Logistics companies ramping up holiday hiring

The interior of one of Radial’s Louisville facilities. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

The logistics company Radial already has begun hiring for the holiday season and expects to hire 16 percent more workers for its fulfillment operations than last year.

Radial, which has two centers in Shepherdsville, plans to hire 6,500 seasonal employees there this year, compared to 5,600 last year.

While overall retail sales in the U.S. are growing, online sales are growing at an even faster pace, as more people shop by tapping screens on their mobile phones or via mouse clicks on personal computers. Those online orders are requiring more personnel to make sure the electronic infrastructure runs smoothly and securely — but it also is increasing the need for people who stack, pick and package goods in giant warehouses.

Amazon held events this summer to fill 1,000 new, full-time positions at its Shepherdsville and Jeffersonville, Ind., locations. And while UPS hasn’t finalized its hiring numbers for this winter, a spokeswoman told Insider that they are expected to be similar to last year, when the company hired 3,500 people in Louisville and 95,000 nationally.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau latest report from mid-August, online sales continue to grow about three times as fast as overall retail sales. While U.S. retail sales in the second quarter improved 5.7 percent compared to a year earlier, e-commerce sales advanced at a clip of 15.2 percent, the bureau said.

Online sales, at $127.3 billion in the second quarter, accounted for about 9 percent of total sales in the quarter, but that share has more than doubled in the last decade.

Radial’s hiring is increasing because of overall e-commerce growth, but also because the company is landing new customers, including Untuckit.

Consumers also are expecting ever faster deliveries: Radial said that more than a third of shoppers now expect their packages to arrive in no more than two days.

Paul Papoutsis

And Paul Papoutsis, the company’s director of operations for the Louisville site, said that consumers increasingly demand not just ordering flexibility — phone, website, app — but also delivery flexibility — home, local store, P.O. Box, work.

Radial’s business customers, meanwhile, continue to push the logistics company toward reducing the click-to-ship time, or the interval between the consumer finalizing a purchase and the product leaving the warehouse.

Based in King of Prussia, Pa., Radial also provides technology services that facilitate e-commerce transactions, such as payments, fraud prevention and customer interactions via chat or text. The company last year became part of Belgium-based bpost. In its most recent quarterly statement, the company said that the Radial acquisition added revenue of $451 million through the first six months of the year.

High demand, few workers

Papoutsis said that while it’s exciting to be part of a growth industry, that new business is coming with some serious challenges, especially related to the low supply of labor.

The national unemployment has been hovering near 4 percent for months, and many employers are getting creative about finding more workers — though wages have crept up only slowly. Radial declined to provide details on wages but said employees in Louisville last year “were able to make up to $15 an hour.”

Amazon’s Jeffersonville facility in December, as it prepared for Cyber Monday. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

For its 1,000 new full-time positions, Amazon said that it was offering a benefits package from day one that include health care and a 401(k) account with a 50 percent company match. Hourly employees also can apply to have their tuition reimbursed for courses related to in-demand fields, “regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.” The company said the program has provided more than 12,000 employees with training in IT, engineering and nursing.

Amazon did not provide details on wages.

Papoutsis said Radial will run six-day work schedules leading up to the holidays, though details have yet to be finalized. The company plans to run two weekday shifts and one weekend shift. Papoutsis said that candidates for a holiday job do not have to have a high school diploma or GED, but must be able to pay attention, work on their feet in a fast-paced environment and feel at ease with technology, such as smartphones and tablets.

He said Radial tries to attract and retain employees by regularly seeking their feedback, recognizing them for their work and by hosting fun events such as company picnics.

While the part-time holiday work provides workers with income, it also allows the companies to identify employees for full-time logistics jobs, which also have been increasing as more people shop online.

Both Radial and Amazon said that the holiday jobs provide a good avenue toward a full-time job.

“As our business grows, there’s definitely need to retain that top talent,” Papoutsis said.

Radial opened a facility in Burlington, N.J., last year, and always looks at markets that may allow for faster delivery.

“There are plans to continue to expand,” Papoutsis said.