The most common complaint that I hear as I travel to different distribution centers is, “We just can’t find good people.” Oftentimes, the complaint is warranted, but many times, it’s the fault of the facility manager, HR staff, or just a company-wide, lackadaisical attitude about people. No matter your views on utilizing automation or software to increase your throughput or productivity, it takes good people to run this equipment at 100%. Therefore, if you are thinking about investing in new equipment or state-of-the-art software, first think about the staff you have and whether or not they would be able to take advantage of this equipment. Unless you are planning on going totally automated and you don’t need people at all, this is the first step you should take in preparation of your peak season.

I recently interviewed a bright young man who went to work at a large retail multi-channel facility (a facility that is shipping to multiple business processes, such as to the store, to the customer, or B2B). During the course of our conversation, he explained the reasons he quit after a month. He was initially hired on for peak season. At the tender age of 18, with lots of energy and tech savvy to bolster his success, he was excited to take on this new venture. After the first week of training, human resources promised, at a minimum, a 30-hour week. Great, right? Well, during the second week of this cool new job, he arrived at 6 AM along with other new trainees, only to hear that they weren’t needed that day. The promised 30-hour week quickly went to a 10-hour week. It appears that human resources over-hired or started bringing in the peak workers too early. After the third time of being called in at 6 AM only to be sent home without actually working, he quit. Naturally, there was not a good feeling on either side of the equation. Luckily, the young man found a new job the next day. Did the human resource department evaluate why they lost this valuable resource? Probably not, which is why the cycle continues and the manager is still complaining about not being able to find good people.

We must recognize that, first of all, your facility is not the only game in town. Facility managers feel they can badger some of the new interns or trainees when, on average, only 30% of the new trainees will stay. Wow! That’s a lot of work for only 30%. The focus needs to be why they are leaving and what can be done to change this average to over 50%.

First, let me explain that I fully understand there are bad apples in every bunch, but overall, the new generation of workers wants to be a part of a team and wants to work at a company that fills the work day positively.

Since good people are hard to find, one of the most pressing issues facing facilities is how to retain good associates. The top five most common causes of people not being satisfied have nothing to do with the hourly rate. Some people interviewed said that would take a lower hourly rate if the job was a good work environment.

Here are a few reasons people become disenchanted in the work place.


Make sure employees know what you expect from them. Make it overly clear, verbally, written, and visually. Make sure operations is communicating the same thing that human resources is, and stick to your commitments. Make sure you are not only telling employees to do something but explaining the reasoning behind it. That kind of clarity will prevent errors and increase productivity, not to mention build a sense of loyalty as the employee feels a part of the solutions.

Lack of Quality Management or Supervision
Many times, employees leave because their supervisor was a bad, angry, bossy one. It is very important to train your leadership on how to deal with people. You can get everything else right, but if you fail in training and developing good supervisors or management, your whole program will fail. Personally, talk to some of the people that were good and who chose to leave. Better yet, take them to lunch and ask them how your company could have done better. Some kind of feedback will be extraordinarily helpful in determining your next course of action as you develop your retainment plan.

Does the Employee Feel Heard?
It’s crucial you provide a platform for feedback, which lets the employee feel like you care about their input. As a consultant, one of the most interesting and informative conversations I have are with the associates. They are doing that job at least seven hours a day, and they can express what is helpful, what needs to be changed, and how they could do their job better. Listen!

Allow employees to use their talents or skills, and make sure they know where they can find the answers to common questions. Tools, communication, and training should be top-notch and give the employees some comfort. When an employee feels they know what they are doing, it boosts confidence and comfort. The more you pay attention to the "human" side of your personnel, the better your tenure numbers will be.

Susan Rider, President, Rider & Associates, and Executive Life Coach, can be reached at