits to support regional workforce development programs. These partnerships knit together businesses, community colleges and nonprofits to help develop talent for specific career paths. Businesses can introduce people to jobs they’d never considered before, community colleges can give those individuals the skills they need to perform these jobs, and nonprofits can help organize these interactions to promote workforce readiness.

As an extra bonus, partnering with respected local organizations helps boost your reputation in the community. When you show that you’re invested in the overall welfare of an area, you become a trusted institution that people respect as a neighbor and a partner.


Tip #2: Create Appealing Job Offers

A recent article in The New York Times noted that, while job growth has accelerated recently, wages haven’t kept up with expectations in some areas of the economy. The article quoted one CEO who was struggling to retain entry-level workers.

“For the basic-skill job, we’re seeing a higher turnover rate than normal. People are job shopping a bit, because they can. They’re trying different things to see what they like,” said the executive.

It’s important to do your research. Your base pay rates must be determined by an accurate and timely assessment of the wages that workers in your area can expect for the kind of job that you offer. If workers can find a better wage for similar work and the same perks, they’ll take the higher wage.

Additionally, you can expand your recruiting pool by offering flexible scheduling, which can be a great incentive for certain types of workers like students and people who are underemployed. These recruitment pools can often be sources of untapped high-quality talent. Instead of taking on a certain number of full-time workers, you can divide shifts among several part-time workers who have limited availability. At Staff Management | SMX, we offer a flexible job-sharing program called FLEX to reduce turnover, limit overtime and expand the talent pool.

Lastly, make sure you have a clear and comprehensive job description. After all, if a worker shows up and the job isn’t what they anticipated, would you expect them to stay? Brittany Moore, our media manager for recruitment marketing, believes that job descriptions should succinctly communicate job details, company culture, potential perks and what your company offers that others don’t.

Tip #3: Get Creative

To retain quality workers, you have to know what their needs are. And not every worker will have the same needs. Some people might have to care for family members while others have trouble accessing reliable transportation. Once you know what your workers require to be successful on the job, is there a creative way you can help meet these needs?

For Patagonia, it’s important to prioritize the needs of workers who have young children. They offer onsite daycare at their headquarters and at their distribution center in Reno, Nevada. Patagonia splits the cost with workers who use the service, and the company gets substantial results in recruitment, retention and engagement due to this service.

For some distribution center workers, transportation is hard to secure. Warehouses are often located in areas that are difficult to access by public transit, which limits the potential talent pool. When you partner with community groups, you could have a seat at the table for discussions about local infrastructure. If there’s an opportunity for a new transit project in your area, providing some of the matching funds for the initiative would be an investment that helps you recruit workers who otherwise couldn’t travel to your facilities.

It might even make sense for you to provide a busing program yourself. At Staff Management | SMX, we’ve provided this service for some of our clients in the past, and it helped us successfully recruit high-quality workers to meet fill rates. It can be particularly effective for tight recruitment markets in rural areas where workers with high potential have limited access to transportation. It’s important to weigh multiple factors and possible solutions before deciding on a specific action plan.

Focus on People & Communities to Retain Workers

It can be a challenge to recruit and retain high-quality talent for your distribution center. But when you get involved with the community, create appealing job offers and seek to creatively meet the needs of your workforce, you’ll produce positive results.

At Staff Management | SMX, we take pride in solving problems regarding the recruitment and retention of contingent workers. Discover our Key Strategies for Success in the Light Industrial Recruitment Market.
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