Mine Your Workforce for Critical Proficiencies Your Supply Chain Needs

Published : May 15, 2015

two-men-looking-at-computerAt this moment, you're confident that the individuals you've chosen for your supply chain teams are not only good at their respective jobs, but the best employees, period. You've worked hard to vet each "gear in the machine," leveraging HR skills and resources to build supply chain efficiency. Could you, even with all of this consideration, actually be selling your workforce short on their skill sets? A good manager isn't afraid to mull the question over. A great manager takes action to answer it.

It All Starts with Assessment

If your interview process begins and ends with education and employment history, you're not getting the whole picture. IndustryWeek's Patricia Moody emphasizes the usefulness of hiring and management tools such as aptitude surveys to determine fit and flexibility of an individual employee. These can be put into play during the initial hiring period or as part of an annual assessment. Not only are you likely to uncover useful hidden talents in the process, this sort of filtering will tell you where your company's employee enrichment and educational dollars are best spent. Employee skills and knowledge are, after all, just as much of an asset to your supply chain operations as machinery, transport and warehouse systems.

Make Profiles, Not Files

Dry work histories and resumes don't often tell the whole story of a team member's abilities. If you haven't already, be sure to sit down with each member of your team to discover their passions and even hobbies outside of work. If an unusual problem comes up down the line, this kind of knowledge about your workforce can help you find the right person to help you tackle any kind of sticky situation. This depth will also help you uncover weaknesses to be conquered in the ongoing quest to make your team as strong and efficient as it can be.

Think you're already doing this? Take a page from a 2014 Gallup poll and ask yourself this: Can you name the strengths of five people you work with? If you hesitate or have to think more than a moment or two, chances are there's room for improvement. 

Watch for Rising Stars in Cross-Training

The employees who take well to cross-training and leave you feeling like they could be trusted in any position are slated to become big performers in the right atmosphere. These individuals should be first in line for assessment interviews, which will hopefully reveal the secret to their multi-tasking success. Make these men and women mentors or leaders whenever possible and capitalize on their ability to roll out hidden proficiency when the chips are down.

Help Them Finish a Goal

If you need an employee for a specialized position in your supply chain and find out that one of your current team members has already completed part of the certification, either in a previous position or in their own time, help them reach the finish line. If they achieved a certification but let it lapse, determine what is needed to renew it. The cost of assisting them with finishing that education may be significantly less than hiring from outside, and the act will ultimately increase supply chain efficiency and build employee loyalty in the process. This outreach can become a bullet point in benefits literature, and a proactive stance gives you the control over school or course quality—a win-win situation, any way it's viewed.

Supply chain efficiency is about more than numbers and shipment times. It's about the people gathering and applying those numbers within your company. Don't let your existing team become complacent or bored with their workflow because you continually hire from outside the company. Take a look at what your current team is capable of and build it back in to your supply chain strategies. You may be surprised at the level of talent that's already clocking in each morning.

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Topics: Supply Chain Workforce Management

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