Lessons in logistics leadership

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Lessons in logistics leadership

How can you become a better logistics manager? One significant way is to have a better team, which means attracting the best talent that is available in the market. How do you go about attracting these top performers? Is there a secret formula to recruiting top talent?

Because of the recession and subsequent slow economy, the last two to three years have been good to companies regarding their ability to attract talent (click here to read:, “The upside of a down market”). However, that situation is about to change. There are two substantial market forces at play right now:

  • The economy is picking up and demand will continue to grow.
  • Demographic changes will create a 10-million-person deficit of professional talent. Baby boomers have now reached retirement age and will be retiring in such numbers that the next generation will not be able to replace all of them.

It’s time, then, to ask: Has your company prepared itself? Will you be able to compete with the tens of thousands of other companies that will be vying for the best talent — talent that will soon be in limited supply?

Whether a company is large or small, managers who attract the best people have mastered three basic tenets:

1. Their interview process is highly professional.
2. They discover what the candidate needs to become excited and interested.
3. They act decisively to close the top performer on accepting a position.

For instance, just listening closely to top performers and pushing their hot buttons means nothing if your effort is followed weakly by sending an impersonal offer letter and waiting around to hear a response. Waiting for a response? Is that an example you would set for your sales team? Absolutely not. So why should it differ with your hirers?

All three ingredients must be present for the outcome to deliver consistent results, and it does not require exceptional resources to do this. This is good news for companies facing tight budgets.

A professional interview process includes structure and preparation, timely execution, and informed participants.

Diagram your interview process with a flow chart that tracks the chronology and action items to ensure the process completes all steps and does not bog down. Prompt follow-up with candidates leaves a strong, favorable impression. Conversely, leaving a void in action translates in the candidate’s mind that the decision process at the company is lacking. Clearly communicate to the candidate when and what to expect.

If you say you are going to call at a set time, call them at that time. Even if a schedule conflict arises, call them and explain. Reasonable people are understanding and will not have a problem with the change. However, not making the call — literally standing them up — tells the candidate that their time is not important.

When you invite a candidate in for an interview, you have an ideal opportunity to “wow” them with your attention to detail and personal touches. Some examples are:

  • If the candidate flies in, have someone pick them up at the airport or hotel.
  • When the candidate arrives in the lobby, have the receptionist prepared to say: “Are you Ms./Mr. Jones? You are? Wonderful — we have been expecting you.” The goal is to make them feel important and welcome.
  • If it does not breach confidentiality, have a nametag already prepared for them. (Sometimes a candidate may be with a competing firm and requires discretion.)
  • Have an interview agenda prepared and ready to share with them.
  • Assign someone to escort the candidate from one interview to another.
  • When the interviewer greets the candidate, make sure they are already familiar with their background. “I have been very busy and have not had a chance to look at your resume” is a worn out opener and leaves a terrible impression.
  • Give them a tour of the facility.
  • Send them home with product gifts that your company makes, or if you are a service company give them a calculator, coffee mug, etc., with your logo on it.

To outclass your competition in the hiring process, it’s important to structure your job interviews so you can find out why someone is considering joining your company. This begins with the first contact and continues throughout the interview process. Ask them what they have liked about previous bosses and former employers. Find out what their long-term career aspirations are. Ask them what their hobbies are or what they enjoy doing with their family.

Review the candidate’s background, experience and personal information prior to the interview. It leaves a favorable impression when the interviewer can say something pertinent to the candidate along the lines of: “Sue, I see your kids are active in Little League baseball. We have one of the best leagues in the state.” Sue will be impressed and will think you have her and her family’s best interests in mind.

The moment you know the candidate is a potential top performer and a suitable fit for your team, begin to tighten the timeline to bring closure to an offer and acceptance. The longer a candidate stays on the market, the greater exposure they have to other offers.

It’s only natural for a company to think about how a candidate’s services will benefit them. But when you are trying to attract a top performer to your team, you should pay attention to their hot buttons. Cover the five or six topics that excite them about the idea of working for you, whether it’s the opportunity to lead an implementation team or the autonomy and responsibility to take on a logistics management position.

Ultimately, your goal is to attract top performers to your team because the better the talent working for you, the better you’ll be as a manager. LT

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November, 2003

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