Operations & Fulfillment: Better Than Santa's Elves
16. Simplify your work processes. One of the hardest parts about using seasonal labor is they don't know your systems and processes. To improve temp associates' productivity, break down complex tasks. You still have time to consider where in your operation there are more complex tasks that can be broken down into simpler ones. Many retailers sell items which require special and complex packaging (e.g., posters and prints). Full-time packers know the process but seasonal workers do not. Consider prepackaging these items offline during the holidays to assure consistent and correct packaging.
17. Improve communication to increase productivity. Post standards, expectations and production metrics around your warehouse for employees to see. Adhere to having daily floor manager and shift-change meetings. Post on strategically placed whiteboards the main productivity rates as well as the challenges your warehouse faces.
18. Have a contingency plan. Have you worked out what your options are if the business is plus/minus 10 percent to 20 percent from your holiday forecast? Offer overtime? Hire more workers? Cut staff? Where could staff be used more effectively? Remember, more than 50 percent of your direct labor is in pick and pack.
19. Reduce peak season production systems disasters. Stick to a policy of not implementing new systems and noncritical modifications September through December.
20. Continually strive to improve. Keep a journal of problems encountered during the holidays as a starting point for planning next year. Invite a consultant in to observe your peaks this year to assist in making major process, flow and MHE changes for next year's holidays.
Consider these additional labor best practices during your company's off-season: seasonal differentials and incentive pay; aptitude and selection testing; screening and background checks; adopt a "flex hours" policy; overhaul your warehouse training program. These ideas can improve the quality of your hires and decrease attrition.
Making the best seasonal associate hires and managing your workforce effectively is at the heart of reducing costs and providing great customer service. Working with your shipping carriers to fine-tune outbound shipments brings big dividends, too.