Industrial businesses across the country are struggling to fill roles and they are left with teams that are small and heavily overworked. In this eBook, we explore five vital ways to engage your staff and produce exceptional results from short-staffed teams


The state of the industrial industry

  • Demand for warehouses has never been higher: investment has doubled during the pandemic, powered by rapid eCommerce growth.
  • Online sellers need roughly 3x more warehouse space than bricks and mortar businesses, and this has led to a ‘warehouse boom’.


Leaders should not be disheartened though. Efforts to reimagine workforce strategies – often by introducing more temporary workers – have been highly successful. And there are a number of ways businesses can change the way they treat staff in order to get more out of their limited teams.

Unite Employees Behind a Purpose

Staff have always craved a sense of meaning in their work, but the pandemic has led many to feel far more strongly about the matter. Warehouse workers often report seeing their job as uninspiring or purely transactional. But leaders that want to make the most of their limited staff need to connect the dots so that their teams see what they do as vital and impactful. 


This doesn’t have to be about creating a false sense of social engagement: it can be as simple as reminding them that they are helping give consumers a great experience. Every part of the warehousing and fulfilment process is essential – if anything goes wrong, the entire supply chain falters. So reminding employees that what they do is important for a large, important system can create a powerful motivation to work harder.

Embrace Agility and Flexibility

The word agility is thrown around a lot, especially when it comes to supply chains. But the principle is far simpler – and more effective – than it often seems. Agility means removing rigid structures and enabling your business to respond in real-time to changing needs. Not only will it produce a more effective workflow – it will increase employee satisfaction and retention. 


This is particularly relevant to warehousing, where even small delays or friction in the system can cascade, leading to late deliveries or damaged goods. By enabling employees to move more fluidly between roles, you create more variety in individuals’ roles and avoid wasted time. A carefully managed division of labour might increase efficiency in a warehouse when it is heavily staffed, but when numbers are limited you need to embrace an ‘all hands on deck’ approach. 

Reward and Recognise Staff

One of the most common problems cited by warehouse workers is the perceived low-status and lack of recognition they experience in their jobs. From low wages to long, punishing hours, these roles are notoriously tough. And while many switched to work in supply chain-related roles during the pandemic, many have turned their backs on the industry following the easing of restrictions – largely because they didn’t feel adequately valued in their roles. 


Some businesses have tried to redress this, offering new hires handsome signing-on bonuses – for roles which have historically never provided such benefits. But leaders looking to get more from their short-staffed teams should consider how they reward and recognise the efforts of their entire workforce. And don’t be afraid to ask your employees directly what kind of rewards they want – it will help them feel included in the decision making process and therefore valued.

Empower Teams and Individuals

When you are short-staffed, each individual employee constitutes a larger part of your overall workforce. Successful businesses will understand this and respond by increasing the amount of freedom and personal autonomy their employees feel. In part, this encourages individuals to feel truly part of the business – enabling them to make more decisions and exert more influence. But it also ensures there are fewer obstacles to flexibility. 


Rather than constantly having to defer to an authority, individuals will be given the power to respond to queries, fix problems and generally engage with their customers organically and directly. It also means management doesn’t waste time micromanaging their workers.

Introduce Technology

Technology has played an enormous role in most employees’ lives over the last 18 months. It is time for businesses to properly acknowledge this and introduce more technology into their operational model. While warehouse businesses typically use a number of technologies – from inventory apps to supplier management tools – it has usually been introduced in a haphazard way across an extended period of time. And the use of HR technology is still its infancy in such businesses. 

Embracing technology full-tilt now is a great way to increase flexibility and ensure your staff are happy. There are also huge gains to made on a purely business level: The average cost saving achieved by implementing a Staff Supplier Management solution is 12%.

How to achieve the 5 steps

Download the full eBook to uncover the best ways to achieve top results from your short-staffed team…