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Warehouses Turn to Flex Workers

Logistics companies are increasingly using “flexible workers” to fill open positions, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: More operators, competing with other employers that allow workers to make their own hours, are offering scheduling and shift flexibility.

  • They’re using specialized software to do it, one source told the Journal, adding that the practice is one of the ways logistics firms are hiring in the runup to the holiday season.

Why it’s important: This “flexibility in a field known for rigid schedules and grueling workloads is a sign that the practices of app-driven operators are seeping into more traditional workplaces, particularly in a tight market for blue-collar workers.”

Vetted and ready: Not just anyone can fill a warehouse-worker slot, in part “because industrial jobs require specific training and expertise, logistics experts say.”

  • To ensure those they bring on are qualified, logistics companies have begun using warehouse-tailored gig-worker apps, in which “[w]orkers set their availability in advance … and go through a background screening process” with the app company.
  • Logistics companies often use traditional staffing agencies “particularly for the peak holiday season. But some are looking to fill jobs when they need people in a more targeted way, such as Monday mornings to catch up with e-commerce orders that came in over the weekend.”

A supplement, not replacement: Even companies that plan to stick with full-time employees are seeking ways to use the gig model to their advantage.

  • “PepsiCo is testing a platform that allows warehouse workers to easily swap shifts from their smartphones, among other functions, said John Phillips, senior vice president of customer supply chain and global go-to-market.”
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