There's a common perception that jobs in supply chain and warehousing offer zero opportunity for growth or advancement — much less the foundation of a successful professional career. The COVID-19 pandemic raised public awareness of warehouse workers' essential role in getting us the products we've come to rely on in our daily lives. However, unloading and loading trailers at the dock or selecting orders for order fulfillment is often seen as means to a paycheck, not as a stepping stone to a leadership role.
At FHI, we wholeheartedly disagree. We firmly believe that every person we hire has the potential to advance and build a career in warehousing. Therefore, our culture strongly emphasizes talent acquisition, training, and development for all sides of our business: logistics, warehouse and distribution, and FHI NOW.
And, with the tremendous growth in warehouse and supply chain jobs from 1.3 million at the start of 2020 to 1.82 million at the end of June 2022, we feel it's more important than ever for job seekers to consider FHI as the launchpad for their careers.
Before we explain more about how FHI discovers, develops, and rewards talent, let's quickly explain the difference between the services FHI provides its customers. We — Lauren and Carly — each manages talent acquisition for open positions on the different sides of our business. Since the start of COVID-19, FHI has grown tremendously in terms of opportunities and headcount.
Lauren and her team work to hire and recruit full-service warehouse management and distribution services team members with a broad range of expertise (from entry-level with no previous experience required to certified forklift operators and supervisors) to work at our customers' shipping and receiving docks. These employees work for FHI at our customers' facilities in areas where they live.
People who start with FHI's warehouse and distribution services team here discover they have significant potential to advance quickly up the ranks to leadership roles. They also have the opportunity to gain experience that enables them to join the FHI NOW labor team.
Carly and her team recruit experienced warehouse and distribution associates and managers for FHI's on-demand labor services — our "travel team" — that helps warehousing operations around the U.S. stabilize amid volatility. FHI's on-demand teams augment an existing workforce and support rapid growth, temporary needs, or seasonal volume.
This professional warehousing workforce knows how to execute different workflows within an operation efficiently and effectively. Their ranks are made up of more than 1,600 people nationwide who enjoy traveling to and experiencing life in other parts of the country while working hard and making a huge difference at the facility they're assigned.
Although the roles and responsibilities of FHI associates are different depending on which area of the business they work in, the foundational requirements of each candidate are the same. As explained above, warehousing experience isn't necessarily required (depending on which side of the business is hiring). Instead, FHI looks to hire self-motivated people with a positive attitude, strong work ethic, and an eagerness to control their destiny. This is a central pillar of our culture.
Like many supply chain and warehousing companies, demand for our services skyrocketed during the COVID years of 2020 and 2021. In addition, our retail, e-commerce, and grocery customers needed help keeping products flowing through their warehouses to retail shelves and consumers doorsteps. As a result, FHI's business and our teams grew exponentially, yet we never lowered our standards for talent. Instead, we focused on hiring top-quality people for all sides of the company. Our hiring teams also collaborated internally to speed up our hiring process in order to place employees in positions where they could quickly make the most impact on our customers.
Further, as part of FHI's culture and commitment to nurture and protect our personnel, our top leaders repeatedly turned away potential new customers. Their goal was not to stretch our resources too thin. This enabled our teams to remain highly productive and deliver the premium level of service our customers expect. It also allowed our talent acquisition teams to prioritize hiring and training top-quality people — without lowering our standards — who have continued to help FHI grow as new opportunities arise.
With so many people laid off or furloughed from their previous jobs during COVID — particularly those in the hospitality, travel, and personal services industries — we were flooded with applications during COVID. Our pool of applicants has shrunk due to the economy's slow recovery, bringing back all the jobs lost since February 2020. And there are 623,000 fewer people in the workforce, demonstrating a decrease in those looking for work. But our resolve to hire people who match our culture has not wavered.
So how do we find great candidates in a tight job market? Frequently it's through referrals from our employees. Our people like — even love — working at FHI. And they encourage friends and family members (and even sometimes people they meet at the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru! True story!) whom they believe would be a great fit here to apply. Employees who refer an applicant who is hired are rewarded through our formal referral program. For example, in 2022 alone, we’ve awarded over 1500 referral dollars to our associates.
One reason our employees encourage others to apply for positions at FHI is our company's commitment to developing and growing our people. As a result, regardless of the amount of experience they bring to their position, everyone starts on the same training page.
We invest heavily in training our personnel in "The FHI Way." This includes extensive education on how to work safely and a comprehensive range of standard procedures established by FHI to ensure each team works as efficiently and accurately as possible. We back that up with an intense focus on servant leadership. New employees are greeted by on-site trainers dedicated to training and development, providing immediate feedback, and answering questions. Once on the floor, if a supervisor sees an employee struggling with a task, they step in to understand why and provide coaching to help correct the issue.
Our people are taught and empowered to provide on-the-job feedback about their assigned tasks. For example, FHI NOW, our on-demand labor services teams —highly experienced in all aspects of warehousing and having worked in multiple facilities across the country — will often discover ways in which a customer's process could be made more efficient or an operation could be safer. They share that feedback with their on-site supervisors, who communicate it to the customer. In turn, our customers value that input, which often saves them time and money while improving their productivity and safety records.
Not only is it a tight labor market, but warehousing employees are in high demand. As a result, there's intense competition, particularly in areas where multiple distribution operations are located close together. Indeed, employees often jump from facility to facility, lured away by hiring incentives such as higher hourly wages or signing bonuses.
FHI has also experienced this phenomenon in our warehouse and distribution services team. However, those who have left FHI for what appeared to be a better hourly rate often wind up coming back to us within a week or two.
Why? Because in addition to our people-first culture and extensive training, support, and development programs, we reward performance. In addition to a competitive hourly rate, FHI pays a productivity incentive that effectively raises an employee's hourly pay to match the effort they put into their work. Combined with our supervisors' on-site coaching and servant leadership, our associates quickly discover that they can easily out-earn the wages offered down the street.
Further, we measure each employee's productivity based on industry benchmark key performance indicators (KPIs). They get immediate feedback about how they're doing and how their wages are impacted. Employees know they are getting paid based on their productivity and that their contribution is valued.
FHI NOW team members who travel around the country for minimum six-week deployments are paid a significant hourly wage due to their extensive warehousing experience and a per diem for daily expenses. FHI pays for their travel and hotel, and they typically work far more than the standard 40-hour week, ensuring overtime pay. In addition, their deployments are voluntary; they can accept an assignment or decline it depending on their current availability and personal situation. This gives them tremendous flexibility in setting their schedules — which many consider a significant benefit.
As we noted at the beginning of this post, at FHI, there is tremendous potential for advancement in a warehousing career here as we aggressively promote from within. For example, virtually all of our operations leadership team started their careers as warehouse and distribution services team members, rising the ranks to backup lead, lead supervisor, and management.
There is a clear path for those interested in growing their professional responsibilities with FHI. When we interview candidates, we encourage them to think beyond the position they're applying for. It's not uncommon for those hired for our warehousing and distribution services team to receive their first promotion within six months, an average of 173 days.
Some applicants are particularly interested in joining our FHI NOW team; if they lack the necessary experience required for those positions, they can gain that expertise by working as a warehouse and distribution associate and then transitioning over. Conversely, we have had FHI NOW team members who have asked to transition to the warehouse and distribution side so they could be close to home for an extended time. Because FHI values its employees and their experience, we make an extra effort to ensure they are in the role that best meets their personal needs and professional goals.
Perhaps it's because of our intense focus on hiring the right people, investing in their development, and providing them opportunities to grow and advance, but FHI employees often refer to each other as family. In our culture, our associates look out for and support each other, whether they're on the road at a FHI NOW services assignment or based at a long-term customer's location as a warehouse and distribution services team member.
We saw this example after example during the height of the COVID pandemic. Historically our employees typically turned down travel assignments or additional overtime (depending on their side of the business) during the holidays to spend more time with their families. In 2020 and 2021, however, nearly everyone volunteered to take extra shifts, extend their assignments, or accept new roles and responsibilities during the holiday season. They saw it as a personal mission to not only help our customers meet the needs of their customers but also to support each other during a chaotic, unpredictable, and stressful time in everyone's lives.
Likewise, our hiring teams were inundated with applications during the first 18 months of COVID while simultaneously feeling tremendous pressure to help our customers get the qualified labor resources they desperately needed. So, collaboratively, we reworked our hiring strategy and approach to prioritize the key attributes of the ideal FHI associate: self-motivation, positive attitude, strong work ethic, and desire to control their destiny.
We continue to focus on this foundational aspect of our culture, even as the available labor pool has tightened over the last year. Filling warehousing and distribution positions are challenging throughout our industry; FHI is not immune to these struggles. However, by hiring the right people and investing in them and their success, we ensure the success of our customers and our business. We invite you to grow with us.
In any market, your supply chain can make or break your ability to compete well. Don't leave that to chance. We can help you create a stronger operation, so you never fall behind the competition.