4 Strategies for Labor | FORTNA

4 Strategies to Optimise Labour

With unemployment returning to pre-pandemic levels and the demand and need for warehouse and transportation labour continuing to rise, finding and retaining labour is still a top priority for warehouse operations.

In the US, the national turnover rate for jobs in warehousing, transportation and utilities is an eye-opening 35%1 with job demand continuing to grow with 1.7 million warehousing jobs in the US, up from 1.5 million in Dec of 20212. This has led to competition for workers as well as higher wages. With millennials staged to become the dominate demographic of the workforce, traditional labour practices need to adapt to new strategies to optimise their labour force.

Here are 4 strategies to consider as you navigate best practices to recruit and retain top talent:

Increase Engagement Through Culture

Employees that are engaged in the company’s culture, passion and mission are more likely to be more productive with less absenteeism and have fewer safety incidents. By creating programs that engage employees and leadership, it can create an atmosphere of trust that builds stronger relationships leading to a reduced turnover rate.

Communication from front line supervisors on company goals and successes, as well as ESG and charitable efforts, can go beyond benefits and create a strong work bond.

Look to Untapped Labour Pools

While there will always be a need for the traditional workforce, finding untapped labour pools can produce interesting and positive results. These labour pools will need flexibility and some accommodations to hire, however, taking a chance with them can create a strong and loyal workforce.

  • Mothers with school age children – Mothers, especially single mothers, are looking for companies that can offer work that fits their schedule or offer perks like on-site childcare. By recognising and understanding their needs and providing a path to employment, companies can inspire workers to perform and stay.
  • Special needs workers – There is a growing community of special needs workers that want the opportunity to work but might need accommodations and extra guidance. High-functioning autistic workers and physically handicapped workers make up just a few groups that are looking for opportunities to shine. Working with job coaches and local social agencies can produce a new labour source that can become important contributors to the business.
  • 2nd chance group – Another segment of workers consists of people looking for a 2nd chance in life. People convicted of non-violent crimes or those who have gone through drug rehabilitation might not have the background companies would like to have, but this group of people are looking for meaningful employment and someone to offer them a chance to work and have a better life.
  • Asylum workers – As people from different countries flee war zones and political persecution, once granted asylum in the US, they are looking for employment. While language assistance and some cultural accommodations might be needed, these workers are eager to learn, be a part of a team and contribute. There are state workforce assimilation organisations that can assist in finding and connecting with these workers.

Make Work Convenient and Fun

Millennials are becoming the largest generation in the workforce. Adapting to their work expectations and lifestyle can go a long way in retaining them.

  • Crowdsourcing or Gigging – With the rise of apps like Uber and Lyft, an interesting concept has gained steam with workers who want to control their work schedule. By utilising apps like veryable or Instawork, workers can be flexible in when and where they work, as well as being able to rate employers and have employers rate them. This can be an effective way to fill shifts as needed or during peak times without adding FTE headcount.
  • Use gamification – Use smartphones and apps like Ralleyware or Spinify to motivate staff toward a collective or individual goal by creating points, badges and leaderboards. Using data-driven gamification can create friendly competition between peers and teams all while motivating and engaging with your warehouse team.
  • Design human spaces for your team – Having quality common areas with access to break rooms, quiet spaces, quality food choices, outdoor and fitness areas, as well as entertainment options can go a long way to retaining staff. Drab and unappealing break areas can lead to a disconnect with staff and lead to turnover.

Use Technology to Improve Productivity

Implementation of technology and automation can make workers more productive and improve job satisfaction and performance.

  • Warehouse management software – By employing software that can organise and optimise operations, employees can work with confidence while reducing stress and errors. Slotting software, warehouse management software (WMS) and warehouse execution software (WES) can all lead to higher productivity, improved throughput, and better business intelligence.
  • Real time data – Monitoring goals and performance in real time can be an effective way to communicate and address problems quickly. Employees can be well informed on the workload and fulfilment goals throughout the shift and can respond to meet any challenges.
  • Hands free devices – Deploying technology, especially tech that allows for workers to use both hands for fulfilment can see a boost in productivity and morale as workers can now work smarter instead of harder.
  • Picking technologies – Pick to light, voice picking, and other pick methodologies can make fulfilment easier to understand and help reduce travel times and errors.

By thinking creatively and breaking from traditional models, companies can see success in hiring and retaining the right people and keep operations running smoothly.


Labor enhancing automation and optimization can transform your warehouse into a competitive advantage and take operations to the next level. Learn how FORTNA takes a data-driven approach to help solve your distribution and labour challenges.

About the Author


Darren Jorgenson

Practice Lead, Global Strategy

Darren Jorgenson is the Global Strategy Practice Leader for FORTNA and has been in the industry for 20+ years, serving in multiple industries and consulting roles. Darren is a member of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and has been recognised as a Pro to Know by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine.