Peak Season is Coming. Can You Work it Out?

Wage corrections, shift preferences, and more flexible human resource policies are key to attracting and retaining hourly warehouse workers, finds the 11th annual EmployBridge Warehouse Employee Opinion Survey of approximately 16,000 hourly workers.

For the 11th consecutive year, pay ranks as the single most important factor among warehouse workers (see chart). For the first time since the survey was established in 2007, a majority of warehouse workers (65 percent) report earning hourly rates of $12 or more, compared with only 26 percent in 2014.

Warehouse wages began increasing in 2014 but have more room for correction, according to EmployBridge studies. From 2002 to 2014, wages for hourly workers rose only 5.5 percent, while the cost of living grew by 29 percent over the same period.

When it comes to hourly workers’ shift preference, 67 percent of respondents say they want to work first shift and prefer eight-hour shifts. As employers seek to expand their applicant pools for seasonal help and beyond, they should consider implementing 20-hour work weeks or an increased number of shorter shifts that can appeal to semi-retirees, students, and working parents, EmployBridge says.

Companies that require second or third shifts to meet production demands may need to offer higher pay differentials, particularly in a tight labor market. According to the survey, hourly workers on average desire $1 more per hour to accept and stay on second or third shift, as compared to just 62 cents in 2011.

At previous unemployment rates of 7 percent or greater, employers could sustain more rigid human resource policies, but at today’s historically low unemployment rates, it may not make good business sense. For example, strict absenteeism policies that result in the termination of competent workers don’t necessarily solve the issue, given the likelihood of employers’ backfilling those vacancies with people who have similar attendance performance.

In addition, companies must recognize low-income earners’ need for paid time off (PTO), a fact illustrated by the survey finding that warehouse workers overwhelmingly prefer their current pay plus five days of paid time off rather than a $1 pay rate increase with no PTO.

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