Motivating staff in a pick and pack environment is a key challenge for any company operating a pick and pack warehouse. Motivated staff are one of the most important resources any company has, even the most tech driven. How staff are treated and how they value the company they work for has a direct impact on the company’s performance and its competitive advantage.
The media views pick and pack jobs as being menial and machine-like manual labour. Cast your minds back to the BBC’s Panorama documentary in late 2013, ‘Amazon – the Truth Behind the Click’, which criticised the eCommerce giant’s working conditions at its Swansea warehouse. The suggestion was that the working environment for the pick and pack staff could cause mental health issues due to the GPS tracking and ticking clock performance measures. Not to mention the zero-hour contracts. It really doesn’t have to be like that though. It is possible to motivate pick and pack staff without resorting to high pressure tactics.
The first thing to consider about any job which includes repetitive tasks is that the work should be varied as much as possible. Some time can be spent picking and some packing, then there is goods in work, goods out and a whole host of other warehouse jobs. Placing training and development at a very high level of importance within the pick and pack environment ensures staff can have an enjoyable and varied role. Training staff to have multi-skills and helping them to continuously develop ensures that they can change between any area of the warehouse seamlessly.
While most warehouse staff who pick and pack have their own tasks and work to do, a team ethos should be fostered. Team building and good communication between all staff ensures they are working towards the same company goals, not just an individual’s tasks for the day. Our warehouse managers frequently organise team building activities during quieter periods.
While a good mix of work is a good start, the pick and pack environment needs to be a place that people like and enjoy working in. Try to have competitions, fun games, office parties, social events (we love a good BBQ!) and exciting non-financial rewards for pick and pack staff. It is important to improve and add to facilities so staff can relax and enjoy themselves at break times.
A job as critical as picking and packing should not be considered any less important than any other. Staff should be encouraged to suggest and make improvements themselves. The people who do the jobs must be valued and feel valued. They should be given the responsibility and autonomy to make their own decisions and changes. Staff value being creative within their roles and to seek out challenges that extend and fully exercise their capabilities. This allows staff to explore and to learn.
It might seem like picking and packing or any warehouse work is simple and after a while staff may feel that it is, so it is important to challenge. Now they have been given the power to make changes and improvements they should feel challenged to find them. Targets can be set but they should not put the employee under undue pressure. The employee should be encouraged to set their own targets and they don’t all have to be related to the day-to-day pick and pack tasks.
Throw out the zero-hour contracts and pay pick and pack staff a fair wage if you want them to feel valued. Research shows that underpaid staff resent low pay and focus all their attention on the situation not the job at hand – and who could blame them? At the other end of the spectrum overpaid staff are often poorly motivated and can generate less output.
Rewards don’t just have to be financial, in fact, lots of research shows that financial incentives are not necessarily good motivators. There are many ways that can help motivate staff in a pick and pack environment. Run challenges with prizes (chocolate is very popular in our warehouse) and provide new facilities for the staff when challenges are met (we have table football but we have just installed a very popular 90s arcade game).
When it comes to motivation, it’s not just pick and pack staff, it applies to all employees. Motivating staff in a pick and pack environment, and throughout your business, can only reap rewards. Fostering an environment where staff have a true passion for their jobs will ensure they stay with the company, grow, learn, and contribute to the company’s competitive advantage in the long term.
It all began in 2010, when James Hyde and James Strachan couldn’t find a modern shipping service for the eCommerce business they ran. Faced with messy warehouses based on out-dated systems, they decided to build their own. We’ve not stood still since, helping hundreds of online brands scale up – and scaling with them.