Effectively Training Employees for the Holiday Season

Mike DeFabis
Outside of the IDS Fulfillment Center

As we get closer to black Friday and cyber Monday, most of the big items should already be checked off your planning list (See holiday planning).  One of the biggest last minute holiday planning items is training employees.  As order volumes begin to increase, the need to bring in additional staffing is going to be key. In order to ensure that you are getting the most out of you staff you need to start training and planning now.

Cross Training: One of the most important and beneficial tools to have this holiday season is employees who have been cross-trained.  Different areas in the fulfillment center such as receiving, replenishment, picking, packing, shipping, etc. are going to be busy at different times. Effectively cross-training your employees will allow you to flex those employees to different areas during busier times. 

A good tip to ensure that employees are cross trained in different areas is to create a cross-training check list.  Make this check list with each employee’s name and the different job functions that they can be cross-trained in visible.  When someone achieves cross-training in all areas then make sure to give recognition.

Systems Training: Being able to maximize your 3PL WMS’ capabilities during peak times can provide huge efficiency gains.  Make sure that are all employees are trained on your WMS and how to utilize it for different job functions.  If a new employee is brought in to help with replenishment, but does not know how to properly move product on with the WMS this can create additional problems downstream that can hurt productivity.

To help make systems training more efficient, have someone from IT implement it in a group setting.  After you have shown the employees how to do the functions within the system, break off into one on one and perform the functions in a test environment in the system.

Flex Labor: During peak season having the ability to bring in temporary staff can be a huge advantage.  Whether the temp staff is a friend/family member or is hired from an outside temp agency, these individuals are going to need to perform simple job functions.  Having certain job functions that take little to no training can be key for these temp employees to be productive from the start.

Generally these job functions are picking where any errors will be caught at auditing prior to the product leaving.  These job functions could also be packaging (assuming no decisions need to be made during pack out) or manifesting (assuming shipping method and label generation is automated).

Don’t Rush: When times get busy, it is our first instinct to move faster or do things differently because we feel that it is more efficient.  This can cause more problems than it solves.  Train employees to do their task and if there are Engineered Labor Standards (ELS) for that job function let them know how quickly they should be doing it. Faster is not always necessarily better.

This holiday season is going to be unlike any previous in the fulfillment world.  We have seen growth every year, but thisone is going to be bigger and better.  Make sure you are doing the little things to ensure a successful, productive and error free holiday.

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