What has traditionally been one of the largest and easiest-to-fill segments within an organization’s workforce is no longer easy. Program managers are struggling to find and — more importantly — keep their temporary light industrial/warehousing resources. Gone are the days where one phone call to your staffing provider could yield you enough candidates to fill your open positions. Now it can take several requisitions and days or sometimes weeks to get the right candidate to fill a need. Then the challenge is once you find them how do you keep them.

With all the talk of automation and robotics, one would think that there would be an abundance of individuals waiting to fill these roles, but that is not the case. Although automation may have affected some positions, the increased demand far outweighs those benefits, especially with e-commerce and online ordering as well as increased manufacturing.

Where are the people? So, if there are positions to be filled, why can’t companies find people? There are a few challenges when it comes to this candidate pool. We find that often the light industrial positions pay a lower hourly rate, which automatically lessens the candidate pool. Another challenge is the required background checks. While they are a common practice, staffing providers report that this step in the process is one of the more difficult ones to achieve. Location is also another factor that can affect candidates’ interest. If the warehouse or distribution center is not easy to get to or is in a rural area, the cost to commute can be a huge burden to the candidate compared with the hourly rate of pay being offered. By the time the candidate deducts their expenses, it can be cheaper not to take the job.

So, what can organizations and program managers do to increase their candidate pool and, better yet, keep those who do come on board from leaving before their project ends?

Hourly rate. Re-evaluate the hourly rate you are offering. Although this is usually the last consideration, it could make more fiscal sense to consider it first. It is not uncommon to hear of light industrial workers leaving an assignment early for 25 to 50 cents more an hour somewhere else. When you think of the time, effort and cost that your company invests to bring an LI resource on board, only to incur that cost again if they leave early — not to mention the cost related to lost productivity lost while looking for a replacement — is it possible that increasing your hourly rate could save your organization money in the long run? Also, a higher hourly rate could increase the candidate pool that your suppliers can attract.

Supplier pool. Work with your suppliers to identify any areas of opportunity. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s possible you have too many suppliers working on certain of your needs. Sometimes, with too great a supplier pool for a resource request, you may find nobody is working on those needs. With LI roles already challenging to fill, at lower margins, why would recruiters spend their time on the role when the chances of filling are reduced by the sheer number of other suppliers in the mix? If you only used one or two suppliers for those roles, would that increase their interest? If a recruiter knows that this is theirs to fill, they will usually focus on it and fill it.

Incentivize. There are other creative ways to attract and retain workers. You could work with your staffing providers to identify and implement them — and not all need to be a huge cost burden. Here are some ideas:

  • Completion bonus. Offer a monetary bonus to workers who stay till the end of their contract or project. Remember, when the hourly rate is low, any additional opportunity for compensation is attractive, and you save by not having to recruit again before the assignment end-date.
  • Gift cards. Allow workers to put their name in a raffle at the end of the week for gift cards, such as to restaurants, gas stations, etc.
  • Food. Everyone likes food. What about sharing the expense with the staffing companies and hosting a breakfast or lunch one day. This can be an easy way to show them how much you appreciate them being there and again, one less expense for them to absorb.
  • Additional training. This is another item you may be able to coordinate and share you’re your providers, and it could pay off for all of you. If the worker obtains additional skills, such as pallet jack or forklift certifications, not only does this increase the worker’s and marketability, benefitting the worker and the staffing firm, but your organization expands its own skilled worker pool as well.

All of these suggestions also serve to build your employer brand, as workers talk and share their experiences. A worker who feels appreciated and who gains skills while on the job will return — and tell others why you’re a good company to work for.

Gone are the days when an organization could take for granted the light industrial/blue collar workers. What was once looked at as menial, lower skilled work must be realized as a critical and valuable resource for your company. Although your organization may have to consider increasing the cost for this labor pool, you must remember that having product and inventory will not do anything for the company or its profits if they don’t make it out of the warehouse.