State of the Supply Chain Labor Market

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written by: Nick Gioconda, Director, HR/Learning & Development, MD Logistics

Introduction

In recent years, the logistics labor market has experienced an unprecedented shortage in an interested and available labor pool. As the demand for online shopping continues to increase, so too does the demand for fulfillment centers with a ready team to fulfill orders. Coupled with increased consumer demand, the United States as a whole is currently witnessing one of the lowest unemployment rates in recent years, so as new jobs are added in fulfillment centers to meet increased demand, there is an increasingly smaller pool of available labor to fill recently added positions. To attract new talent, logistics providers are now thinking of new ways to entice talent to join their teams. MD Logistics is no exception. Our ‘home town’ of Plainfield, Indiana has experienced tremendous growth within the last couple of years, as a result leading our internal HR team to adapt our talent seeking strategy.  

Current Labor Market Outlook

There are a variety of factors that have contributed to the current logistics labor market outlook. Along with an increased consumer demand for fast fulfillment, another contributing factor is the current low unemployment rate. As of February 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a national unemployment rate of 3.6%[1]. The state of Indiana wasn’t too far ahead with an unemployment rate of 3.2%[2]. While a lower unemployment rate is great news for our economy and a good sign that ‘business is good’, it is also creating some unique challenges for companies to fill workplace vacancies. Those in the logistics industry are no exception and as demand for quick fulfillment continues to grow, they will start to feel the pinch for job candidates even more.

MDL’s Response

The current labor market outlook seems to be the new ‘normal’ for the foreseeable future for the logistics industry. Knowing this, we had to work through a strategy to attract talent that would not only work, present day, but one that would be able to scale as we continue to grow as a company. Finding a balance between both internal and external resources and by placing more of an emphasis on our unique company culture, have helped us create a winning recruitment strategy.

Focus on Respect & Company Culture

For us at MD Logistics, our team-focused company culture is what makes our organization unique. Leadership at MD has always placed an emphasis on creating a culture of respect, not only for our customers, but for each other as well, no matter your position within the organization. That respect for each other trickles down to our internal hiring practices. When positions become available, our preference is to give current team members the opportunity to advance within the organization. Knowing that MD is a company with career advancement opportunities is what keeps our team engaged and pushing forward.

Additional Internal Resources

As we looked to evolve our hiring efforts, we realized we needed to add a Recruiter to the Human Resources team.  Jennifer Sanders joined our team and soon became MD Logistics’ Recruitment Specialist.  Jennifer has a great understanding of our company culture and is really a fantastic ambassador for MD Logistics.  She works as a bridge between outside applicants and our internal teams to match the right talent to the right position within the organization.  With the investment of a Recruitment Specialist, we have been able to balance our partnerships with our staffing agencies and make a concerted effort to focus on direct hiring.  While we continue to use our Staffing partners to help us in the vetting process with the intent to hire Associates, Jennifer has made a large impact of bringing talent directly into MD Logistics.

In addition, we have also leveraged our existing employee network and offer a referral bonus to our team members who refer someone for an open position. We know our company’s biggest assets are the people who make up our team, having their endorsement of a potential candidate carries a heavy weight.

External Initiatives  

Pulling in applicants from our own community means that we also have to focus on external communication initiatives. To better service potential applicants who are searching online, we have invested in technology and systems that allow us to host available positions on our website. In addition, for those who don’t have easy access to a computer, we have started inviting interested applicants to apply in person at our warehouse located at 700 Perry Rd. Plainfield, IN 46168. Ease of application accessibility not only helps interested applicants, but also allows our human resources team the chance to meet with people who we might not have had the opportunity to before.

We have also placed a focus on partnering with community organizations who have access to potential job candidates. Veteran organizations have been a great partner for finding former military veterans a path forward to leadership within our company.  Other organization’s we are consistently learning from are central Indiana labor and economic groups, who provide insights into the current business environment in central Indiana. In addition to providing insights on the business environment, they also provide a look into the current labor market and have resources available to provide visibility to candidates who are currently enrolled in logistics programs. We have also found great success at attending community and school hosted job fairs. This allows us to get in front of interested candidates and lets them put a face to a part of the MD Logistics team.

Looking to the Future

As we look to the future and the logistics labor market, I see an increasing importance placed on technology in daily job functions. As automated processes continue to enter the warehouse, associates working in tandem with collaborative robots (cobots) will have to understand their functionality.  In our own warehouse, we have actually experienced a quicker learning cycle with training new Associates on the cobots due to their intuitive nature and ease of use.  

Conclusion

As I am sure many of us can attest to, the logistics labor market continues to show signs of a shortage of talent. By evolving our hiring strategy to focus more on direct hires in all positions, getting in front of candidates at job fairs, utilizing industry partners, and partnering with our temporary agencies we have already seen an impact on new hires to our team. In 2019, we saw a 92% conversion of new hires from temporary associates in our warehouse operation. We take great pride in this statistic and know that it is a result of not only our hiring initiatives, but more importantly, our unique company culture and the upward career growth available to every team member who is driven and has a strong work ethic.   

If you would like to join the MD Logistics team, take a look at our available positions or email a copy of your resume to HR@mdlogistics.com!


[1] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

[2] https://www.ibj.com/articles/indiana-unemployment-rate-holds-steady-at-3-2