Supply chain workers 'want careers, not just jobs'

Dan Johnston, CEO and co-founder of workforce retention company WorkStep on the post-pandemic supply chain staffing challenges facing organisations

Dan Johnston is CEO and Co-Founder of workforce retnion specialists, WorkStep.

Pre-pandemic, what were the challenges in retaining and attracting people to supply chain?

Hiring and retaining hourly supply chain workers has been a struggle for decades. Supply chain roles are notorious for low wages, long hours, tough work and little room for professional growth.

Plus, there are typically few opportunities for engagement between leaders and the frontline to discuss worker pain points, challenges and goals. The end result: an isolating experience that leads to dissatisfaction and ultimately, quitting. 

Pre-pandemic, businesses struggled to even get employees through the door. Management viewed hourly workers as dispensable – and they were treated as such. As a result, temp agencies and job boards were often used to quickly source talent. But these ‘solutions’ were time consuming, expensive and ineffective in attracting the right long-term candidates.

And although roles were filled, people didn’t stay. Businesses went back to the temp agencies for more quick hires, and retention remained unaddressed. 

And post-pandemic recruitment challenges?

The pandemic forced organizations to see that hourly workers are essential. Without truck drivers and warehouse workers, many businesses crumbled when COVID kept employees at home. This shift in mindset pushed many organizations to transform hiring processes and create a better employee experience that fuels retention. 

However, a lot of brands are getting the transformation wrong. Many are offering incentives like sign-on bonuses and higher wages to attract and retain workers. However, these strategies are proving to be ineffective. Hourly supply chain workers aren’t looking for more pay alone. Rather, workers are prioritizing opportunities for growth. They want careers, not jobs – complete with trainings, one-on-one feedback and professional development. 

By only boosting pay, turnover persists – and it’s becoming an expensive problem. A recent WorkStep survey found the cost of hiring has nearly doubled since 2020 – rising from about $10,200 to $19,600. Organizations looking to really drive change are simply asking employees for feedback on pain points versus assuming. It’s the only way to drive change and stop the cycle.

How important is upskilling and retraining in maintaining a stable digital workforce?  

Upskilling and retraining are not only important in maintaining a stable workforce – they’re also critical to retain a solid workforce. Data shows the number one reason supply chain workers quit their jobs is because of a lack of opportunity for career development. But there continues to be a misconception that hourly workers want to clock in, clock out, and cash their paychecks.

This isn’t reality. Instead, workers are looking to excel in their jobs, gain recognition for excellent work, and progress on a meaningful career path. When businesses ignore this ambition, they are directly fueling turnover.

Other top turnover drivers include not having the right tools for the job and poor onboarding. Both these pain points emphasize the demand for better training. Invest in employees with training opportunities, and they will invest in your business with their commitment, talent and productivity. It’s really a win-win scenario.


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