By Alex MacPherson – Director of Solution Consultancy & Account Management, Manhattan Associates.
Employee engagement in warehouse settings has received well-deserved attention in recent months.
The challenges faced during COVID-19 have shown the importance of empathy and understanding the individual worries of each worker, while also highlighting an appreciation of the risks warehouse workers have been taking and continue to take every day.
Not only this, but the sudden surge in eCommerce orders that occurred when stores across the country were forced to close, coupled with the restrictions that all organisations were facing, turned the pressure up several degrees. Almost overnight, some grocery retailers were faced with order numbers 10 times higher than normal, whilst retailers in other sectors experienced increases of up to 80% in sales; in some cases, surpassing the level of demand seen at peaks such as Black Friday and Boxing Day.
Warehouse workers were then not just faced with the Covid-19 risks associated with carrying out their job, but also the need to get a greater volume of orders out quickly and safely to maintain customer experience levels, while also keeping a brand’s reputation, intact. This surge in eCommerce quickly highlighted the importance of productivity, and with this came an even greater need for a truly engaged and committed workforce.
The picture of engagement
No organisation - big or small - wants to have an inefficient, disengaged or low-skilled team. Instead, warehouse managers want to work with happy, loyal and engaged staff to not only ensure each individual can reach their full potential, but to create a seamless and productive team that is able to help the organisation to achieve its goals.
A truly engaged workforce is motivated, productive and satisfied. But achieving this requires more than reviewing performance data and picking out low performers. It means going beyond traditional coaching and training of employees, to unify their daily work tasks with dynamic recognition, challenges, feedback and incentives. Managers now need to think deeper about what motivates their employees and how they can boost productivity, noting which teams and individuals will be stimulated by challenges and gamification techniques in their daily tasks.
Yet in reality, for many warehouse managers employee engagement still equates to posting performance ratings on bulletin or leader boards and deploying subjective rewards programmes. Unfortunately, these techniques have limited impact on engagement within the warehouse. Now more than ever, the use of technology and gamification to increase employee engagement and motivation is essential.
Managing a work-life tech balance
The advances of technology in the consumer world means that B2B is under increasing pressure to keep pace. Using outdated and archaic technology is a sure-fire way to disengage your workforce; not only from the frustrations that will occur when it doesn’t meet expectations, but also through the inability to connect with colleagues within the working environment too.
Employees expect to be able to use the technology they have become accustomed to in their personal lives, in their working lives too. This means having instant access to information, using technology that can connect them to management and showcase their performance, with real-time feedback and to be able to use mobile devices that seamlessly connect to other technology and systems within the wider warehouse setting, from picking to packing and slotting.
Embedding these everyday tasks with gamification techniques can help employees achieve new personal records for performance, encouraging and spurring them on to reach their maximum potential.
Technology without limits
Technology isn’t new to the warehouse. In fact, the use of automation and robotics has been improving efficiency for several years now, enabling human workers to focus on tasks that robots simply cannot complete. The growing use of technology has also greatly improved areas such as forecasting and visibility throughout supply chains, enabling DCs to better communicate with other parts of the network and freely move stock around as needed.
Now is the time for companies to leverage developments in warehouse technology to motivate and incentivise their workforces at a time when it’s needed most. A smart, mobile-first and gamified approach to employee engagement offers the chance to significantly improve retention, reduce training time and create a more satisfied and productive workforce, and that can only be a plus for all involved.