Unfortunately, warehouses is often given low priority when it comes to corporate allocation of HR resources. It often happens that I encounter warehouse operations without proper HR function. For some reason companies put all the resources to white collars.
According to me and the experience I have, it is a big mistake. If you want an efficient warehouse it requires active leadership with many quick directives and orders in a day and a lot of feedback exchanged between managers and workers. The staff works tight together and much work is based on co-operation. Often a operation is dependent on someone else doing good preparatory work (goods receiving or packing etc), this means it easily can be friction in interpersonal relations.
As you can imagine, it’s a dynamic environment with a lot of interaction between individuals. Even the best leader needs support in such an environment by someone more neutral role that can have an objective view of the warehouse including leadership and workforce. This is where the HR department comes into the picture. HR department should not only have an expertise regarding legal aspects of the staff, but also good support in the leadership. HR department is hugely important when to develop a set of values in the company and warehouse operations and when communicate important policies to the staff. HR department sets the moral level of the business, you as the leader see that this level is maintained and is a role model for staff. HR department should continuously provide leaders with feedback so that they are able to develop and customize their leadership depending on situation or what the needs is.
In a Warehouse environment that is so dynamic and changing, it is easy that there will be conflicts between staff and between staff and managers. It is hugely important that conflicts is resolved quickly and not only silenced. Conflicts not resolved is a poison that destroys morale, loyalty and efficiency, often the conflicts grow under the surface, and a little thing can become huge in the long run. An HR department is often considered by the staff to have a more neutral role in the company therefore much feedback regarding the leadership and staff is communicated to HR from blue collars. This is valuable information for the leaders to respond quickly and deal with problems before they become too large. Conflicts is a natural part of life and cannot be avoided completely, it would be abnormal if there not were conflicts in the workplace. The key is that you dare to handle them quick and to sort out the conflicts.
An important part of the HR department is to coach leaders, it is important as a leader to have a person who you can discuss the difficulties in your interpersonal relations with the staff. Interpersonal relationships are difficult, there is no easy instruction manual that can be used, but decisions must often be taken with the aid of instinct, experience and social skills. My advice is to utilize the skills of HR. Are you as leader unsure of how to act in a given situation discuss it first with HR and let them coach you.
On a warehouse where the pace of work mainly is controlled by the leadership, it is enormously important to have good communication with your staff. In order to have both a good efficiency and quality it is required that you have a loyal and responsible workforce. It is very difficult as a leader alone succeed in such a process. HR department is invaluable as a source of support and excellence in communication and interpersonal relations.
HR is a major support in change management. In case of big changes, it is easy to lose both efficiency and quality. The reason for this is that we humans are not so changeable and often feel a lot of worry when there are big changes, we want our routines as it always has been. The best way to prevent or minimize the impact on efficiency and quality is communication, dialogue and participation. It takes a lot of resources and requires skills and my experience is that HR is an invaluable resource in this work.
Do you want to have an efficient and well-functioning warehouse? Utilize the resources of the HR department. If you do not have HR support then it is time to discuss this with your senior management.