Keeping your warehouse staffed year-round with rising labor costs and high turnover rates is not easy. Managing a warehouse today is more challenging than ever and during the holiday season when you need to work most efficiently to deal with seasonal demand, the challenge only multiplies.

In this article, we will discuss the challenges unique to holiday seasonal staffing and effective warehouse staffing strategies to optimize your workforce and maintain operational efficiency.

Understanding the Holiday Staffing Challenge

70% of warehouse managers said staff shortages significantly increase their stress levels, and it was more acute during 2022’s holiday season compared to prior years. It’s not surprising. Keeping your facility staffed and functioning at a high level while onboarding, training, and deploying new workers during high-volume operations is a tough job. 

As of June 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were some 493,000 job openings in the warehousing and transportation sector. The competition for qualified workers for full-time employment is high. The majority of people looking for work are seeking full-time positions, so hiring temporary workers to handle increased holiday volume is an even bigger challenge. 

Warehouse Holiday Staffing Solutions

If you work in the warehouse industry, you are well aware of the challenges. The question is how do you overcome these challenges to meet the increased demand? Here are some key staffing strategies you need to be better prepared for this year's holiday season, starting with accurately forecasting your staffing needs.

Forecasting Staffing Needs

While changing consumer behavior and uncertain economic conditions make forecasting demand more difficult, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is expecting overall retail sales to grow again this year after a 5.3% increase in 2022.  

Using historical data for sales and orders can help predict future trends and help you make some logical assumptions about your seasonal workforce. Regardless of inflation and the economy, holiday order volume has always been higher than normal levels. While you may not know exactly how high demand will be this year, historical data compared to order cycle time, fulfillment accuracy rate, and on-time ready-to-ship performance can help you determine the staff size you need to meet operational KPIs.

The earlier you get a handle on your potential staffing needs, the sooner you can prepare for the holidays. With this information in hand, you should also check your pay rates to make sure you're competitive this year.

Reviewing Compensation and Competition

You need to remember that when you’re looking to hire, you’re not just competing against other warehouse operations, but against just about every other company that’s looking to add workers.

Those looking for seasonal work for such entry-level jobs will likely have multiple options and many offer similar pay and less strenuous working environments. The warehouse and delivery sector adds some 350,000 jobs. Retail adds about 450,000 workers during the holiday shopping season.

You will need to balance compensation with staffing. The average hourly wage for warehouse workers in the U.S. is $17 as of July 2023 according to That’s comparable to wages at fast food, grocery, and retail. Offering incentives or bonuses above hourly rates can entice workers to choose your opportunities versus others.

While increasing wages cuts into your profitability, so does understaffing or failing to fill orders efficiently.  

So, you will need to make sure your compensation and incentives align with the expectations of those seeking work. It’s a good idea to benchmark wages not only against other warehouses but against what other jobs are available for seasonal workers in your area.

While increasing wages cuts into your profitability, so does understaffing or failing to fill orders efficiently.

Exploring Flexible Staffing Solutions

Another way to approach staffing is to consider flexible solutions. Some workers may be willing to trade flexible hours for higher pay.

Historical forecasts can help you anticipate volume. In recent years, however, there have been significant fluctuations in order volume.

Temporary and seasonal hiring enable you to staff up for the holiday season without taking on long-term overhead, but finding those willing to accept part-time or inflexible job scheduling is tough. Consider working with staffing agencies to quickly scale your workforce. However, you can’t afford to wait until late fall to get started. Partner with a staffing agency by late summer or early fall at the latest to begin working on the holiday hiring rush.

Optimizing Hiring Processes

Key to holiday staffing is making quick decisions. While you don’t want to rubber-stamp hiring and wind up with bad hires, you need to find a fast and efficient way to hire workers.  

Review your hiring process now for ways to accelerate the pace of hiring. If you take too long to make decisions, your best candidates will likely find work elsewhere. Online applications, digital screening, and virtual interviews can help speed things up. Staffing agencies, such as Labor Finders, will streamline recruiting, vetting, and providing qualified candidates. 

Formalizing Training and Onboarding 

When you do find seasonal workers, they need effective training to put them to work quickly.  Seasonal staff needs to get up to speed rapidly to maximize productivity. You should have a formal process to train on specific job tasks you’re hiring for that provides the necessary education while minimizing training time.  

You should also take some time now to review your onboarding and training programs to ensure they are on point before you're in the middle of the holiday rush. It may be valuable to identify your top performers and set up a buddy system for seasonal employees or take a train-the-trainers approach and let them handle task training. 

One other consideration is that seasonal workers also tend to turnover even more quickly than regular warehouse workers. You may want to do some cross-training of your current workforce to help fill in gaps if seasonal hires leave early. 

Employee Engagement and Retention 

Since work intensifies in warehouses during the holidays with increased volume, it’s even more important to focus on boosting employee morale and motivating your workforce during peak periods. Warehouse work can be physically demanding, so small breaks to reset and moments of enjoyment can go a long way in keeping team members engaged and retaining quality workers. 

Besides morale-boosting activities, employers need to make sure they set clear expectations when hiring. For example, workers want to know their schedules in advance to make plans and are increasingly demanding flexibility. You need to make decisions upfront about how you will handle requests for flexible hours to avoid mid-season resignations. 

Health and Safety Considerations 

You should have a year-round health and safety program to keep your warehouse workforce safe, but it’s especially important during the holiday season. With more inventory and moving parts due to the increased volume, coupled with an influx of new workers in a short period, safety risks increase. Onboarding should include mandatory safety training and managers must reinforce safety protocols as new team members work. 

One incident can cause significant harm to individuals and may force operational shutdowns at times when you can least afford it. 

Technology and Automation 

Warehouse technology and automation can complement seasonal staffing efforts and enhance overall efficiency, but you’re quickly running out of time. If you want to add tech to streamline operations, you need to do it now. 

Many warehouse operators are doing so. A report in Supply & Demand Chain Executive (SDC) showed that 88% of warehouses are planning to upgrade their tech and add automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) by 2024.

Nearly a third of warehouses have already added varying levels of automation and half of warehouse operators plan to modernize their technology within the next year. Technology and automation alone, however, do not solve your challenges. You need a way to monitor performance to ensure seasonal workers at operating at peak efficiency.

Monitoring and Performance Management 

Clearly defining job-specific expectations can help set the stage while tracking performance against key metrics can help look for areas that need improvement. Many operators tie bonuses or hourly wage increases to performance metrics. 

Performance monitoring is critical to optimizing efficiency. With seasonal workers especially, you have to make quick decisions about whether individuals can function efficiently or not.  

It’s not uncommon for holiday KPIs performance to lag baseline measurements due to increased volume and seasonal help, so looking at historical data for holiday performance and making adjustments from your year-round reporting may be necessary. 

Post-Holiday Staffing Transition 

After the holiday rush is over, you'll have to make decisions about which workers to keep and which ones to let go. One benefit of hiring seasonal or temporary workers is that you get to evaluate their work performance in a real-world environment. Managers will have hard data and observational insights on employees’ work habits, performance, and contributions. This allows you to convert the best temporary workers to permanent staff. 

At the same time, you will want to have a transition plan in place as you downsize seasonal staff. How you handle departing employees — even temporary ones — can have an impact on how your regular staff views your company.  

Labor Finders Can Help 

Staffing is a challenge throughout the year, but especially during the busy holiday season. We can help. 

Labor Finders partners with employers to find trustworthy, skilled workers for your business. As a recognized leader in the staffing industry for more than 40 years, we help warehouse operators with seasonal and year-round staffing needs. 

Struggling to fill warehouse jobs? Contact Labor Finders and let us go to work for you. 

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