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March 5, 2021

Taking Care of Teams (and their Motivation) in Critical Times

During critical times, the psychological health of your team is just as important as their physical health and safety. This checklist will help guarantee that you are giving your teams the support and the tools they need to make it through and achieve more with less.

In a time of crisis, your teams are your greatest resource. They will see you through, more than technology or finely tuned balance sheets.

Staff shortages and remote working can impact companies trying to increase productivity with fewer resources at their disposal. The teams that show up every day in a crisis are a valuable asset and must be taken care of.

Providing support to staff teams may seem like an issue for the Human Resources department. HR definitely has its part to play, but any operations in a warehouse or fulfillment center that help make an employee’s job faster, safer, and easier can increase job satisfaction, motivation, and loyalty. Those are essential during an emergency when a company will need to rely heavily on its employees.

Watching Out for Staff Well-Being

A crisis that has a profound effect on the operations of a business usually impacts the employees away from work, too. Weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, or 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic can jeopardize employee’s families and homes. 

Employees may need time off to take care of family and personal obligations. Obviously, a worker whose house is destroyed in a natural disaster won’t be able to show up for his or her shift. When planning for worst-case scenarios, managers must put some thought into how they will be able to adjust, both to support employees and still keep operations going.

The most obvious way to support a team is by allowing time off for those who need it and compensating those who must work longer hours to keep up with increased volume. Paid time off, overtime pay, bonuses, and even hazard pay should be considered and implemented when appropriate.

How your employees work might need some thought, too. Situations like the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 can call for things such as additional safety gear like masks and gloves, taking employees’ temperatures, and adjusting schedules to enforce social distancing.

Remember, the goal isn’t just to keep the business going during the crisis, but also to look ahead to what comes later. There may be an additional short-term cost to ensure the business’ long-term survival. Whether changes are temporary or become the new normal, the personal health and safety of teams during critical times can’t be ignored.

Providing a Supportive Environment

Critical times can result in a staff shortage, or a sudden surge in activity to meet customer demand. Either situation means additional work and responsibilities for the staff who show up each day. They will be required to produce more with fewer resources. This can result in a workspace that is chaotic and disorganized. Not only will teams struggle to keep up with demand, but they also run the risk of being overworked, burned out, and unsafe. It’s not good for morale, and it’s not good for business.

A warehouse or fulfillment center that is optimized for efficiency has a headstart on coping with a crisis situation. Teams that are working efficiently in the first place will have the capacity to ramp up in an emergency in a safe and sustainable way—just as they would for big orders or a seasonal spike in demand. 

Warehouse setup. A warehouse layout should put things where they’re most convenient and mark out clear pathways that avoid employees running into one another. Failure to design an organized, efficient layout can lead to wasted time. For example, not setting up a forward picking location might force workers to travel to a faraway storage area several times a day. Not only will they become annoyed—they also won’t get as much done. 

Automation. Using automation wherever possible supports teams by taking over tasks that are repetitive or dangerous. Automation can literally help with the heavy lifting. Equipment can perform many jobs faster and more accurately than the best human worker on the staff. Shifting the burden of some jobs to machines frees up people to do more important things and make better use of their skills. And in a crisis that requires people to work remotely, automation can allow some work to continue even when staff can’t be onsite.

Warehouse management software. WMS supports teams by providing the data to plan out their day in the most efficient way possible. It can deliver picking methods and pick paths that take the guesswork out of workers’ days. They come in knowing exactly what needs to be done that day and can, therefore, be more productive. 

WMS can also determine staffing needs so that managers can move people from one project to another, add another shift, or hire temps when necessary. This takes the pressure off of teams, getting them the help they need when they need it. It avoids some employees being pushed beyond their limits while others are standing around looking for something to do.

Giving Teams the Tools They Need

Teams will have a hard time doing their best without the right tools, especially in critical times when conditions are changing constantly. Investing in software that provides clear, accurate data and reports will give them the confidence that they’re making the right choices. 

WMS allows for data-driven decision-making rather than guesswork. For example, software that is integrated with shipping companies can pick out the best carrier for a shipment based on availability, delivery time, and cost. The shipping clerk does not have to go by their gut or past experience to make the decision. 

As work speeds up to meet a surge in demand, using WMS features like barcoding and order alerts will be a lifesaver. For instance, barcode scanning keeps workers informed of inventory status in real time. When the quantity of a certain material hits a predetermined benchmark, it can automatically trigger a reorder. This avoids manual inventory counts where someone can make an error or fail to place an order quickly enough.  

A crisis can create the need for different or additional reports. Investing in a WMS that can be customized to meet the needs of the warehouse or fulfillment center is a smart move. There might be a need to track KPIs that were never important before. Equally important is finding a company whose customer service and IT people can give teams the support they need by answering their questions and helping modify reports and KPIs as necessary.

Communication

Good communication in the workplace is always important, but a crisis makes it essential. Things will be happening faster than ever and some teams may be working remotely for the first time. Employees need the proper tools to keep in touch. This might mean providing company-issued laptops or cell phones. 

Integration with vendors can keep open the lines of communication about the resources the teams need to do their jobs. Seeking out vendors who can offer the best customer support in critical times is important, too. 

Trust plays a big part in supporting teams. In a crisis, companies will need to trust employees with crucial information, trust that they will communicate honestly with management, and trust that they will help the company come through the emergency.

A Checklist for Supporting Teams in Critical Times

Managers need to take special care of the people who make up their teams. Good employees are hard to replace, so supporting them on the job is essential, especially during critical times.

  • Be prepared to be flexible with policies, schedules, and pay structures. Adjustments may be necessary to keep valuable employees.
  • Pay special attention to health and safety.
  • Design the workplace layout and add automation to make teams safer and more efficient.
  • Use WMS data and analytics to give teams assignments and help predict when they need additional help.
  • Give teams the tools they need both on the warehouse floor and when working remotely.
  • Keep the lines of communication open and trust teams to do their jobs.

Strong teams are the backbone of any company’s operations. They are the ones that will help bring a company through a crisis. They must be supported in every way possible.

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