Money talks: Warehouse Work Vs the NHS and care sector

Recent figures have shown that job vacancies have risen to their highest level in 20 years. During August, 1.1 million job vacancies were unfilled in the UK. Alongside this, we have specifically seen labour shortages across the logistics and supply chain sectors steal headlines.

Aside from the HGV driver shortage, the NHS and care industry is up against it – and has, in many respects, felt the pinch the whole way through the Covid-19 pandemic. With the NHS and care industry under pressure, many nurses are increasingly giving up their jobs to work for Amazon as warehouse workers.

As Kathryn Singh, chief executive of Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) puts it, the service is, “Competing against the likes of Amazon and others.”

Yet, what do these trends, changes and challenges taking place highlight to us all? The problems that industry is facing go deeper than one might think. More importantly, they are global. Axel Schmidt, Senior Communications Manager, ProGlove explains.

The old adage: Money talks

Let’s face it: are these labour problems really a surprise though? As the Guardian also reports, more and more caregivers in the United Kingdom are quitting their jobs. The reason seems obvious: Amazon is luring them with significantly better pay. There is talk of up to 30 percent more in the pay packet. What is more, Amazon is offering potential new hires a £3000 joining bonus to help it avoid labour shortages ahead of Christmas. Who can say no to that? However, this approach only partially addresses the core problem for Amazon and the supply chain sector.

When reading the Guardian’s article, it is easy to read between the lines about the consequence of one sector poaching employees from another through using a creative, financially incentivised recruitment strategy. But, surely this cannot be the whole story? After all, despite the lucrative signing-on fee that is currently dangled in front of potential employees, Amazon has traditionally been seen among the public for offering undesirable fulfilment-related jobs. Are we now, all, really, to believe that the e-commerce giant is suddenly a dream employer for the masses? Surely, there has got to be more to this story?

That being said, it is worth noting that many workers across several sectors feared for their jobs during the initial phase of the pandemic too. This is true of the hospitality and events industries. Many employees here were made painfully aware: no business, no job. So, Amazon’s offer of employment to these employees seems to make more sense in comparison with nursing and healthcare. So, why are so many in the care sector quitting their jobs?

There is a lack of genuine appreciation

While the pandemic is not yet over, the tables have turned. That is, if you ignore the spectre of inflation for just a moment. The global and local economy is recovering. Notwithstanding this, the labour shortage in supply chain continues – and, globally, there is an ongoing requirement for skilled workers too as the world becomes more digitally focused. In the UK, Brexit aggravates labour shortage issues even further. Under its current terms many foreign workers have to leave the country. The consequence of this particular problem has played itself out with the recent stories in the media outlining the shortage of HGV drivers. However, this fundamental problem is not limited solely to the UK. It is a global dilemma likely to become acute in the future. And, if it is to be solved, the underlying causes must be addressed.

Essentially, employees need one thing above all: appreciation. This appreciation must go beyond platidunal warm words. Consider that, conceptually, appreciation is intrinsically linked to value. To put it directly: Wages must initially be appropriate. Long term, though, appreciation goes beyond this. Recognition and the work environment play key roles too.

This is an area that employers can directly control. They can recognise and praise their staff effectively and provide safe and productive working environments for people to work in. This includes all the tools and technology they need to execute their jobs productively and successfully. Unfortunately, though, within many workplaces technology – automation in particular – has been perceived as a threat. Automation has traditionally developed a reputation as being the enemy of assembly line workers in manufacturing; and even in nursing, artificial intelligence and robots are supposed to, reportedly, take over some human tasks. However, many of these debates lack a solid foundation and are simply harmful.

They fail to recognise that technology should not become part of the problem. Technology usage makes most sense when it enables people, relieves them and provides additional freedom to focus on other tasks. Attempting to replace people is not only counterproductive. This idea is completely utopian. Industry simply won’t work without people driving it forward.

The right equipment in the workplace is key

Therefore, employers need to consider their work environments. What technology and tools can they provide staff with to ergonomically drive productivity forward successfully? Within manufacturing, production, warehouse and logistics scenarios (especially e-commerce today) this question is important. What processes and technologies can be deployed to make employees’ lives’ safer and easier, while driving noticeable efficiency and productivity gains?

Within production and supply chain scenarios, the use of industrial wearables, particularly from ProGlove, is allowing this to take place. Its wearable, glove barcode scanners make picking and packing processes more efficient within warehouse and logistics environments.

Glove scanners are more ergonomic and using them means that staff do not have to put their scanners down when moving goods around while executing their tasks on the shop floor.

This kind of process and tool improvement might seem insignificant at first. But, enabling this sort of productivity gain to take place via a wearable glove scanner allows the powerful marginal gains required by e-commerce giants to be achieved. Further, depending on the fulfilment centre, it can enable workers to reduce travel time on the shop floor between tasks. Meaning they execute tasks swiftly and accurately, increasing the quality of their outputs.

While this kind of technology certainly provides employees with a tool that allows them to do their jobs effectively, something else is important. They need perspective. Aside from appreciation, today they don’t want to feel replaceable. They want to know that they can develop further [1] in their roles. So addressing these concerns and needs is important too.

Conclusion

In a world dominated by science and technological advancements, it is easy to forget that the supply chains of the global economy demands and depends on human employees. Through the pandemic – especially during e-commerce – we have all been reminded of this fact. So, as the NHS and care sector, and the supply chain and logistics sector all grapple for employees, one thing is for certain: Appreciating employees properly in the short- and long-term is key. And, maybe Amazon is doing better in that regard that many may think.

This means providing staff with the right levels of remuneration, the right tools and technology to work – and to support them with their career development. Organisations willing to address these points stand a stronger chance of attracting and retaining staff. Which is crucial in the run up to winter for the NHS and Christmas for the wider supply chain industry.

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