Your Supply Chain is Only as Strong as the Weakest Link: Leveraging the Talents of Your Internal Logistics Team
By Brian Hamilton, HR Manager and Mike Challman, VP Operations
As the economic recovery continues, companies are, again, looking toward growth and expansion. The years of stagnation or retrenchment, however, forced many chemical shippers to reduce staff and limit investment in associate development. As a result, a growing gap now exists between business requirements and the ability to meet those needs with existing resources. While partnering with a third party logistics provider (3PL) can help fill this void, chemical companies must also refocus on developing internal resources to manage internal controls and processes associated with supply chain management.
The most effective 3PLs employ a variety of approaches to leverage talent within their organizations. Outlined below are some of the critical methodologies used by ChemLogix that can be used to develop and retain your own internal logistic resources
Cross-train, cross-pollinate and provide development opportunities
Supply chain management is a complex endeavor, one in which the various elements are strongly linked throughout an organization. An associate in one department who has knowledge or experience of other areas can provide invaluable insight and perspective. The best 3PLs provide associates with opportunities to train in, or transfer into, other areas of the organization.
Associates at all levels of a 3PL organization are also given professional development opportunities to remain current on market trends and further their understanding of the logistics world. Not only is the supply chain discipline complicated; it is incredibly dynamic and fast-moving. Technologies, regulations, market pressures and best practices are constantly updating. 3PLs and chemical shippers alike must ensure staff remains knowledgeable on changes while developing their expertise in the field.
Utilize a documented career path process and post all job openings internally
3PLs that can show talented associates a career path create value for everyone: the 3PL organization, itself, by leveraging home-grown talent; customers who receive the benefit of knowledgeable and enthusiastic associates at all levels of the support structure; and the associates themselves, who remain motivated to advance within the 3PL organization for the long term future. Unless a confidentiality issue exists, a healthy 3PL organization posts every open position for internal associate review and application. External hiring costs 1.7 times more than an internal hire; and research shows that as few as 40%-60% of external hires are successful versus 75% for internal candidates. The 3PL with a successful internal hiring program also provides its customers with greater cost efficiency and more dependable support. Chemical shippers can consider doing the same for every type of associated within its organization, not just those involved in the supply chain.
Establish a referral program that taps into the talented acquaintances of your talented associates
When an internal posting doesn’t yield candidates, your associates can still help fill positions. A referral program with a monetary incentive turns associates into instant logistics recruiters. The best professionals have large networks of talented contacts. Studies show that candidates recommended by associates are more likely to succeed as most associates only recommend qualified candidates. After all, his/her reputation is on the line, too. Employee referral programs are especially effective in cases of highly specialized positions that might be difficult to fill through conventional channels – not an uncommon situation with logistics roles. The 3PL with an effective referral program will have a greater success rate with external hires.
Actively engage the two most important human elements of the supply chain – customers and associates
Successful3PLs have an appetite for continuous improvement and actively seek feedback about associates’ effectiveness directly from customers. Customers know what valuable support looks like and they know what they need from a 3PL. An open line of communication between the 3PL and client helps immeasurably to determine associate strengths and areas for improvement – on both sides. Using this feedback, a 3PL and chemical shipper can improve its associate development programs.
Management, from the most senior levels on down, should also be genuinely interested in listening to their own associates’ input. Associates appreciate the opportunity to be heard. Interaction should be both structured and unstructured as some of the most valuable exchanges can occur in the break room.
While today’s shippers need exceptional support from 3PL partners to respond rapidly and effectively to the new business opportunities that are emerging as we exit the Great Recession, retaining and developing internal resources remain important issues to implement successful supply chain strategies. The 3PL that has embraced the value of associate development will be ready to provide critical support and responsiveness to its clients. The same is true for the shipper who needs talented staff to work with a 3PL to get the most out of the partnership.