How to effectively onboard temporary warehouse staff

In wake of the pandemic-driven eCommerce surge, the need for staff at many warehouses has hit an all-time high. For warehouse owners and operators, quickly growing headcount and getting their teams up to speed is essential to meeting customer demand. 

Leaning on temporary staff may seem like an overwhelming option, as they’ll need to learn operating procedures, safety protocols, and your workplace culture. But once you create a clear, scaleable onboarding process, you’ll likely find that onboarding temporary workers isn’t as challenging as you’d think — and the boost in productivity from extra hands is well worth it.

We’ve rounded up tips to create an effective onboarding experience that will make temporary warehouse workers feel welcomed, valued, and equipped to do their new job safely. Even if you’re in the middle of a busy period, these tips will help workers get ramped up quickly, add value to your team, and come back whenever you need them.

Tips for onboarding temporary warehouse employees

1. Get your process organized

Waiting until you bring in a new hire to start the onboarding process prevents them from being able to fully contribute right away. Specific documents, like Form I-9, employee handbooks, and forms for information and emergency contacts that need to be filled out when new hires start can easily be done ahead of time. Additional documents like safety information and company policies should be shared with any worker who comes on board, whether they’re full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary.

Work with your HR department to create a library of these documents that can be printed or shared digitally in advance. Internally, it may help to create a checklist and a timeline to show what documents or information should be sent out, and when. You will also want to ensure that new hires understand what needs to be reviewed and/or signed off on before they begin their first shift or enter the warehouse floor.

Luckily, this can all be coordinated through Instawork. Not only can you add all of these onboarding documents to the shift information, but Instawork also removes the administrative burden of bringing on temporary employees. This includes everything from background verification to payroll, saving our Partners valuable time. And getting the administrative work out of the way before temporary staff come in for their shift means they can get to work right away.

2. Leverage technology

Digital training through videos, articles, and recorded webinars not only simplifies the entire process, but can save you time and money. By having your potential temporary staff start their training before they even step foot in your facility, you can help them jump in seamlessly (or at least as seamlessly as a new hire can!).

Many people prefer watching a video over reading — one study found that 83% of people prefer watching an instructional video than reading instructional text. This can be especially helpful for those who don’t speak English as their first language, or those with limited formal education. These training videos don’t need to be complex or heavily edited — an experienced professional explaining the training in a video shot with a cell phone and uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo works just fine. 

Remember to keep things short and don’t use too many internal terms (or explain them if necessary). You can review safety information, demonstrate appropriate attire on the warehouse floor, walk through how to complete a specific task, or even create a virtual tour of the facility or workstations.

When you share this information with incoming temp staff, it’s best to reach out through their preferred channels. Instead of email, for example, you may want to try text messages so workers can simply click and watch on their mobile device, wherever they might be.

Another good option for Partners who book Professionals (Pros) through Instawork is to include detailed shift instructions that employees can view right within the app.

Instawork also offers various training modules that Pros can complete, from picking and packing to how to use a pallet jack, so they’re eligible for more shifts. Partners can search for Pros who have already completed specific trainings and are ready to work, or mention in their shift instructions that anyone signing up for a shift needs to complete the training prior.

If your workers don’t all speak or read English, you can use technology to translate materials into the languages your staff understand. Google, Bing, and Transdict all have easy-to-use apps for translating documents or conversations — just remember to have a native speaker review for accuracy. If you prefer a more human touch, consider hiring a freelance translator from sites like Upwork or Fiverr from the start.

3. Gamify the experience

As new temporary workers complete the onboarding process, try checking their comprehension in fun ways. Asking them to compete in a game or pop quiz, followed by an incentive — like coffee or lunch on their first shift — is a good place to start. Additional compensation is also a great idea if there’s a lot to learn or training is highly technical. The more that every temporary worker you bring in understands your facility’s processes and practices, the easier and quicker it will be for them to add value to the team.

While gamification can be helpful in the onboarding process, be careful about using it on the warehouse floor. If an employee is moving too fast, slips and falls, or ignores safety protocols to complete their work fastesr, it can create a dangerous or costly situation. In California, for example, new legislation protects workers from aggressive quotas and dangerous work conditions.

Placing too much value on speed can also lead to a decrease in accuracy. If you are incentivizing any behaviors, make sure they lead to improved safety and accuracy.

4. Use mentorship to reinforce training

If you have a lot of material for workers to cover, partnering them with a mentor or longtime employee can help exemplify what good work looks like and give them someone to ask when they need help. 

Maurice Gant, the warehouse manager at My Supplement Store, takes this concept a step further.

“Most new associates are nervous about starting a new job, especially during the busy season. While I am the manager, I work right in the warehouse next to the new associates for as long as it takes them to learn. I make sure to never leave them alone in the beginning before they are ready,” he said. “Over the past couple of years, I have seen that if I can make them comfortable with the work and with the atmosphere, they turn into some of the best temporary staff I could ask for.”

5. Ask for feedback

When designing your onboarding program, leave room to iterate and improve on what you’ve created. Phil Strazzulla, founder & CEO of HR software company Select Software Reviews, reminds leaders to “check-in with your new hires periodically and ask how the onboarding process prepared them for working the floor.” This vital information will help you to fill in the gaps in your process so the next wave of workers will have an even smoother transition, he said.

You can also reach out to more than just your workers on the floor — a good staffing partner will be happy to meet with you. You may want to discuss training resources they can pass along to workers before their first day onsite, for example, or troubleshoot any hurdles you might have encountered.

It may seem daunting to train new temp workers, but the truth is, once you’ve refined and standardized your process, you can seamlessly roll it out to anyone who comes in.

Whether you need to cover for an in-house worker on sick leave, or hiring challenges left you with multiple shifts to fill, you can turn to Instawork’s flexible staffing solution. Our network of qualified professionals, often with various training credentials, are here to hit the ground running and help your business operate at peak productivity.