Before the pandemic, the distribution industry struggled to keep and retain top talent. Many companies did not see the value of the warehouse and limited efforts were made to lead, teach, coach and develop leaders from within. If you were the best forklift driver, you were promoted to supervisor. Then you were given a notebook and a set of efficiency goals and you were fired without any leadership training. Often you have failed or at the very least made many avoidable mistakes.
In the early 2000s, the concept of measuring employee engagement became more mainstream. Companies have learned that organizations with engaged employees are more efficient and profitable. Commitment surveys have been carried out at all levels of the company. These surveys showed the level of engagement of these employees and a score was assigned. Ideally, management would have taken these findings and worked to address the issues that caused low engagement. Instead, in many cases, management tried to figure out how to teach employees to answer questions, so the score would go up the next time the survey was given. In short, they weren’t trying to fix the underlying problem of low engagement and were more concerned and incentivized to increase the score. Finding a number is easy, changing a culture is not!
So why is creating and sustaining an employee-centric culture and teamwork so important in retail? The industry is very social and labor oriented. Fulfillment centers operate around the clock and perform a variety of functions to serve customers. A company culture where managers value and respect team members is important. If individual team members do not like and respect each other, chaos and inefficiency will ensue. Silos are forming between departments, teams and functions. Working in this kind of environment is stifling and mentally exhausting. Why do some businesses succeed and others fail?
When Dirk Beverage, founder of UnleashWD, crossed the country at 1st “We Supply America Tour” he saw many examples of small, family-owned distributors who truly cared about their employees and their customers. These employees were committed and loyal. It was common to see multiple family members across multiple generations. When asked why he thought this was so, Dirk replied: “There is something different in the cultures of these companies. In each of these independent family businesses that I have visited, what really stands out is that employees are not just numbers. I heard this from the employees themselves on every visit. There is dignified respect – where every job has dignity and every person is respected not just for what they can produce, but for who they are as a person.
Where to start? Creating a company culture where people want to work starts at the top, because culture is top-down. Owners and top managers must live and promote the culture. Senior leaders should set incentive-based goals and objectives that promote behaviors that foster a positive culture. In addition, these objectives should promote and encourage teamwork and cooperation between departments and teams. The supervisor position is the most visible and impactful position in the day-to-day work life of frontline workers. A bad supervisor can harm a department or a building. Commitment boils down to one simple thing: respect. Respect must freely move up and down the chain of command. Seeking front-line feedback and buy-in is not only smart, but it’s the right thing to do to build that inclusive and respectful culture.
I recently spoke with Brendan Breen, President of the Industrial Supply Association (ISA), who said, “In a tough job market like this, companies that honor their employees will win the hiring battle and ultimately succeed. Regardless of the role, you expect each employee to care as much or more about your customers than you do. Taking care of your employees leads to taking care of your customers. »
What can businesses do?
- Start with a great culture that values people. Mere lip service will not work; people can see through someone who is not sincere.
- Develop a process to train leaders to lead peoplenot just accomplishing tasks.
- Be sure to create goals and objectives that foster the behaviors to support the culture you want.
- Publicly reward those who live the culture. Create individual career paths for your employees and give leaders the time they need to develop them.
- Hire and promote people who appreciate and live your culture. This last point is much easier said than done, but this is exactly where Infor can help.
Will Quinn is director of industry and strategic solutions at Infor.