Fight the Labor Shortage with Upskilling and Reskilling
Published on 8 September 2021
Warehouse and logistics employees were getting harder to find pre-pandemic, and the COVID-19 outbreak has increased that level of difficulty. Companies across all industries are having a difficult time finding, recruiting and retaining workers in an industry known for requiring long hours on your feet, some heavy lifting and high overall employee turnover.
“Competition for warehouse workers was already stiff before the pandemic. Stores were adding jobs at their warehouses and logistics networks as more customers ordered online,” CNN reports. When the global pandemic drove up ecommerce sales, it added more pressure on retailers to staff up at warehouses.
“Now, retailers are scrambling to add extra warehouse staff as they ramp up for the peak holiday season amid a record number of unfilled jobs,” CNN adds. Citing Korn Ferry statistics, the news outlet says 52% of retailers are facing “significant challenges” hiring warehouse employees right now, and that 33% of the companies surveyed are having an equally hard time staffing their stores.
Of course, at the opposite end of any major disruption lies new opportunities. In this case, companies have a chance to reverse the tide of the labor shortage through upskilling and reskilling. Are you up to the challenge? Read on to find out.
What are Upskilling and Reskilling?
The speed at which jobs are changing—sometimes due to automation and other times due to new business models—means that employees must constantly learn new skills in order to stay relevant and satisfied with their jobs. In many cases, traditional career paths or educational models aren’t enough to satisfy the rapidly evolving demands of the modern workplace. This is where upskilling and reskilling come in.
Upskilling is learning additional skills or enhancing existing abilities, often with the goal of advancement. A retail store clerk or office manager would upskill when transitioning to a management or corporate role, for example. Reskilling, on the other hand, is learning a new set of skills or training for a new role, often with the goal of transitioning to a new job or different industry. A truck driver who wants to become a computer programmer would need to reskill.
Updated Knowledge and Skillsets
Highlighting the value that upskilling and reskilling provide companies and their associates, Ohio News Time says more companies are investing in both because they help employees “perform better with the updated knowledge about their field and the latest developments in their industries.”
“Upskilling creates a positive impact on both organization and staff that can be witnessed through better performance and an increasing number of goals being achieved,” the publication points out. Upskilling and reskilling also help companies promote productivity and bring out the best in their associates; build more self-reliant, confident workforces; and help workers navigate through uncertainty.
“Uncertainty is a crucial reason for companies to invest in upskilling their employees,” Ohio News Time points out. “This includes all the technological advancements, new projects, and reorganizations.”
How Technology Supports Upskilling and Reskilling
With technology transforming every field and advancing the functionalities within those fields, employees are learning how to leverage new advancements at work. The warehouse or distribution center (DC) is a perfect backdrop for seeing the value of upskilling and reskilling in action. Highly automated warehouses are much more attractive and require a more advanced skillset from the new generation of warehouse/supply chain employees.
For example, Cameron's Coffee is a coffee roasting, packaging, and distribution company that receives its coffee beans from South America, stores them in Minnesota and ships them to hundreds of stores across the country. The company originally had a paper-only warehouse where individuals had to manually check and encode items.
Ready for a change, Cameron’s Coffee decided to update its warehouse and use a combination of the SOLOCHAIN WMS and MES that directly tied into its ERP. With the addition of the software coupled with iPads and handheld devices, the warehouse’s efficiency skyrocketed, sales increased by 50%, ecommerce grew by 200%, and the company was able to expand the size of its warehouse by 25%.
Equipped with their new software and iPads, the company’s employees were not only more efficient, but they were also happier in their jobs. The new technology increased their independence and reduced the amount of time required to complete tasks.
Time to Replace those Aging Systems
When you replace aging, manual warehouse systems with a modern WMS, you’ll not only get efficiency and productivity gains, but you’ll also experience an overall boost in employee morale. This is because the more you reduce the mental and physical strain on your employees the happier they will be.
Utilizing technologies that younger staff is comfortable with (e.g., iPads and touchscreen devices) helps them be more productive and safe at work. Implementing voice command technology in the DC, for instance, helps reduce mental strain and drives an increase in productivity.
5 Ways to Kick Off Your Upskilling Program
Over the next few years, upskilling and reskilling may become more important than ever before. According to the World Economic Forum’s most recent The Future of Jobs report, about 40% of employees’ core skills will change within the next five years. This means that 50% of all employees will have to upskill or reskill.
To companies that want to start their own in-house programs, AG5 suggests these five starting points:
- Establish training programs for your current workforce.
- Set up a mentorship scheme in which experienced veterans transfer still-needed skills to the younger generation.
- Focus on creating versatile and multidisciplinary staff. Job rotation is a prime example of how to achieve this.
- Add new tasks to existing job profiles so that staff have to learn new skills.
- Hire specialists to fill gaps for which your current workforce has yet to be retrained.
With no end in sight to the current labor shortage, and with ecommerce once again expected to grow in the double digits in 2021, the time to start assessing your workforce and implementing upskilling/reskilling programs is now. Rather than waiting for your competitors to get a leg up on you, why not make some moves in this direction today?
Solutions exist today that can ensure any warehouse or distribution center operates at peak efficiency, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. From Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and more, software platforms can deliver a wide range of benefits that ultimately flow to the warehouse operator’s bottom line.
Generix Group North America provides a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.