While it's easy to let workflow processes shoulder all of the responsibility of supply chain efficiency, the fact remains that the human element of fulfillment is just as important as the numbers and equations that support the bottom line. Motivated employees translate to better work ethics and, in time, an increase in overall efficiency. As an already-busy manager focused on meeting fulfillment goals on time, devoting extra attention to your team can be a struggle.
Here's how to maximize the time and effort you have at your disposal.
Make Yourself an Example
Even if you don't have a lot of energy to devote to one-on-one measures, the way you conduct yourself can be incredibly motivating to your workforce.
If your direct-report employees see you arrive to work on time, properly dressed and ready for a full day, they're more likely to follow suit. In fact, Jayson Demers actually considers setting a good example as a manager one of the 6 top motivational secrets of successful companies. Demers points out that as a leader, your employees look to you to set the office mood and culture—if you demonstrate a short temper or more laidback dress code of jeans and tee shirt, don't be surprised or angry if your team emulates it. While a dress code won't make or break your supply chain numbers, it's an important part of putting the right mindset forward.
Express Understanding for Their Balance
Even with the best of intentions, good employees can succumb to stress and sub-par work when they feel stuck between a rock and a hard place—especially when it comes to work-life balance or career advancement. Alternatively, if they feel comfortable approaching you for promotions, growth needs, work from home opportunities or other considerations, loyalty and dedication remain intact.
Entrepreneur's Jason Kulpa cautions managers that modern employees are seeking to strike a balance between job enrichment and job enlargement. In other words, they’re looking to take on more responsibilities in the areas they feel most comfortable; they need some degree of autonomy and trust in order to feel valued. Before criticizing an employee for falling short of goals or output, discuss with them the reasons that they may not be thriving in their current position, and determine if a better one can be found within the company. It's perfectly plausible that a worker struggling in warehousing may feel much more at home—and motivated—in another position, but you'll never know unless you take the time to ask.
Say Exactly What You Mean
Flowery speech and metaphors may work for presentations to the board, but on a granular, day-to-day level, your employees need clear direction.
Ask yourself if you could follow your own directions without insider knowledge it they were handed to you tomorrow. If you followed the directions literally, would you get the result you're looking for? Is there another way to "creatively" interpret your directions that may cause miscommunication?
Different employees use different methodologies to follow directions, just as some cooks will follow a recipe top to bottom while others will carefully gather ingredients beforehand. Employees with a well-defined task list and scope of responsibility are less likely to get frustrated or slack off, and if you take the time to make your directions clear to several varieties of interpretation, you'll be giving your message an insurance policy against misunderstandings as well.
Supply chain efficiency only goes so far without an enthusiastic and motivated effort from the people that work within it. If you aren't sure where your employees stand—ask them, either directly or through an anonymous forum such as a suggestion box. Your connections with your employees are the conduit for motivation, so examine and upgrade them as often as possible.