[Takeaways] How Port Logistics Group uses onboarding to improve warehouse retention

Jessica Carrera, HR Director and Michael Venditti, Vice President of Operations at Port Logistics Group (PLG), share onboarding best practices implemented at the nation’s leading gateway logistics services.

When Michael joined PLG about three years ago, he noticed a lack of consistency in operations as new hires joined their various locations. Jessica, who was with the organization about the same time, echoed the same opinion, about the several challenges they faced, especially as 50% of their staff consists of temp labor at any given time.

Realizing that onboarding can be an area of opportunity allowed them to get creative with their processes. And since then, they embarked on the journey of enhancing employee experiences at Port Logistics, a top omnichannel fulfillment partner.

Below are the main takeaways from the session.

Onboarding starts even before employees scan their fingerprints

Setting the right first impression matters most, according to Vendetti.

  • Creating a real value proposition. What the panelists believe is that every organization is currently fighting for the same labor. In particular, the peak season, September through December, demands an increased number of employees to come on board, which can be a challenge. That’s when it is crucial to create real value for the staff - what are you offering above and beyond what new recruits can get from other companies?
  • Bifurcating the onboarding procedure. For Jessica, onboarding an employee is a process that starts even before they start their first day at work. This pre-onboarding segment makes the new staff feel valued, appreciated, and excited to be joining the organization in a matter of days. A five-minute personalized video by the CEO welcoming the new hire gives them a vibe of the culture they can expect to see around the premises.

➔   Tip: Learn about their preferred mode of communication. At PLG, they like to keep things uncomplicated, and hence, do not tie it to their HR system. A simple YouTube video link shared to the applicant via an email or a text message, which they can open and view on their mobile device anywhere, usually does the trick.

  • Imparting practical knowledge. Often, when a person makes a decision, it depends on various factors and inputs, say, from their spouse or dependents. In such cases, it helps if they can have an in-depth tutorial about the work, benefits, and other practical matters they consider and know more during the orientation.

Have a fluid program for the joining day

The PLG team likes to call it the Launch Day, where new employees learn about policies, procedures, 401k, payroll, safety practices at the local level, and more. Here’s what Jessica thinks is important to include during the three-four-hour session:

  • Dedicated HR person. After the intros, a dedicated HR member will be assigned to each new hire who will be accountable for their learning throughout a particular employee’s lifecycle. The main focus should be on helping them understand what your company stands for, the core values, etc.
  • Constant across all buildings. Whether you are locally based or spread around the nation, make this procedure the same in all locations. It will get easier to measure the outcomes but leave room to modify the program through continuous improvement per different touchpoints.
  • Gamify training. At the end of the day, check for learning effectiveness in fun ways in the form of a game or opening up the floor for the audience’s questions. Keep the program relevant according to the updated policies and make the onboarding experience interactive.

Onboarding is a partnership between all stakeholders

While in earlier days, HR was responsible for taking in new hires, getting them settled, and training them in roles and responsibilities, the modern-day workforce needs a more inter-departmental collaboration. Mike and Jessica together emphasize the necessity for:

  • Leveraging technology. Using an electronic self-service model can save time and money for your organization. When the new hires get their paperwork done electronically, it shortens the first-day HR process, and they can directly get started with their trainer. Particularly in the pandemic time, where everyone is working remotely in different time zones, technology streamlines schedules.
  • Having HR interactions on the floor. Historically, operations pawned off any interpersonal issues among team members onto HR; but now, the focus must be mainly on managing the whole team by working closely with them.

➔   Tip: Get a more proactive approach rather than reacting to what’s happening and strengthen relationships. HR can get a better understanding of the teammates’ skill sets, where they are on the learning curve, and how they are adapting for a few years ahead.

  • Advocating one size doesn’t fit all. Finally, it is about what works for your organization and your specific goals. Ask yourself: Is this approach consistent? Are all the employees getting the same experiences irrespective of when they are hired? What part of the program resonated with them? Would they like to continue to grow with you?

➔   Tip: Using the aforementioned differentiators like valuing employee feedback, go for a focus group kind of setting by learning what clicks as soon as the employee sets their foot in, rather than a rearview mirror approach during an exit interview. You benefit from improved productivity, employee retention, and ROIs.

  • Enabling Cross-functional participation. Include everyone from temp labor to local agency representatives to trainers in the onboarding process. At the local level, the onsite agency office is instrumental in handling the pre-onboarding process. Conducting once-a-month collaborative sessions with the coaches gives you a sense of how your resources are working, whether you need to improve your welcome checklist, etc. Also, an ideal trainer or coach is someone that can relate and provide constructive feedback via efficient communication.

Invest in mentorship for employees to carve their career path

Mike and Jessica stress the role of the organization in training an associate for longevity.

  • Ease the transition. Within a certain duration of onboarding, it is imperative to build different touch points for someone that meets the required criteria. Assessing an employee’s core competencies can map out whether they have the potential to progress into full-time employment.
➔   Tip: Within a certain duration of onboarding, it is imperative to build different touch points for someone that meets the required criteria. Whether they exhibit leadership skills or lean towards the technical side of things, you can connect them to corresponding subject matter experts.
  • Equip the future leaders with a skill upgrade. A foundation course or learning tool can give the temp staff a chance to upskill and get a foothold in the industry. Supervisors and operational managers must take charge of paving the way for associates that are looking for guidance. Tools like Udemy or LinkedIn Learning have helpful resources that you can access on a PC or mobile.

Provide incentives that align with the company's core values

Simplifying the mission statements that employees can identify with is one way to ensure retention. Jessica opines that their use of everyday words like trust, loyalty, and respect convey authenticity. Most companies present an employee of the month award; likewise, incorporating another one for respect, dedication, stewardship, etc., in their annual meets ensures that the core values resonate with your employees.

Watch firsthand

The views shared by the panelists in the session stress cross-functional collaboration and that onboarding is an ongoing process. Retention is crucial for any organization, and it is a vested partnership with new hires to improve their skill sets.

If you want to hear the in-depth roundtable, you can watch the recap here.


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