“…How does a warehouse manager transform a group of people with different backgrounds, outlooks, and abilities into a high-powered workforce?”

The Changing Face of the Warehouse Workforce,” written by Merrill Douglas for Inbound Logistics, interviews several companies for input on what they are seeing in today’s warehouse workforce and how they are addressing those challenges. Curt Sardeson, President of Open Sky Group and Joe Johnson, Director of IT for Wagner Logistics, were two of several interviewed for the May issue of Inbound Logistics focused on warehousing. Ms. Douglas saw an Open Sky Group blog post, “Warehouse Workforce: The Language Challenges,” and wanted to add Curt and Joe’s insight and experience to the article. Here’s an excerpt from the Inbound Logistics article:

“About 10 years ago, consultant Curt Sardeson helped a client implement a warehouse management system (WMS), which triggered an unexpected labor management issue. “Within six months, the company replaced every lift driver because of language differences,” says Sardeson, president of Open Sky Group, Fuquay-Varina, N.C. Because the original drivers didn’t read English, they couldn’t follow the directions the new WMS displayed on their screens.

Language diversity is one of many challenges warehouse managers face in their efforts to turn a collection of individuals into a highly productive workforce. Differences in literacy levels, cultural backgrounds, gender, and age can also complicate the job of training, integrating, and managing a diverse workforce. So can heavy employee turnover, or the need to use temporary labor for peak workloads or special projects.

From translation to technology to the buddy system, warehouse managers call on a varied range of strategies to get diverse workforces pulling together as one.

As a nation of immigrants, the United States has dealt with language diversity in the labor force since its earliest days. In many American warehouses today, a large contingent of workers who speak English as a second language (ESL)—if they speak English at all—is not the exception, but the rule.”