Survey sheds light on labor shortage in advance of peak season – Supply Chain 24/7

EmployBridge announced the findings of its eleventh annual Warehouse Employee Opinion Survey, shedding light on the labor shortage U.S. businesses face as the holiday peak season approaches.  According to the national survey of nearly 16,000 hourly workers, wage corrections, shift preferences and more flexible human resource (HR) policies hold the key to attracting and retaining hourly workers.

“We are in unchartered territory as many employers prepare for peak season and seek to secure seasonal talent,” said Joanie Courtney, EmployBridge Chief Workforce Analyst. “With consumer optimism at record levels and unemployment in single-digits, employers must get aggressive and more creative in their efforts to find and maintain an adequate labor force in order to take advantage of increased consumer demands.” 

The Wage Factor
Pay ranked as the single most important factor for the 11th consecutive year among warehouse workers. For the first time since the survey was established in 2007, a majority of 65% of warehouse workers reported earning hourly rates of $12 or more. (This compares with only 26 percent in 2014). According to EmployBridge studies, warehouse wages began increasing in 2014 but have more room for correction. From 2002 to 2014, wages for hourly workers have risen only 5.5%, while the cost of living grew over the same period by 29%.

“It appears from our survey findings that $12 an hour has become the bare minimum wage for warehouse workers however, we’re seeing many of our clients offering more attractive wages in order to secure quality talent given the single-digit unemployment market,” said Brian Devine, EmployBridge Senior Vice President and creator of the survey. “In fact, our data shows in certain markets employers are paying up to $2 more per hour to attract and retain workers during the upcoming peak season. In today’s environment, keeping abreast of changing supply and demand for specific skills in your local market is essential to securing the hourly workers companies need.”

Matching Shift Preferences
When it comes to hourly workers’ shift preference, 67% of respondents say they want to work first shift and prefer 8-hour shifts. According to Courtney, 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.

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 $0.62 in 2011.

More Flexible HR Policies
At previous unemployment rates of seven percent or greater, employers could sustain more rigid HR 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, a fact illustrated by the survey finding that warehouse workers overwhelmingly prefer their current pay plus five days of paid time off (PTO) rather than a $1 pay rate increase with no PTO.

“Just as employers in many other sectors are re-evaluating and relaxing their hiring criteria requirements and other policies to fill production critical positions, supply chain companies are beginning to do the same,” said Devine. “This includes maintaining attendance policies that are reasonable and fair and that take into consideration the realities of hourly workers’ limitations. And, given there are roughly 10.5 million U.S. workers with less than a high school diploma, we’re seeing many customers revisit their education requirements and relax background screenings to secure much-needed talent.”

About the Survey
This is the eleventh consecutive Warehouse Employee Opinion Survey by EmployBridge and its specialty divisions, ResourceMFG, ProLogistix and Select. The data was collected between February 2018 and April 2018, from 15,883 workers. Respondents included job seekers, as well as workers employed full-time, part-time or on a contingent basis, and with at least six months of warehouse experience. The survey also includes representation from all major geographic markets across the country.