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Warehouse Management Blog

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11 Ways To Motivate Your Warehouse Staff

How To

WRITTEN BY Jonathan Bellwood /

11 May 2015

Motivation for any job can be difficult to muster. We’ve all had days where the thought of getting through an entire shift at work seems far too arduous. We all have a responsibility to make the work we do enjoyable but creating an environment in which people enjoy working is always going to help.

What follows is a list of motivational hacks that you can use in an eCommerce warehouse to ensure you get the most out of your operators.

1. Set targets

It is human nature to thrive on success. We simply love it when we meet a target because it’s proof of our hard work and achievements. Setting your operators achievable yet challenging targets will not only motivate them to do better, it’ll also have your processes running faster.

Some targets to consider:

>> The number of pallets received by Goods In team

>> Number of orders/items picked per person per hour

>> Time between receiving a purchase order (PO) and the stock being available on the website

>> Time taken to despatch an item

2. End the blame game

A lot of eCommerce warehouses run a ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ system of some sort. It’s understandable as you need to get orders picked and out the door quickly and correctly. However, when Mike is on his 2nd strike how motivated is he going to be?

He will either have lost any care he ever had for his job and so will not put in the effort, or he will be so desperate to keep his job that he pushes himself too far in order to not make a final mistake.

Believe it or not, the best way to stop operators making mistakes is not to scare them, but instead to redesign the process to ensure that making mistakes is near impossible. This can be done by using decent warehouse management software to check for accuracy or by adding extra steps in the process to avoid mistakes occurring.

3. Employee of the week

It’s a classic but it works. As much as we love reaching targets, being acknowledged for them is a hundred times more motivating. Something as simple as naming an Employee of the Week can vastly boost morale.

A side note - do be aware that the Employee of the Week is chosen fairly so as not to foster any feelings of resentment. Also, remember not to chide those who aren’t making the cut, but instead encourage them to try again next week.

4. Company community

Think about the kind of culture your company fosters. Do you have a group of workers or do you have a community? A good method of keeping your operators motivated in the warehouse is to build up an environment that isn’t just about getting the job done but one in which workers can communicate as friends, regardless of job titles.

There are great social enterprise tools that are free, like Yammer, which act almost as a corporate version of Facebook. Employees can share jokes, work stories, achievements or concerns and this helps to build more of a community within the company.

5. Picking routes

Liam is one of your warehouse operators. He has several orders to pick during his shift and he sets about his work as normal. While picking for multiple orders, Liam finds himself constantly walking back and forth from the same area of the warehouse ten times within an hour. This is not a productive use of his time and inefficient tasks breed unhappy workers.

A warehouse management system (WMS) designed specifically for use in eCommerce warehouses should be able to optimise picking routes for multi-item and single item orders. Not only will this save your operators money on buying new soles for their shoes, it will speed up the picking process, allowing for more orders to be picked per person per hour.

[Related: 5 time-saving hacks for eCommerce business owners]

If you aren’t ready for a warehouse management system yet, simply being mindful of your operators’ journey times and seeking alternative solutions is a good starting point.

6. Staff discounts

We all love an exclusive deal like employee discounts. It is a message from the company that the work your operators are doing is being acknowledged and appreciated. It is a reward, of sorts, for their service and this can be a big motivational boost.

From a sales point of view, it also means that more people are buying your product, albeit at a slightly discounted price. Once a product has been bought, however, it goes on marketing for the company by those who wear it or put it on show in their house for other prospective customers to see.

7. Music policy

There are studies that show listening to music while working can not only reduce the number of mistakes made but also improve the emotional state of workers. The main problem with playing music in an eCommerce warehouse is that it stunts communication.

However, if the processes can be changed so that verbal communication is not necessary, the motivational benefits of playing music could be worth exploring. Not only will it add the above benefits, it will also help to create a more social and friendly environment to work in.

8. Keep them in the know

Most warehouse operators don’t have a company email address and so are often kept out of the loop when big decisions are made, regardless of whether the decision affects their working day or not. It cannot be underestimated how significant it is to have the upper management sharing the company’s progress with those further down the system.

An example of where you, as a manager, should really be honest with your workers is if you are thinking of outsourcing to a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) company. This would be a major decision that affects the people working in your warehouse and the transition has to be managed well. Handling it incorrectly could cause a drop-off in productivity or increased churn, especially if the workers believe the change will alter how they’re paid or how they are managed.

Another example is if you are considering implementing a new warehouse management system. The last thing you want is for your workers to think they are being replaced by machines, which isn’t always the case.

[Related: 3 reasons to automate your warehouse]

9. Give the warehouse team a voice

As humans, we like to know that our voice is heard. We all have opinions and ideas about how things could change for the better so why would you not want to access that information? Granted, it may be that you get some unhappy answers. You may find out that your workers dislike their long shifts, hate walking fifty miles a day, and don’t feel appreciated.

But this is good to hear! Once you know why your workers are unhappy you can make positive changes to improve their situation. Sending out satisfaction surveys or organising group sessions could even bring out good ideas for improving efficiency. After all, it is these people who are working the processes every day so it’s likely they’ll have ideas for how it can improve.

Examples of what to ask them:

>> What do you enjoy about your job?

>> What could we do to make it more enjoyable?

>> What training would you like?

>> Are there any other areas of the business you are interested in?

10. External training

Most of us enjoy the opportunity to learn new things, and it’s often even more enjoyable if that opportunity occurs outside of our normal working environment. Sending your warehouse operators out for training is a great way to show that you are investing in their progress which is a big motivator for success.

If you are considering implementing a new WMS and visiting a vendor’s client is part of that decision process, it may be a good idea to bring along some of the warehouse operators so they can see how the change will affect their job. This will help ease any concerns they may have about their jobs being made redundant.

11. Reasonable shifts

This is a pretty obvious one but it’s often overlooked. Don’t be a slave-driver by scheduling your workers in for unreasonable shifts every week. One of the biggest de-motivators is shift duration, especially if the extra hours worked are not seen to be appreciated by the managers.

If you really must have your operators working unreasonable hours, make sure that you acknowledge this and reward them in some way. You will find that workers are much more likely to take overtime during peak if they are offered something extra in return. This could be time-and-a-half pay, or it could be a day off in lieu.

That should be enough motivational hacks to get you started. Just remember that the happier your workers are the more inclined they will be to work hard. After all, a company is nothing without the people inside it.

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