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Consumer Goods Logistics Blog


Engaged Associates Drive Value

Published by Steve Buckman on January 02, 2013

My team and I recently had a series of meetings to identify a strategy for human capital in 2013.  Our focus was on identifying the "right" human resources solutions that matched our client's needs. 

We started the meetings with a clean slate. We thought really hard about what our clients need from us and how we can deploy our resources to improve our clients' supply chain.  We worked at identifying and breaking down many of the deeply-held, almost invisible assumptions that we all have about how we do our work.  As we re-thought our clients' objectives, we were able to think more clearly about how we could meet those goals in new ways.

Some of the discussion was about process - changing how we deploy our human capital to better meet the client's needs.  That might be combining roles - something we are doing in several cases.  Process changes also could change some "storage" work into cross-dock work to reduce the need for touches.  In some cases, we talked about ways that we can help our clients completely by-pass a DC so that product from the manufacturing site can be moved directly to a retail DC.  We also talked about general approaches to reducing client's overall supply chain costs.

The other part of the discussion was about what type of associate we want.  What is it about great associates that make them great associates?  We ruled out a lot!  It's not experience; it's not age; it's not gender; it's not education; it's not even their time with our Company.  What we kept coming back to was…"ENGAGEMENT."

Associates who were engaged - were great!  They could do anything, or at least they thought they could.  Those were the associates that we wanted to have in the clinches.  Not only were they focused; but they wanted to win - and they expected to win - all the time.  And when they failed, they learned from their failures and they expected to win again...  Great associates had an approach to their work - and to their lives - that was based on rigor.  They set goals and achieved those goals. 

We have a saying posted in some of our offices: "Almost doesn't push a man off a horse."  Engaged associates get it.  If you want to do the job - do it!  Don't "almost" do it.  Don't do "most" of it.  Do the job!

For many human resources professionals, this is not surprising news.... but when a group of operational managers reach that determination on their own journey, you can bet that they are sold.  It was an incredible "Eureka!" moment for many of us. 

The next question, of course, is how do we get and keep engaged associates?

It turns out that they often can be nurtured.  We believe that the "right" associates can come into an organization, and with the right training, orientation, support, culture reviews, and challenges, many or most new associates can become "engaged."  We are focusing more and more on how we select new associates, as well as how we turn all of our associates into ENGAGED associates who want to win on behalf of our clients.

Filed under: Logistics Labor Management| Warehouse Operations| Logistics Innovation