Warehouse Optimization Starts With Employee Engagement

Engagement is a key component to talent retention and job satisfaction.

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Logistics providers have struggled to fill warehouse roles due to a lack of available workers and a highly competitive market. Attracting and retaining talent requires more than just salary and benefits – employees need to feel valued by their organization and to be engaged in the work they are doing.

Now, logistics providers are facing a completely different set of labor challenges as a result of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Nearly overnight, warehouses had to adapt to comply with new regulations mandating how many people can be in a space at once, how close people can be to each other and in some cases, if the facility could even be open. This altered labor landscape has forced providers to reimagine their practices across the board.

With resource constraints and limitations on the workforce, it is more important than ever that warehouse employees work as efficiently as possible to meet order demand. At the same time, the importance of retaining workers has heightened, putting added pressure on employers to ensure an engaging and positive workplace. The impact of COVID-19, labor shortages across industries as well as increased expectations for fulfillment speed and volume has revealed the critical need to reimagine today’s labor management approaches to best meet the needs of the modern workforce.

Reimagining employee engagement

If employees are not working as efficiently as possible, the company will not be able to execute to the best of its ability, especially in the warehouse. However, this is not necessarily an issue of employees not working hard enough, it’s an issue of employees being under-engaged.

Engagement is a key component to talent retention and job satisfaction. According to Gallup,  only 30% of employees in the United States feel engaged at work, and when you look at employees across 140-plus countries around the world, that number drops even lower. 

Additionally, further research found that 81% of employees would consider leaving their jobs today and even accept a pay cut if it meant they could do a job they liked better. In today’s labor climate, employers can’t afford to lose employees, and therefore must put an emphasis on improving engagement across their workforce. 

According to the Self-Determination Theory, humans are driven by three fundamental needs—autonomy, mastery and connectedness. Intrinsically, we want the freedom to do as we please, create our own success and achieve our own goals and share these achievements with others. Essentially, we need a purpose, otherwise we’ll have no drive.

In order to properly engage employees, employers must fully understand these principles and reimagine how they measure success by factoring these in. They must understand what motivates and engages employees, which means implementing techniques and tools that help create a more individual and rewarding work experience, thus resulting in a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

Engaging today’s workforce

A fully engaged workforce is 21% more motivated, productive and satisfied than a disengaged workforce. However, practices like coaching and training are outdated and do not work as well with the younger generations. In order to engage today’s employees, organizations must evaluate performances based on metrics that most workers consider important, such as feedback, personal growth and satisfaction, not just raw performance data. With this in mind, organizations have implemented new practices to drive improvements in motivation, satisfaction, retention and productivity, such as recognition and gamification. 

Recognition makes employees feel valued. It motivates them to work harder and reach new benchmarks. Whether in the form of leaderboards or an actual prize, no matter how big or small the reward is, giving workers a sense of accomplishment through recognition programs empowers them to increase their performance and be more productive.

Humans are also innately competitive, therefore harnessing the competitive nature of workers through gamification has proven to be a great way to improve employee engagement and is becoming increasingly more effective as the labor force becomes younger. In these gamification programs, as achievement increases, employees receive positive reinforcement through awards such a digital badges, medals and milestone markers. As employees perform better, they receive more affirmations for their achievements. Gamification programs help to keep employees engaged, focused and motivated, and can even help foster a more interactive and compelling workplace. Virtual rewards can be given instantly, connections with colleagues can be built and seemingly mundane tasks are made more interactive and competitive, which boosts performance. Ultimately, gamification improves employee experiences, leaving workers more engaged and happier in their roles, thus reducing churn and improving productivity.

In addition to engaging employees with recognition and gamification, labor management systems can also improve workflow between employees and employers. These systems are integrated into familiar smart phone-like devices that seamlessly unify daily task workflows, so the employee knows exactly what they need to be doing, when they need to be doing it and where in the warehouse they need to be. With immediate access to live performance data, managers can provide valuable feedback to employees in a timelier manner so they can work together to drive the organization forward.

According to Gartner, because labor has become a constrained asset and companies are struggling to find, onboard, reward and retain employees, more emphasis is now placed on what vendors are doing to better engage their workforce. Employee engagement is the key to improving worker retention, motivation, satisfaction and overall warehouse productivity and providers who prioritize it will be the most successful.