This article originally appeared in our July/August issue

Companies are finding it hard to replace good people retiring from supply chain positions and fill the spots of supervisor and managers within the distribution center. Tenure is not only a luxury but a great benefit within the supply chain process. With tenure, you can prevent errors and become more efficient. Some may argue that developing the right culture to ensure less turnover may be the most important step in developing your supply chain.

The first step in finding good people is flexibility. Do you have a program to hire long-term, part-time people? There might be some people that only want to work weekends or some that only want to work four hours a day. They would be good associates but are not the norm. In rural areas, there is increased absenteeism during hunting season, crop harvesting, etc. Instead of letting these people go because of their absenteeism, why not develop a program that can be a win/win for both? Many of these workers are hard workers and can be difficult to replace. In many areas of the country, they have found good dependable associates in the form of stay-at-home mothers who come in after the children go to school and leave when school is out. Developing flexibility in your traditional hourly associate will require partnering with the HR department and having some creativity.

Secondly, curb your complaints, especially those that focus on the young millennials and their attitude about working. The smart managers realize complaining is useless and acknowledge the need to understand and work with the young people. After you have sifted through the bad applicants and have hired a new group of millennials, it’s good to communicate your desires as a manager and the focus of the rule. For millennials, two-way communication is imperative; they do not respond well to barking or demands. Young millennials want to feel that they are a part of something and they want to understand the what, why, and how of doing things. They also want input in suggesting better ways to improve or accomplish a task. Camaraderie is very important to the young staff.

When you find a good team, don’t rest on your laurels because as a good leader, you must constantly be aware that the market is searching for such people and if one becomes disillusioned, there are other companies willing to pick that person up. Here are some tips on how you keep and retain your A team.

  • Communication Do not lead in a vacuum. Make sure your team has buy-in to the goals you are trying to accomplish and listen for their input. They are out on the floor and they observe and see many things that will improve performance. Also, communicate with them individually, understanding where they are in their personal life goals and what they want to accomplish personally. Teams will walk through fire for a good leader that shows interest and cares about them as individuals.
  • Tools Make sure your team has the tools they need to perform their jobs to optimum performance. All too often, associates have to work around a broken printer, scanner, horrible dunnage, lack of totes, etc. Unfortunately, many times no one addresses these simple issues.
  • Invest in your best supervisor’s education and career. Send him or her to seminars or conferences to improve their knowledge and expertise. If you ship parcels, the PARCEL Forum is a great alternative out there to learn the best options for working with shippers, saving money on parcel shipping, streamlining your processes and learning the latest tips on tricks to save money on parcel shipping cost.

Once you send someone to a seminar or conference, follow up with a discussion on how you take what was learned and implement in your facility. Be proactive in change and improving your processes.

Susan Rider, supply chain consultant and Executive Life Coach, can be reached at