How Managers Can Attract and Retain A-Class E-Commerce Warehouse Staff

Lori Clark

Lori Clark

    How Managers Can Attract and Retain A-Class E-Commerce Warehouse Staff

    The most important asset in any company is your team. In an e-commerce warehouse, you can’t pick, pack, and ship your items on time without a productive and engaged crew.

    Unfortunately, attracting and retaining a quality team has become harder over time. Warehouses currently face the highest staff turnover at 37%. This turnover rate is resulting in considerable costs for organizations. In recent years, this cost organizations $8.8 trillion globally.

    As a manager, you may not be in control of certain factors that help keep employees from leaving. Things like increasing budget, HR teams, benefits, or working location all play a part. Even if these factors are out of your control, there is still plenty you can do. You can still hire, train, and retain a reliable e-commerce warehouse team.

    Attract Incredible E-Commerce Warehouse employees

    A-Class e-commerce warehouse teams are created at the stage of hiring. As remote work and entrepreneurial options grow, it's becoming harder to find people for in-person hourly roles. This is why you need to make the warehouse you manage an environment people want to work for. There’s two areas you can focus on as a department manager.

    There are two areas you can focus on as a department manager:

    • Build a positive employer brand or sub-culture
    • Craft relevant job descriptions

    Build an Employer Brand People Want to Join

    Developing an employer brand creates your prospective hires’ first impression of you. While you may not be in charge of your organization’s Glassdoor or Indeed account, that's okay. You are in control of the content you pass onto your HR teams and the culture you create within your department.

    3 ways that you can contribute to your employer to hire the best e-commerce warehouse staff are:

    • Collect experiences and reviews for HR to showcase on employer profiles
    • Develop your own leadership skills
    • Increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness

    Consider your team's culture in the hiring process. 46% of candidates cite it as very important and 88% cite it as at least of relative importance. There are many review forums that talent can read to assess whether they want to apply to work with your team. If you have happy and engaged staff, encourage them to review their experience.

    Another excellent way to build an employer brand is to showcase wins, events and internal promotions. Send any photos or stories to HR that could be featured on platforms like Indeed or Glassdoor.

    Focus on small daily actions to make your department a desirable place for employees. Doing so will make staff feel heard, appreciated, and supported. These actions enhance employee engagement and contribute to meaningful work. In turn, boosting your department's organizational effectiveness.

    Chart displaying do's and don't's for managers

    Here are daily steps to increase organizational effectiveness:

    • Setting clear goals with methods for accountability
    • Celebrate wins
    • Provide clear and consistent communication around goals
    • Simplify the systems your employees use

    Craft Relevant Job Listings

    Employee branding builds over time, but you can improve it now by revamping your job listings. Candidates often ignore listings for these reasons:

    • The job listing is too long
    • The company fails to explain what it does
    • Key perks or benefits are not in the description

    When curating an e-commerce job description, consider 2 factors. Balance what you require from the candidate and what they require from you. The purpose of the job listing is to attract talent. So, it must be written in a way that your ideal employee will understand and get excited about.

    The e-commerce listing should include four key elements:

    • The Why: Your company mission and what you do
    • The How: Daily duties of the team, behaviors and position itself
    • What you want: The skills you’d like them to bring to the position
    • What they want: Benefits, salary and any inclusion statements

    For job listings at Neatoscan & Upright Labs, we sometimes use a blind hiring process. This asks applicants to remove their name, photos, and education from their application. The goal is to remove any bias from the hiring process. Your job listing should prevent applicants from ruling themselves out before applying. This resulted in over 1,700 applications received within 2 weeks.

    Training Your Team to Become your Best Workers

    In a high turnover environment, effective training is key. Staff must feel empowered to start creating meaningful contributions as quickly as possible.

    To make this happen, it’s important to:

    • Weave adult learning principles into your training programs
    • Diversify your training content

    Goodwill store employee

    Use Adult Learning Principles

    For certain roles in e-commerce departments, specific duties are asked of employees. However, many adults haven’t had years of study or hands-on experience for their role. So, this requires a different approach to job training.

    Use Life Experiences to Facilitate Learning

    For many adults, it is easier to make connections through life experience. They connect to stories, not facts and figures. When developing your training content, ask introspective questions that require trainees to attach a memory to the principles they’re learning.

    Set Goals

    For many, we want to deliver value as quickly as possible. We want hands-on experience and to be able to get to work right away. In a regulated environment, such as your e-commerce warehouse, you may not allow staff to roam freely on day 1. To provide an engaged training period, set progressive goals. Provide the trainees with goals that will help them learn along the way. Also, provide specific expectations of how to understand and interpret the training content.

    Connect the Why and How

    The "Why" is your company mission. The "How" is your company values or behaviors.

    To the team, packing and shipping boxes can seem like meaningless work unless they have a clear "Why" to tie it to. If your organization impacts the community, share with your team "How" their actions result in the greater good.

    Put It Into Practice Right Away

    Immediate and practical learning is ideal in training. Execution consolidates knowledge. Whenever you can, it's best to start having trainees use what they've learned right away. Doing things helps trainees remember them. If they can execute a hands-on task right after learning it, your staff will become efficient at it at a faster pace.

    Increase Learning Autonomy

    Employees learn things in many different ways. It's important to have clear learning goals, but remember one size doesn't fit all. Offer various training options. This helps employees pick the best way for them to learn before they start executing tasks.

    Diversify Your Training Content

    To increase learning autonomy, you’ll need to diversify your training content. In training scenarios, employees prefer various options that apply to them best. Some prefer reading books, manuals, and guides to learn. Other types absorb knowledge best while watching video content on specific subjects. Another option is infographics for those who prefer consolidated information.

    We recommend the following learning formats if you're able to apply multiple options:

    • Audio
    • Visual
    • Written
    • Kinaesthetic

    Guide to types of learning styles

    Retain Your Best E-Commerce Warehouse Teams

    Like your customers, it’s much less effort and cost to retain employees than attract them. Once you’ve acquired the best talent, you want to keep them long-term. Even if you don't determine salaries or benefits, you can make a workplace so good that people wouldn't want to leave. Gallup’s data suggests that most people enjoy the work they do, but they want to be treated better by their boss.

    Employ Empathy to Different Personalities

    Most people don’t set out to create a miserable working experience for their team. In fact, most managers fiercely care about their teams. At times, it can be hard to relate to team members extremely different from you. Often, we like people who work and act like us, causing us to lose patience with those who are even a bit different from us.

    A simple way to develop empathy for your diverse team is through DiSC. DiSC is a personal assessment tool used to improve teamwork, communication, and productivity. This examines four main personality profiles:

    (D)ominance, (i)nfluence, (S)teadiness and (C)onscientiousness

    Without performing a team assessment, you can estimate personalities based on two questions:

    • Is this team member a more forthright or reserved communicator?
    • Is this team member more focused on the task or the people?

    DiSC assessment chart focusing on 4 main areas

    Forthright and task focused employees concentrate on the what. Ensure they know what they’re doing and don’t expect filler words. They prefer direct communication and could become frustrated when someone takes too long to get to the point.

    Forthright and people focused employees concentrate on the who. Ensure they know who their actions are impacting and they’re recognized for their efforts. They need a strong and positive team environment to stay engaged.

    Reserved and task focused employees concentrate on the why. Ensure you take the time to explain why they’re executing a task. They love the details and want to understand and master processes.

    Reserved and people focused employees concentrate on the how. Ensure you take the time to support them in understanding the how. They become disengaged when they feel they are being reprimanded if something wasn’t properly explained to them.

    Of course, you can’t put humans in a single box, so it’s important to ensure your leadership caters to all four styles. Ensure you’re direct in your communication. Take time to explain the why and how to those who need it while creating a positive environment.

    Become a Better Communicator

    Culture problems are often about communication (or the lack of it). It's easy to internalize an employee's frustrations. Nothing is personal, even if they tell you it is. It’s often much deeper than that. There are three elements to communication:

    • What is said
    • The meaning behind what is said
    • How the other person receives the communication

    Communication chart displaying what we can control and what we can influence

    "What is said" includes the actual word "said", but it also includes the micro-behaviors. These include the tone and pacing in which someone sends a message. Often the non-verbal elements are influenced by the meaning behind what is sent. The tricky part about this is that often meaning is triggered by:

    • History with the person, authority figures or previous leaders
    • Their upbringing
    • Emotional triggers
    • Current environment and triggers

    The way you deliver a message when you’re in a rush is very different from when you’re on vacation. The same can be said for the person on the receiving end, including yourself. How you receive communication is determined by the same factors:

    • History with the person, authority figures or previous leaders
    • Their upbringing
    • Emotional triggers
    • Current environment and triggers

    The solution to miscommunication is curiosity.

    It’s easy to reprimand an employee or stop communicating when they misstep in their own communication. But often, asking why will build relationships and help you communicate more effectively.

    Develop Clear Performance Management Processes

    Performance management is two-pronged:

    • Nurturing high performance
    • Coaching poor performance

    High performers will feel slighted when poor performance isn’t managed. While high performers may outgrow your company if you don’t find ways to nurture them.

    Developing Poor Performance

    Oftentimes poor performance can be coached. To identify and correct poor performance, you will need:

    • Clear goals of what success looks like
    • Re-training programs
    • Regular coaching

    Employees must be held accountable via quantifiable metrics to help them succeed. Coaching conversations must take place when standards aren’t upheld.

    The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

    This was famously stated by Australian Army Lieutenant-General, David Morrison. It's applicable and relatable to your e-commerce warehouse environment too. Are there any standards that individuals could be underperforming in? How are they held accountable?

    Any lapse in standards must come with a clear training plan to success. For serious or lengthy underperformance, a direct performance improvement plan should be implemented.

    Nurturing High Performance

    The simplest way to nurture high performance is providing internal promotions. Sometimes, this isn’t immediately available. This requires available positions within your e-commerce warehouse. Ways to help high performers feel engaged are:

    • Setting stretch goals on top of KPIs
    • Celebrating their wins privately and publicly
    • Investing time in regular development conversations
    • Advocating for them to your executive team
    • Providing extra responsibilities, like mentoring new employees or visiting other departments

    37% of the workforce states recognition is a key motivator for them to produce great work. So, if your top performers feel valued for their efforts, they will stay engaged. Additionally, continuing to invest time in their growth with challenges ensures they remain in their current role longer.

    Where Will You Begin?

    Starting with one area, like refining job listings, diversifying training, or enhancing performance management, is crucial. Steady efforts lead to a decrease in unwanted turnover and increased productivity. Building a great team takes time, but each step improves your department. So, think, "Where will I start?" If you need help creating a strong team or building an efficient one, reach out. We're here to support your journey in attracting, training, and retaining top talent.

    For even more support, access our Free E-commerce Job Description Library below.


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