The key to being an over-achieving logistics manager is to have the best possible group of people working for you. Getting those people requires an ability to first identify top talent, then train them efficiently, and ultimately develop them into efficient logistics personnel.
For many logistics managers, the hiring process begins at the intern level. “When you bring in an intern, they learn about your company and industry while working on a short-term project such as laying out a pick/pack operation,” comments Bernard Hale, principle with Hale Logistics Consulting. “Also, they're cheap.”
June Youngs, senior vice president of logistics with toy manufacturer Hasbro Inc., agrees. Her annual budget always includes an intern. She finds excellent candidates through college professors at schools throughout New England.
Nick LaHowchic, executive vice president with apparel company Limited Brands and president and CEO of Limited Distribution Services (LDS), takes a slightly different approach. Limited Brands is a supporting member of logistics forums at schools with outstanding logistics programs. This tie keeps LaHowchic in touch with the latest research while letting him get to know potential employees.
“We tap into these students both as interns and for permanent jobs,” LaHowchic remarks. “It's a good way to learn about the students as they learn about us. As a supporting member, we provide logistics problems for them to solve.” Limited's recruiting teams include former forum participants so students can discuss the program with people who have actually gone through it.
Whether hiring interns or trainees, Hale stresses the importance of being honest about the good and bad of your industry. “Tell them if they will be expected to always work a swing shift. Let them know if they must work long hours and holidays. These issues affect personal life, morale and productivity, so try to keep that burden from always falling on new people. Good employees need to have balanced lives. If you don't accommodate that, you will lose them.”
Turning new hires into good employees requires considerable investment. Each industry must train for its specific logistics issues. For example, pharmaceutical companies have to deal with controlled substance regulatory compliance. Failure to comply can shut down a company.
Regardless of the industry, Hale suggests the following general training needs:
Evaluate a new hire's strengths and weaknesses, then offer training as needed in presentation skills and strategic versus tactical planning. “You may even have to train people to think in terms of the big picture,” notes Hale.
“When it comes to operations jobs such as picking and put-away or inventory control, companies that are striving to be world class always want to do better. That means training constantly,” he adds.
To get more bang for your training dollar, Hale suggests, “If you send people to formal training programs, give them an assignment. Ask them to come back with three things the company could do better. It forces them to focus.”
Focusing on basics and teamwork makes sense at Limited Brands. New hires with undergraduate degrees start in the retailer's distribution operation where they pick up supervisory skills as managers.
“Just out of school, they lack skills to work in teams and manage teams,” says LaHowchic. “So we take them through distribution operations management. They learn and grow in those positions. Then they move into a production or operations planning role. They learn the processes within a large company.”
Another large company, Saint Gobain Containers, a manufacturer of glass containers for the food and beverage industry, recognized a need to build its technical and leadership bench strength. Its container division has introduced a formal development program for high potential manufacturing and engineering talent, administered by the human resources department in collaboration with functional vice presidents. In fact, a cross-functional team of managers handles recruiting and selection.
“Once hired, program members enter our two-year Management Leadership Development Program (MLDP),” says Susan O'Keefe, vice president, strategic business optimization with Saint-Gobain. “They are rotated through developmental areas which expose them to the entire glass manufacturing process in six-month blocks, moving through various facilities.”
At each location, the plant manager mentors the program member along with a second corporate-level mentor, O'Keefe notes. Trainees also learn from a specific contact from the hourly employee segment of the plant population.
“The MLDP is a formal process for identifying and developing future business leaders, with measures and periodic reviews so program members know what's expected of them,” she explains. “After they complete three or four assignments, they are placed into the organization in a full-time position in operations, in a supply chain discipline, or on a project in a manufacturing plant or at corporate headquarters. Their development is then monitored for an additional 1-2 years. We expect these individuals to lead our future teams.”
Hasbro's formal corporate program in supply chain brings new hires in contact with senior people in all core areas. “During their first three months, along with corporate training, they gain an understanding of core areas,” notes June Youngs. “Once the required training is completed, we tailor additional training to the role the employee eventually will fill at Hasbro, based on the level of responsibility and functional area.”
“New hires in logistics, for example, who will have people management responsibility might attend a five-day people management curriculum,” explains Kim Janson, Hasbro's vice president of organizational effectiveness. “If they are being groomed for senior level positions, they attend our custom global leadership program, designed in partnership with Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business.”