You know the old song lyrics: “And the sign says, ‘long hair freaky people need not apply.’" Well, we have thankfully come of age, and we are now accepting long hair, tattoos, earrings, and more as we attempt to staff our warehouses. And it’s not just exclusive to the positions within the supply chain. In areas with a high concentration of warehousing and distribution centers, they must compete with fast food restaurants, retail stores, and others all vying for that same warm body. Not only are they trying to attract unemployed people, but they are also actively trying to poach your team, as well.

When you currently have open positions and it’s time to ramp up for the peak season rush, how would you even attempt to fill all your open slots? Unless you are the only game in town, it will not be a simple task but will require extra effort, innovative thinking, and a focus on implementing new and untried programs.

The first step is to acquire the new talent, second step is to train them quickly and get them on the floor, and the third step is to keep them.

Attracting New People

Marketing certainly comes in to play as many HR firms are getting creative. For instance, many are advertising a higher minimum wage on signs, billboards, etc. But when you drill down into the details, it may be without health insurance, PTO, or other benefits. Make sure you are promoting the holistic benefits of working at your company. Of course, realize that health insurance to the very young is often not the highest priority. Many of them want the cash, while stock options, health insurance, and other benefits are more attractive to an older worker.

Take advantage of high school career days. Show students the potential to grow within your company. If your company has tuition assistance, even better! You will have to get creative on your shifts for this workforce and may need to work with your talent acquisition team to think out of the box and get creative. Also, you may have to change some of your company policies to enable ear buds, t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. It’s a different world when you are trying to attract the young.

Don’t overlook college job fairs. If there is a school in your area that has any supply chain courses, get to know the professors so they may refer students to you in order to achieve real-life experiences in supply chain. You will be able to choose the cream of the crop this way.

If you are not already using an internal referral program with compensation, now is the time to start. All you’re A-players will be very careful in referring people, and by hiring friends and family of associates, you create a more invested atmosphere where people work together as a team. Referrals should be $1,500 or more (if that sounds like a lot, remember, a headhunter or staffing agency would cost much more).

Evaluate Your Current Status

Some things to take into account: How to shorten the onboarding process (period of time from when a new person walks through the door until they are productive)? Can your typical two-week classroom training be shortened to one week? Review the training curriculum to ensure every hour is quality training. Can you supplement your normal training program with aids to ensure that although the time to train has been shortened, quality is not reduced?

Many distribution centers today are hiring multi-lingual individuals, so you must examine any posted instructions and make sure they are posted in both Spanish, English, and other languages that are prevalent in your area.

Retain Your Current People

Listen to your employees. Oftentimes, they just want you to listen to their needs. Fatigue mats, recognition, better air flow in the heat of the summer, walkie talkies so they don’t have to search for a forklift driver; this list could be a page long. Do you know what your people need, what they are thinking, or what the current mood in your facility is? You can bet that whatever it is, there are conversations going on in the lunch room that are invaluable. Get their feedback by having a suggestion box or have feedback given electronically with a web portal. The negative with the web portal is many people do not want to complain unless it anonymous. So, the old-fashioned suggestion box works quite well in this situation.

Offering sign-on bonuses to new employees in this tight employment time may upset some of your tenured people, so by implementing a referral program, you can explain that they, too, have an opportunity to make some extra cash by identifying friends and family members that would be good hires.

Hopefully the people crunch will get better, but if you are continually in the deficit mode, you may want to look at justifying automation or technology to make you more efficient and productive in order to shift some people from one area to another.

Susan Rider is president, Rider & Associates and can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of PARCEL.