[Takeaways] How flexible staffing improves operational agility

Business has been a mixed bag for warehouse and logistic companies over the last couple of years. While skyrocketing eCommerce throughout the pandemic led to a huge surge in demand, the increasingly tight labor market has prevented companies from reaching their full potential. And these staffing challenges show no signs of slowing anytime soon.

“The old mix of recruiting tactics” — like online job postings and billboards — “is showing mixed results, and really isn't enough to keep up with the growth in volume that we're seeing on the shipping side,” said Mike Lenz, Senior Manager at Instawork, in a recent webinar for the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA).

Working with recruiting agencies, meanwhile, comes with its own challenges — namely, a lack of quality candidates and the inability to scale up or down according to demand.

But there is a better alternative: flexible staffing. Read on for an overview of how flexible staffing can aid in lean operation, and watch the full video for more insights.


[1:51] Why recruiting warehouse workers is becoming increasingly difficult

[6:20] How flexible staffing fills the gaps of traditional staffing models

[9:23] Who flexible workers are, and how they differ from other employees

[17:26] What Instawork does to ensure worker quality 

[19:30] How a roster of flexible workers can help you scale to meet demand

[21:22] How Instawork helped clients like Sun Basket execute their staffing strategy

A new labor pool helps you fill more roles, faster

If you’re starting to feel like traditional methods of recruiting aren’t panning out like they used to, it’s not just you.

“The way that workers today are trying to find work is much different than they used to,” said Aaron Eichenbaum, Director of Partnerships at Instawork.

Rather than attending career fairs, dropping into brick-and-mortar staffing agencies, and responding to newspaper ads, people are going on their phones and online to find work. And increasingly, they’re not looking for traditional full- or part-time jobs. A 2019 report from the Freelancers Union and Upwork found that 57 million Americans, or 35% of the workforce, participated in the gig economy. Here on Instawork, we see more than 60,000 workers download our app each month, driven by the desire for convenience and autonomy.

And the demographics of Instawork Professionals might surprise you:

  • They’re experienced: Thanks to the fact that you need prior experience and referrals to be approved on the platform, most Pros have a solid work background 
  • They value financial stability: Half of Instawork Pros want full-time work, while the other half want to supplement their existing income. On top of that, the majority of them are caregivers.
  • They’re driven: Nearly half of Pros have a trade school/college degree, and more than half want to develop new skills

“One of the comments that I hear most often is ‘I feel like in my area, we're all pulling from the same pond.' But people fishing for [flexible] work online is actually a different pond.”

- Aaron Eichenbaum, Director of Partnerships at Instawork

With a wealth of Pros on our platform, 90% of shifts posted to Instawork are filled on average — and clients like Mike Wargocki, VP of Manufacturing at meal kit company Sun Basket, have praised “the consistency of [Instawork] fill rates.”

Related: [Case Study] Sun Basket leans on Instawork to flex reliably

Agility improves cost efficiency

Many warehouse and logistics companies turn to staffing agencies to help them fulfill their forecasted headcount. But committing to a fixed number of employees leaves you vulnerable to unseen shifts in demand. Unexpected upticks in business can leave you short-staffed, resulting in an inability to meet quotas and revenue targets.

Delayed shipments and supply chain issues, meanwhile, can slow you down to the point where you don’t need as many workers as you thought. As a result, you may end up paying for more employees than you really need.

“When you're already tasked with working with very small margins, that's wasted spend,” Lenz said.

Flexible staffing, on the other hand, allows you to adjust your headcount according to your actual needs. You can schedule both one-off and recurring shifts, adding additional ones when business surges and cutting back when it lags — as long as you cancel a shift more than 24 hours in advance, you won’t be charged for it. There’s even a temp-to-hire option if you find a worker that would be a great long-term fit for you, , which many operators are now seeing as a recruiting tool in today’s tight hiring market.

Motivated workers + high repeat rate = higher productivity

Anyone who’s worked with enough staffing agencies can attest that the quality of the candidates they provide can be up and down. Often, they’re so concerned with hitting their target headcount that they give the green light to folks who aren’t cut out for the job.

But with Instawork’s flexible staffing solution, quality is prioritized from the very beginning. Our team personally vets anyone who creates a profile, so that only those with verified work experience and references can sign up for shifts. Our feedback system — where employers who have worked with a Pro rate them on a scale of 1-5 — also “creates a market effect” that incentivizes Pros to do their best, Eichenbaum explained.

For one, Pros understand that they'll need to maintain a high rating to get booked. But in addition, their performance actually determines how many shifts they can access. Any time you rate a Pro highly, for example, they’ll be added to your roster. It’s a win-win situation: you get to build up a pool of top-notch workers to call on when demand spikes, and Pros get first dibs on your future shifts.

It's no coincidence, then, that Instawork Pros maintain an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 — and their no-show rate is less than 3%.

We also know that the more information a worker has, the better they can do their job — so we give you the ability to:

  • Share in-app instructions and details on what Pros should wear, bring, and expect on the job
  • Appoint shift leads, high-performing Instawork Pros who both work on the front line and coordinate logistics to ensure everything runs smoothly

By providing you with quality workers, Instawork not only saves you time vetting and hiring, but also helps your team reach its peak potential.

The bottom line

Adopting a flexible staffing strategy does take an upfront investment of time to build out your roster — but before long, the results are usually clear. One client even found that tapping into a flexible labor pool allowed them to take on more business and get more product out the door.

“Without Instawork, our warehouse staffing strategy would have been impossible,” their COO said.

Want to learn more about how Instawork can help your company operate leaner? Watch the full webinar video, or fill out the demo request form below.