Portland company streamlines employee recruitment and retention

A Portland startup is taking aim at one of the biggest challenges facing industrial employers – labor acquisition and retention.

The company, WorkStep, offers a tech-enabled hiring network for the warehouse, trucking and manufacturer sectors. Its job hub matches employers with pre-vetted and screened hourly wage workers, who can build their candidate profiles on the platform.

Intelligence gathered from the data sets is then used to understand “what talent is working out over a longer time horizon, and make more of those hires from our talent network in the future,” said Dan Johnston, WorkStep co-founder and CEO.

The appeal of a talent-sourcing solution for industrial employers is something of a no-brainer.

As Johnston points out, it’s no secret that skill shortages are the major pain point for any company managing a sizable supply chain. The former warehouse manager said his own experience with legacy staffing solutions, from expensive temp agencies to piecemeal in-house efforts, too often resulted in high turnover and a low caliber workforce.

WorkStep seeks to raise the bar, reducing costs per hire and lifting workforce retention over time. A recent study conducted in-house showed on average a 28% attrition reduction for new hires on a year-over-year basis. 

A key feature of the platform is the career development network, where workers can access information about wages, commute times, benefits and advancement opportunities.

Those “soft values” unlock retention, Johnston explained. Although providing “a fair and competitive exchange of value for time” gets people in the door, keeping them happy where they are is more often about engagement and skill development than it is about the actual hourly wage.

Image: WorkStep

Employees hired through WorkStep get access to a job coach, and the company solicits anonymous feedback at key milestones with a list of questions that have been tailored to tease out retention issues. 

In the case of WestRock, a corrugated packaging company and WorkStep customer, parking, or lack thereof, showed up as a top concern. The manufacturer signed on to the platform after a project in Chicago required a doubling of its workforce from around 260 to 500 workers in a very short window of time, said Dan Pugh, WestRock’s talent acquisition manager.

The screening process was so efficient that within 24 hours the company had candidates available for review, and within two to three weeks had scheduled around 70 interviews.

“The time to fill was fantastic,” Pugh said.

WestRock started construction on an expanded parking lot the week after receiving the worker feedback, according to Pugh. “These things just weren’t happening before we had this type of employee engagement survey,” he said.

WorkStep claims around 140 customers, including a dozen Fortune 500 companies. The company joins a small but growing number of startups seeking to automate the industrial workforce hiring recruitment and retention process.