The annual International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA) Conference in Palm Springs, CA brought together logistics professionals from across the industry, including leaders in HR, operations, and technology.
Read our takeaways from the event including tips on leadership from former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann, overcoming barriers to hiring and retention, ROI of new tech, and building a positive company culture. Plus, employee recognition programs that work and why operations managers set the tone for company culture.
How to Be a Great Leader
IWLA started out with a bang this year. Keynote speaker and famed former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann came through with some powerful nuggets of wisdom on how to be a great leader. Like a football team, running a logistics business is a true team sport, and will only be successful if everyone involved feels supported and respected.
5 Leadership Lessons from Joe Theismann
1. Your relationships with others are only as strong as the relationship you have with yourself
2. Let the people you work with know how much you care and be transparent
3. Treat your employees like business partners – individuals working towards a common goal are what creates a thriving organization
4. Enthusiasm is what drives every business, be excited about life!
5. Define your goals and live up to them: personally, spiritually & financially
“It is essential to our soul and our being – to feel appreciated.”
Joe Theismann, Author of How To Be A Champion Every Day
Overcoming Barriers to Hiring & Retention
One of the biggest challenges in today’s logistics landscape is attracting and retaining frontline employees. As Director Tom Landry from Allegiance Staffing mentioned, the logistics industry has an average turnover rate of 49%. Throughout the HR-track at IWLA this year, warehouse executives shared their main challenges and solutions when it comes to addressing the labor shortage.
Top Barriers to Hiring
1. Unrealistic expectations for the job
2. Requiring college degrees
3. Hiring processes that are outdated and lengthy
Reducing Hiring Barriers
1. Creating a bilingual version of the employment app
2. Reducing interview times and incorporating video interviews over Zoom or Teams
3. Eliminating pre-employment physicals and marijuana tests
4. Offering flexible work schedules
The ROI of New Tech
There is a clear ROI for new technologies, specifically in the logistics industry. Barrett Distribution Centers has seen an increase in retention after implementing new tech because it makes employees feel like they are more productive and have a greater impact on the business as a whole (Arthur Barrett, President). Recent research also shows that 83% of employees would be willing to change companies for improved technology. Luckily, automation tools have become much more accessible, with the cost of warehouse robots reduced by 60% in the last 6 years.
Driving Positive Company Culture
With corporate staff working from home and frontline employees on-site, maintaining a cohesive workplace and high morale hasn’t gotten any easier. The pandemic has also highlighted the wants and needs of frontline workers to a greater extent than ever before. As phrases such as “the toxic workplace” emerge, it has become clear that employees are looking for companies where they feel heard, treated right, and believe in their managers. Having a positive workplace is also a key element to keeping workers engaged at their jobs. A recent Gallup study found that employee engagement can be increased by 50% if you put company culture first.
“Communication is one of the most important things you can do for company culture.”
Mark DeFabis, CEO at Integrated Distribution Services, Inc.
How To Build a Sustainable Culture
Of the many insightful speakers at IWLA, Saddle Creek Logistics stood out when it came to cultivating and maintaining a strong company culture. Sarah O’Neill, Sr. Director HR, shared some powerful tips on how other logistics organizations can do the same.
1. Visibility and open communication are key to building a sustainable work environment – this includes top-down communication but also making sure employees are being listened to (i.e. through engagement surveys and a confidential hotline)
2. Strong collaboration between HR and Operations translates to a positive culture on the floor
3. Prioritize attribute hiring to find people with strong soft skills (such as teamwork and leadership abilities) who will be a cultural fit
4. Carry out “health checks” where operators visit other operators’ facilities – conducting floorwalks, safety checks, and talking to employees
5. Approachable senior leadership is incredibly powerful when it comes to creating a cohesive and inspiring company culture
Operations Managers Set the Tone
While it is important for executive leaders to define company culture and communicate it throughout the organization, the greatest impact on spreading that culture will come from operations managers. This is why investing in their leadership development and giving them the right tools to succeed is so critical. Back-and-forth communication between managers and their teams is also important – this means listening to employees and showing you are taking action on their feedback.
“Having temperature checks on how employees are feeling is so important.”
Raanon Gal, Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP
Employee Recognition Programs That Work
1. Welcome and birthday cards from the CEO
2. Employee of the month
3. Bonuses based on performance
4. Company publication celebrating promotions and worker accomplishments
5. Celebrating hires from within
Closing Thoughts on Retention
As John Lamb, Chief Operating Officer at Sonwil Distribution Center Inc, concluded during the HR panel on attracting and retaining employees, creating a positive work environment has an exponential impact on hiring and retention. Not only will it decrease turnover for current employees, but the organization’s reputation will also get out to the community and attract new talent.
By creating an authentic culture where employees feels heard and respected, logistics companies will set themselves up for success in this uncertain labor market.