Why E-Commerce Staffing Needs to Be ‘Associate First’

Over the past year, workforce planning took on a whole new look. With labor force participation declining and traditional workforce hierarchies evolving, e-commerce staffing initiatives must take on an “associate-first” mentality to remain competitive.

What does that mean? It’s simple: Associates come first. How do we achieve this? As a start, it can be as simple as asking your people what they need. Have you asked them what they need in order to be happy at work? To succeed? To stay? Outside of increased DEI efforts, your associates are likely looking for meaningful engagement — even it’s through a computer screen — and much more.

By doing a deep dive into your associates’ needs and actioning that feedback as regularly as possible, you can address the changing workplace environment and maintain a strong, engaged labor force despite the recent turbulence. Here are just a few indicators of why the “associate-first” mentality matters so much:

  1. Too many jobs; not enough applicants.

    The job market is booming. Too fast for the labor force to keep pace, it seems. As of March 2021, there was a record high of 8.12 million available positions, and Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao indicates that job openings are 16% higher than pre-pandemic. But filling those openings with qualified and engaged candidates is proving to be a challenge.

    How does finding the kinds of associates that are ready and willing to take that leap with you happen? Again, it comes down to asking questions to determine the tipping point for them in the choice between your company and another and then making adjustments to meet their needs.

    What kinds of growth opportunities can you provide? What does your benefits package look like? Highlighting those differentiators will help narrow down how many viable options your potential candidates want to pursue and why they should choose you.

  1. A bigger premium on diversity.

    Women are leaving the workforce and may not return. The pandemic forced women to contend with daycare costs and the increased demand on their time and availability, coming from many directions. They are now profoundly considering whether their jobs or careers can accommodate their changing situations. As a result, the labor force participation rate for women has plummeted.

    The COVID-19 pandemic struck an already struggling childcare system and may have prompted a loss of more than 4.5 million childcare slots. Without another option, women are leaving the labor force or reducing their hours to care for their children, which could result in about $64.5 billion each year in lost wages.

    Building flexibility into what you offer associates (e.g., gig work, more part-time options, and flexible scheduling) can help tap into that demographic and position you well in a talent-heavy environment that is seeking greater balance. Consider what your company can do better than the competition and stand out in this current landscape. Then, apply those advantages to meet your talent pool’s various needs.

  1. Associate demands go beyond money.

    Of course, you must consider competitive wages, but what else do your associates want? Maybe they are looking for competitive benefits or support of social causes. Perhaps they simply need support removing small barriers to help them get to work and to succeed. The main point here is that this answer varies between associates, so consider individual needs and the needs of the masses.

    Target has shown its commitment to invest in its employees time and time again. Not only did the retail chain permanently raise its starting wages to $15 an hour, but it has also made a push to prioritize the mental health of its staff and pursue social causes through its Target Foundation. Like other employers, Target understands that workers are the company’s lifeblood and that it’s imperative to listen and ensure that workers’ voices are heard by taking action.

Top talent is hard to come by and even harder to retain. As part of the e-commerce industry, if you are not considering the needs of your current and future associates, they will go elsewhere. Listen to your associates, take actionable steps to accommodate their needs, and set them up for success. Workforce planning in e-commerce has greatly changed over the past year. Now is the time to adjust.

Integrity Staffing Solutions is a full-service staffing agency and ranks in the top 2% of agencies across the country for quality service based on ClearlyRated’s “Best of Staffing” client survey. To learn more about Integrity or for help with your hiring needs, visit integritystaffing.com or call 833-446-1300.