Although every industry has slowed or halted operations because of a shortage of workers these last two years, the supply chain has been one of the hardest hit. First, workers were out sick with the virus. Then workers quit during the Great Resignation. The effect of both of these events was staggering. In September 2021, 4.4 million people quit their jobs, and among them, 11% were in logistics.1
Even as the pandemic eases, the shortage of workers in manufacturing and transportation isn’t likely to end soon. Manufacturers say they’ll have 2 million open manufacturing jobs in 2030.2 Additionally, the American Trucking Associations anticipates that the current shortage of 80,000 truck drivers will double by 2030 as older workers retire.3
The labor shortage is exacerbated by increased consumer spending. More consumer spending would normally be a good thing for businesses, but now, it puts additional strain on supply chains, leading to out-of-stock products, shipping delays, higher prices and consumer frustration. With the vast ripple effects of a lack of workers, businesses must find a way to build and sustain a workforce to support their supply chain needs.
Additional challenges of hiring for supply chain positions
Labor shortages can’t be solved by simply hiring more employees. Companies are struggling to hire, even as they add benefits to attract candidates. And while hiring is challenging for all industries, it’s especially difficult for supply chain positions such as machine operators, transportation and warehouse management.4 These front-line positions compete for a pool of candidates who can work in various jobs and may not know or appreciate the career opportunities in this industry.5
While companies are working to retool their hiring and retention, it takes time for those strategies to take effect. And companies needed workers yesterday.
Using flexible workers to fill supply chain positions — short and long term
Rather than focusing only on obtaining new hires, companies should augment their workforce with flexible workers. Companies have traditionally used flexible workers to fill urgent but temporary needs. “The labor economy is changing rapidly and for businesses to stay ahead, it’s critical for them to embrace both technological advancements and the new way of working,” said Lori Macias, chief revenue officer at Wonolo, an innovative online staffing platform.
“Investing in flexible work in the short term can help alleviate some of the supply chain bottlenecks that result from labor shortages,” Macias added. “Gig workers can also help to fill gaps related to variable needs, such as adding short-term workers for the holiday season or during periods of scaling, which enables efficiency across the supply chain and prevents delays in finding the labor to keep up with business demand.”
Long term, having gig employees at the ready means companies can flex labor as needed. If a manufacturing plant needs to temporarily run a new product line, it can rely on gig workers instead of hiring employees for a short period. When companies feel confident they will have labor when needed, they can take on growth opportunities.
Having workers get the jobs done is critical, but getting them on board quickly in the first place is also essential. But finding and bringing on workers can take time that busy companies don’t have to spare.
“Hiring workers through traditional means can take months, and hiring workers through a traditional staffing agency can take days or weeks,” Macias explained. “An on-demand marketplace like Wonolo cuts those lead times down to the same day or just minutes. This promotes cost and time efficiency.”
The growing pool of flexible workers
The gig economy provides welcome news for companies that have struggled for the last two years to fill positions. And as more people look for flexible and fulfilling job opportunities, the pool of gig workers is growing. According to Staffing Industry Analysts, 52 million people took on gig opportunities in the U.S. in 2020.6 “This number has steadily climbed during the past two years, with no signs of stopping,” Macias said.
In the supply chain industry, gig workers fill various jobs, including manufacturing, warehousing, transportation and administration. Numerous companies, including AVID Logistics, Smart Warehousing, ARMADA, Visible Supply Chain Management and PTS Logistic Group, have partnered with Wonolo to fill delivery, inventory management, packaging and other operational positions.
As supply chain companies struggle to fill jobs and be dynamic and adaptable, the growing pool of gig workers offers a flexible solution to helping businesses run smoothly.