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Developing a Workforce Strategy in E-Commerce

Dec 22, 2023

Despite global uncertainty, the e-commerce industry has shown more than just resilience, but also the potential for immense growth. The development of this fast-growing industry is good news for professionals and businesses operating in this sector (i.e., not just online retailers but also employers and workers across manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics) but it’s been coupled with a unique set of workforce obstacles.

Overcoming Digital Challenges With a Workforce Strategy

A workforce strategy helps organizations achieve their unique business goals by evaluating current employees and forecasting staffing needs both now and in the long-term future. This is often the foundation of how companies develop and train their workforce to reach strategic objectives. From here, teams can take on strategic workforce planning to ensure they have the right talent with the right skills whenever they need them.

The rise of e-commerce and major challenges driving the need for workforce strategies

E-commerce is growing — and quickly. Forbes reports that the global e-commerce market is expected to reach as high as $6.3 trillion in 2023 and is projected to total over $8.1 trillion by 2026. This substantial development is a result of:

  • More and more business being conducted online today
  • The opportunity to provide customers with more personalized experiences
  • Increased access to mobile devices
  • The desire for greater convenience

This massive expansion has been accompanied by industry issues that are motivating teams to re-evaluate their workforce strategies and management. Here’s a closer look at some of the major challenges in e-commerce that organizational workforce planning is aimed at soothing:

  1. Consumer expectations in the sector have hit an all-time high, with customers anticipating faster delivery times, simpler return processes, and seamless, customized experiences.
  2. Organizations are facing security and compliance obstacles as they work to safeguard massive amounts of sensitive data online and comply with industry regulations — all while protecting the business against malicious cyber threats.
  3. Professionals across e-commerce, from online retailers to warehousing and logistics, are navigating unpredictable markets and fluctuating demand, making it difficult to swiftly keep pace with labor demands as they change.
  4. The surge in e-commerce sales is having a marked impact on warehousing, logistics, and fulfillment operations and a tight labor market is a barrier to meeting this demand. Skilled labor shortages can be particularly difficult to manage considering e-commerce fulfillment operations generally require two to three times more labor than traditional warehouse operations, per Saddle Creek Logistics Services.
  5. E-commerce supply chain disruptions have persisted, with CNBC reporting that six in ten supply chain managers say their logistics aren’t acting as normal. This volatility is a result of economic disruption, inflation, labor shortages, and rising customer expectations.

What Value Does Workforce Planning Offer to E-Commerce Businesses

Implementing a workforce strategy brings business leaders and HR managers one step closer to building a skilled and motivated workforce that’s aligned with the organization’s goals and values. Investing in a stronger workforce plan benefits customers and key stakeholders within the sector in the following ways:

  • Reduces human capital costs: In e-commerce, human capital costs are much higher than organizational capital expenses — as is the case with most industries. A plan of action for your future labor needs results in more efficient recruitment, professional development, and retention practices that optimize performance and productivity.
  • Boosts agility in the face of change: A workforce strategy helps teams in the e-commerce sector build a flexible and adaptable workforce that’s better equipped to stay agile amidst changes in business needs and the market.
  • Minimizes non-compliance risks: Planning for your labor needs can help mitigate non-compliance by identifying the necessary training that’s needed to ensure you and your employees are knowledgeable and capable of complying with relevant regulations and standards.
  • Improves customer satisfaction: With a plan in place to guarantee you have the right amount of qualified workers to sustain your business, your workforce is better prepared to provide high-quality customer service and support despite fluctuating demand.
  • Keeps your business competitive: Gain competitive advantage from new talent scenarios by identifying skills gaps to address and capabilities needed to meet the evolving needs of the market.

Tips For Creating an Effective Workforce Strategy in E-Commerce

Establishing a comprehensive workforce strategy requires you to thoughtfully consider your prospective demand for talent and what you need to do to support those future needs. Not sure how to get started? Here are the five essential steps for creating a strategic workforce plan:

  1. Establish your organization’s long-term business goals.
  2. Review your current employees and talent management systems.
  3. Use your assessment to identify potential skills gaps that can guide your workforce strategies.
  4. Prepare for different scenarios and consider workforce solutions that support resiliency and agility in the face of variable demand and labor needs.
  5. Implement and continuously monitor your chosen strategies and solutions — making adjustments to the action plan as needed.

With this guide in mind, consider the following tips for employers and HR professionals tackling workforce planning in e-commerce:

  • Prioritize skilled labor: A skilled workforce is a linchpin in meeting the expanding and ever-evolving needs that drive e-commerce and the logistics that support it. Focusing efforts on finding employees with the right skills and experience can support projected talent needs
  • Enhance development and training: According to SHRM, 49% of employees want to develop their skills but don’t know where to begin and 29% don’t feel optimistic about the opportunities for training and upskilling that are available to them. While searching for top e-commerce talent is always beneficial, leveling up your development and training opportunities can effectively upskill your current workforce — helping you bridge skill gaps and meet future talent needs.
  • Leverage contingent workers: Bringing all of your collaborators in-house can be complicated, time-consuming, and costly. Expanding e-commerce organizations can consider utilizing a contingent workforce to more quickly and adequately react to the ever-evolving landscape. This includes sourcing talent from a vast network of specialist professionals such as temporary workers, seasonal staff, freelancers, and consultants.

Anticipated Workforce Trends and Solutions for Support

As you get started on your workforce planning, here are a few projected trends to take into account:

  • The rapid expansion of e-commerce is set to continue: Accelerated growth could put a further strain on a tight labor market and warehousing and logistics as the sector works to keep pace with demand.
  • The Great Resignation is anticipated to slow but organizations need to stay prepared: Organizations are still reeling from the Great Resignation, which saw an average of four million Americans quit their jobs each month in 2022, according to Zippia. Despite a slight rebound in the labor market, teams are now well aware of how quickly things can change — emphasizing the need to develop workforce strategies and backup plans.
  • Expectations are set to rise in shipping and delivery: Consumers will continue to expect the best from their e-commerce experiences, particularly within shipping and delivery. Growing demands are forecasted to include more precision (e.g., the ability to track a package in real-time), impeccable quality, and increasingly tailored services.

Keep in mind that developing a workforce strategy is only the first step. You need a strong team to execute these plans and help you reach your organizational objectives. When demand is always changing and skilled labor is hard to find, you can work with a dependable partner like Employbridge to solve your current and future labor needs effectively.

Platform technology helps you quickly scale teams up or down on an as-needed basis with qualified W-2 workers. Streamline everything from recruiting, employee scheduling, and time tracking to forecasting, compliance, and more with our workforce-as-a-service solution.

Ready to take advantage of e-commerce growth while mitigating the impact of major industry challenges? Contact Employbridge today to learn more and get started.

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