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Attracting and Hiring Warehouse Associates

A strong, enduring team is key to warehousing success. Since its inception, WERC has supported the warehouse associate as a professional and logistics as a viable career choice. We wanted to know: Do companies utilize outreach programs to "sell" the profession? What methods are used to announce job openings? How do companies determine candidates as a good fit? What about "diversity" – language issues, hiring disabled individuals? – Michael Mikitka, CEO, Warehousing Education and Research Council

Attracting and Hiring Warehouse Associates

In October 2013, WERC surveyed select Research Panel members and a separate set of General Members.  Responses: 180 individuals total; 147 considered statistically viable.  Fifty-two percent of respondents (77 out of 147) use some type of outreach program to attract logistics candidates. Not surprisingly the majority of those who do (96 percent), conduct outreach at a college or university level. More interesting is that 38 percent are also reaching out to high school or younger students. Community colleges and high school programs are increasingly looking to offer skills training for entry-level positions and some companies, at least, are looking to jump start interest in the field.  This is an important goal, as most students will form an opinion about their future and receive career counseling before they complete high school.

When it comes to announcing job openings, only 60 respondents relied on newspaper ads. Social networks (33 percent) and online job boards (86 percent) are rising in popularity, when combined they are the second-most popular means of attracting talent.  The most frequently used method is direct contact: word of mouth (67 percent) and employee recommendations (82 percent). Considering that the last two methods are directly related to associates, it’s clear that current employees are doing a fine job of “marketing” the industry.  Use of commercial agencies and hiring fairs was reported by slightly less than 50 percent of respondents. Use of industry groups, labor unions and local job service agencies were least popular.

No surprises when it came to determining candidates “fit” for a job. Background checks were at the top: 92 percent of respondents indicated this method; 48 percent noted they also perform behavioral assessments. Certification / licensing requirements and competency with processes were only half that number. Many companies still prefer to do on-the-job training for company-specific needs.

Another aspect of “fit” for a job includes language skills. We found two ends of the spectrum on this question: While only 27 percent responded that language skills were part of their considerations for fit, a later question on language differences yielded that most respondents (64 percent) hire only if the candidate can speak, read and write the local language.  

For those who hire non-local language workers, 31 percent indicate having multilingual supervisors in key positions, 26 percent use signage in multiple languages, 17 percent have technology that accommodates multiple languages.  Very few respondents (8 percent) indicated language training / usage programs for employees.

Of particular interest in our industry concerning hiring, is jobs for the disabled. While 23 percent of respondents do not hire disabled candidates, the majority consider such candidates and 18 percent actively seek to hire the disabled through outreach programs. To a large extent disabled associates are required to perform at the same level as other associates. Many companies, however, assign jobs based on capabilities and a few (8 percent) actually create jobs designed for disabled personnel. It’s gratifying to be a part of an industry that takes a proactive approach to this nationwide concern.

                                                        The Outlook

WERC predicts: Based on the survey, trade press articles and our own observations, careers in the logistics field will be better understood and appreciated—on many different levels. The educational community will continue to seek partners in the industry to inform and educate high-school age and other potential front-line employees. The industry will continue to reach out to a diverse workforce. All in all, we think it’s a bullish time for logistics associates.

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