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Building a Flexible Workforce in Your DC for Peak Season & Millennials

Nov 29, 2018

No doubt your operations are feeling the intensity of holiday shopping and the excess volumes, compressed timeframes, and high expectations that come with it. Many businesses see double or quadruple their typical volumes during this period, which puts tremendous strain on their DCs. The holiday rush also weighs heavily on an organization’s most valuable asset—their workforce.  

The Time Is Right for a More Flexible Approach to Staffing
Handling this holiday rush has become problematic for many organizations. In fact, it’s very difficult for many DCs to maintain adequate staffing levels during “normal” periods, much less when spikes occur. 

It’s important to determine how to balance the needs of your business and the expectations of today’s workforce, the members of which seek maximum scheduling flexibility. Many in supply chain are starting to realize younger workers do not fit the mold set by previous generations.

What About Temps?
Most DCs are no strangers to hiring temporary workers to fill the gaps. Unfortunately, these personnel can be highly unreliable as well as expensive when factoring in agency fees.

Other issues with temps:

  1. They are untrained and have minimal skills.
  2. They are less motivated to be as productive as your full-time employees.
  3. Because they are untrained, they can add congestion to areas that may already be running at capacity, frustrating your regular workforce and slowing throughput.

In lieu of temps, what you need is access to reliable workers who can be trained—but who only work on a flexible basis where they have control over their shifts. In this way they have some loyalty to your company and feel their scheduling needs are being addressed. And you have an easy, built-in staffing expansion plan. It’s a win-win.

Millennials and the Gig Economy
Millennials are an interesting demographic, and a critical one when it comes to staffing for DCs. Pew Research classifies them as people born between 1981 and 1996, meaning they are between 22 and 37 in 2018. According to Inc., they often opt for jobs with a social purpose and are passionate about what they’re pursuing. Yet, they change jobs frequently, especially if these jobs lack flexibility and don’t suit their lifestyle. This means these workers seek opportunities in today’s gig economy versus set, 40-hour work schedules. It’s critical for those in charge of warehousing and distribution to appeal to this vast group to enhance its workforce.

Reaching Millennial Workers with the Right Technology 
We hear today from many supply chain technology providers about how their solutions are flexible and scalable. But how does this translate into finding and maintaining staff within a DC?

The answer lies in the scheduling tools built for staffing retail environments. In fact, we’ve observed our distribution clients leveraging the staffing solutions developed for convenience stores, large big box stores, and other retail shops. A DC operations manager can use these tools and seasonal order histories to build a forecast and schedule for shifts and open positions.

Ease of use is critical to reaching Millennials and the generation that follows them. Several of these scheduling tools have smartphone apps that allow users to offer their shifts to other associates or enable associates to pick up additional shifts as they’re able. This use of an intuitive app is an essential factor when reaching out to the younger generations, who rely on their phones for everything.

Full-Time vs. Flex Staff 
An effective approach we have seen is having a combination of full-time and flex staff. This flex staff is made up of either returning seasonal employees or a part-time, reserve employee pool. Full-time employees fill many of the traditional shifts. The remaining unfilled shifts, including the flex shifts, are released via an app so flex associates can bid on shifts they’d like to work. 

Full-time employees can also release a shift for paid time-off (PTO) or medical/dental appointments and open up the shift for other associates to pick up. By empowering your workforce with this technology, you reduce the amount of time managers have to spend finding resources to fill gaps. You also offer valuable employment opportunities to those who can’t or don’t want to work a regular full-time schedule.

Benefits of a Flexible Workforce
Not only does this flexible staffing model work well during the busy holiday season, but it’s ideal for any type of seasonality, whether that’s Valentine’s Day, Back to School, or any other time of year with a typical spike in orders.

A flexible workforce helps you:

  1. Develop a pool of trained resources to pull from as staffing needs change, especially during seasonal periods.
  2. Reach a younger generation (Millennials) of workers by aligning with their expectations for flexible work schedules.
  3. Improve talent retention.
  4. Reduce the time your management team spends filling open spots on the schedule with reliable workers.

How to Get Started
Seasonality is never easy to manage. But having the technology to enable a flexible workforce counters many of the issues listed above. Contact 4SIGHT Supply Chain Group for more insight on the solutions available today and how to determine the best path forward for your workforce.

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