Allow us a change of perspective? Instead of examining how new technologies are rapidly transforming the warehouse and logistical industry, let’s explore the attitudes and mindset of workers when their company adopts those technologies. Or rather: how that attitude is changing and how these changes affect labor availability and costs. 

An inconvenient myth

Stories of exceptional cases and conflict tend to get more traction. They ‘stick’ more easily and all too often grow into a generally, but unjustly accepted truth. The aversion reflex of workers towards new technologies adopted by their company, is a perfect example. 

Undoubtedly there has been substance in the claim that “automation is stealing jobs” … in the ‘80s … in some industries … in some regions. But today studies paint a completely different picture. 

They show both employers and workers convinced that automation may help keep more people in their jobs and fill empty ones. 

“80% of warehouse workers expressed that having to walk fewer miles makes their job more pleasant, even if it meant they had to handle more items.” 

Furthermore: many warehouse employees believe that working alongside an automated mobile robot reduces stress on the job. According to 73%  it reduces errors and more compellingly: 65% find it enables them advancement to new opportunities. 

Also: globally about 8 out of 10 said to prefer an employer that gives them modern devices over one that provides no or older equipment. For Europe that number climbs to about 9 out of 10. 

So much for that ‘aversion to new technologies on the job’-reflex, but there’s more to this story.

Worker retention through new technologies

Automation, whether used to streamline and aid productivity of taking high-risk tasks out of human hands, is just one aspect of new technologies transforming the workplace in warehousing and logistics. 

There is also a growing number of new-tech applications in worker safety. An array of technologies aimed at keeping employees from harm. Think of new, more efficient training methods for hazardous jobs and support for lone workers. Or consider potentially lifesaving innovations in evacuation management and collision avoidance. 

When correctly implemented and communicated, these technologies have proven to reinforce worker retention. Even when not accompanied by increased remuneration! A clear point of interest for those companies having a hard time to keep up with competitive wages in a market challenged by shortages of (skilled) labor. 

Some results even show that globally more than 90% of warehouse associates on some level agree that technological innovations will increase the appeal of the warehouse environment to workers. Even in these times of surging demands, strained supply chains and rising pressure to meet ever tighter deadlines. 

What’s good for the planet …

And last but ever more relevant: there’s those new technologies a warehousing or logistical company deploys to mitigate or even neutralize its impact on the environment

Environmental awareness is becoming a consideration for those workers that have a choice of employers. Companies or sites with a bad environmental reputation will struggle with recruitment

For worker retention of a company’s sustainability efforts are still rather limited. Still, a better safety culture, combined with greener policies, are predicted to increasingly weigh in on workers’ decisions to stay or change employers. 

This adds yet another compelling incentive to invest in technologies that reduce scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Or that address any or other kinds of pollution, and in some way contribute to a more sustainable, greener, circular economy.

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