Warehouse Employee Turnover Rates Drop

Survey shows retention strategies are working. By Sheryl S. Jackson

The labor shortage is still a challenge for the cold chain industry but strategic efforts to retain employees to lessen the effects of the shortage appear to be working, according to results of the 2019 IARW North American Warehouse Employee Turnover Survey that measures turnover rates from January 2018 through December 2018.

“In our 2018 survey, respondents reported an employee turnover rate of 40.2 percent, but our 2019 survey shows a significant decrease – 32.8 percent – which is 7.4 percent lower than the previous year,” says Catharine Perry, Vice President of Member Programs and Services for GCCA.

The survey, which was previously data collected in the IARW Productivity and Benchmarking Report, was separated from the larger survey to accomplish two things: shorten the overall benchmarking report to focus on operational key performance indicators and to focus specifically on an issue that is of great concern to members, says Perry.

“This is the second year that we’ve surveyed members about turnover rates, and we saw the number of participants double from 102 participating facilities to 212 facilities,” Perry explains. “We did make a few changes to make it easier for large companies to provide facility-level data, such as providing a spreadsheet to complete versus individual survey forms for each facility, but interest in sharing and reviewing this data is of increasing importance to all members, which also contributed to the increase.”

In addition to quantitative data collected, respondents had an opportunity to share examples of tactics taken by their companies to improve retention, points out Perry. Following are a few examples.

Minnesota Freezer Warehouse Company

Focusing on daily communications with staff and promoting company culture through various ways has been effective at the family-owned company in Minnesota, says Charles T. Newell, President of Minnesota Freezer Warehouse Company.

“In the last two years we have incorporated more informal meetings, and or standing meetings that are short in duration, typically nothing longer than 10 minutes,” Newell says. “We notice more feedback and more dialog in these settings since they are informal and typically in the warehouse versus the office, and our employees like that the informal meetings seem to address issues in a timely fashion.”

Giving workers a voice, and letting them see that their voice is recognized by management, is an effective way to engage employees and to get them to take ownership in their work, he adds.

“Lastly, we have created an internal employee newsletter that typically covers topics on employee safety, healthy lifestyle, finance and cultural events,” Newell says. “Through our newsletter, we celebrate the culture that we have created, and we have celebrations that honor our employees through dinners, picnics, and awards.”

Newport-St. Paul Cold Storage Company

Improving his company’s retention of warehouse workers is the result of attention to wages, benefits and paid time off policies, says Drew Greenberg, President and CEO of Newport-St. Paul Cold Storage Company.

Ensuring that his company offers competitive wages requires evaluation of several factors. “We look at the flow of applications based on the advertised job, experience of the candidate, local area and city wages of comparable jobs,” he says.

Wages are not the only way that his company stays competitive, Greenberg points out. “Employees are eligible for health insurance after 60 days, PTO (paid time off) eligibility is after 90 days and is accrued for each month the employee works at a rate of four hours every month worked,” he explains. “Employees who have worked 90 days are also eligible for pay on company holidays as long as they work the day prior to and after the holiday.”

SnoTemp Cold Storage

Annual employee surveys as well as exit interviews with employees who choose to leave the company are two ways that SnoTemp Cold Storage identifies ways to improve employee satisfaction and retention, says Mike Litten, Human Resource Manager. “This last year we also engaged the staffing agencies to help us determine why folks leave the assignment before being hired on a permanent basis,” he says.

“We grouped the data into management categories and discussed the results as a support services group with compliance, human resources and information technology representatives,” says Litten.

Once the team found common themes in areas that could be affected, annual projects that addressed specific issues were created and implemented. Most issues centered around training for new hires. “There’s not a lot we can do when somebody quits because ‘it’s just too cold.’”

The team also discovered that new employees were not aware of the strong benefits package that is available to permanent employees, says Litten. “We used to wait until they rolled over from temporary to full-time to dive into the details, but in this tough labor climate, we discovered that we need to get people excited about what we offer,” he says.

This transparency and letting people know what benefits are offered make people want to “stick around,” Litten explains. “We added a discussion of benefits to our onboarding program so that new employees don’t just hear about it from me, but also from supervisors and managers who use it to explain the benefits – both tangible and cultural – of working for SnoTemp.”

Data that helps GCCA members determine how their retention rates compare to other companies in their region or state is not the only resource available to members, says Perry. “The Human Resource & Talent Development hub on the GCCA website [www.gcca.org/resources/industry-topics/human-resource-talent-development] offers many ideas on how to reduce turnover by increasing the effectiveness of their recruitment, retention, onboarding, and employee engagement activities.”