How Labor Pools Improve Warehouse Staffing

Cartoon of manager standing in front of warehouse shelves

Warehouses are the blue-collar workplace reshaping the landscape of work in communities across America. The workforce in this industry has tripled to 1.8 million since 2010 to keep in stride with the rise of online shopping, partly because warehouse jobs offer comparatively higher pay than other jobs available for people without college degrees or specialized trade skills. 

But consumer demands are fickle: liquidation warehouses are filling up after a two-year binge of pandemic spending, and consumers cut down on discretionary purchases in the face of high inflation. Warehouse managers must get creative with their hiring practices to run a productive, cost-effective operation that can flex to volatile times. One solution: building a labor pool. Hiring employees is challenging enough in the current labor market. Avoid repeatedly recruiting seasonal employees–learn how labor pools improve warehouse staffing, scalably and sustainably. 

What is a labor pool?

What does labor pool mean? A simple way to define labor pool: independent worker networks. 

An expanded definition: a flexible extension of your workforce, composed of individuals familiar with your operations and available on an as-needed basis. 

How does a labor pool work? Labor pools are built over time. Warehouse managers should post job opportunities regularly. Periodically scheduling a rotation of new and more experienced workers in your company’s day-to-day operations will allow you to grow a network of trained, reliable workers who can quickly mobilize as demand fluctuates.

How can labor pools benefit warehouse managers?

Labor pool staffing solutions are best for work that is non-customer facing, repetitive, and done on-site at a facility–think industries like warehousing, manufacturing, logistics, and distribution. Temporary hiring is a better solution for the variable nature of customer-facing industries like moving, hospitality, and events. Warehouse managers benefit significantly from building out a labor pool. Over time, you’ll establish: 

  • Standardized training procedures – If you are bringing in new employees regularly, you’ll need to be able to develop a repeatable, safe onboarding process. 
  • Scalable, flexible operations – When faced with big deliveries or a seasonal surge, there is zero additional cost to bringing on pre-trained employees.
  • A reliable team  – Continuous hiring allows you to vet the best workers and develop competent, trusted employees over time. 

How can labor pools improve warehouse staffing?

Your full-time employees will assign the implementation of a labor pool meaning–a thoughtful rollout can result in massive improvements to morale. Labor pooling upgrades a warehouse staffing environment for your workforce in a few ways.

  • Improves retention – Defined training pathways incentivize the most motivated workers. Employees may pursue in-demand skills like forklift certifications to earn higher wages.
  • Improves work culture – Overtime should not be considered a perk! Relying too heavily on full-time employees during surges can result in burnout. 
  • Improves flexibility – Ensuring all employees can take time off and maintain work-life balance during peak times also makes space for those that want to take on more. 

Differences between labor pools and traditional staffing

Especially for a warehouse setting, building out a labor pool in employment strategy is much nimbler than traditional staffing methods. To illustrate the difference, consider this contrast:

Seasonal forecasts are off. Your company has overpromised on annual delivery commitments and needs to hire more workers. Traditionally, you might sign a temporary agreement with a staffing agency and pay the markup for temporary workers to meet the increased demand for goods. The costs per unit increase, while overall labor productivity decreases as new hires get up to speed. Once this surge tapers off, you’ll likely end up laying off the extra hands hired only a few months before. The cycle repeats–your team is constantly understaffed or overstaffed as demand fluctuates. 

Growing your available local labor pool begins the same way–recruit, interview, hire, train–but it happens continuously. Warehouse managers should set a labor pool target and hire new employees to sustain that baseline. 

Building a labor pool improves warehouse staffing for both employers and employees. They offer an affordable and effective alternative solution to traditional staffing methods.

Ready to become a staffing expert?

About the Author: Meghna Jaradi is a freelance writer and events manager with experience working for the Seattle Times, Kitchen Arts & Letters, Book Larder, Peddler Brewing Company, and more. You can contact her on LinkedIn.

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