Canadian Shipper

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Leadership Roundtable: Part Two


Being able to attract and keep staff—whether truck drivers, DC workers or increasingly, the skilled IT and analytics experts to manage back end data operations—has become a competitive advantage. No matter which part of the supply chain you’re operating in, the last five years have been challenging, with the rise of e-commerce and shifting worker demographics.

To get some answers Canadian Shipper and Inside Logistics magazines put together a panel of experts to share their insights, tips and strategies to help transportation and logistics companies better manage the human resources challenges

This is the conclusion of our two-part series.

In terms of recruitment, how do we attract  different generations and people of  more diverse backgrounds?

Doug Harrison | In Montreal, our team had hired an individual who had newly emigrated to Canada from Africa. In conversation during our on boarding with our human resources team, it became apparent that they were one of several people who had recently immigrated from this country. It created a conversation and our team put together an on boarding program for all these people who did not speak French. We set up French language courses, we did other things to support their on boarding. We spent time with those individuals differently to make sure that they were going to be successful.

It was fantastic. I think the way you attract diversity is by leveraging diversity and showing that it means something in your company.

Pina Melchionna | I think it’s about being able to change company culture so that it’s more than just going out and recruiting diverse candidates, it’s truly making them feel included and the culture and that sometimes requires specific type training diverse inclusion. To make sure that you’re not coming to the table with hidden bias. To make sure that these different cultures feel very included in the conversation and are sitting at the table and helping me to make some key decisions.

Pat Campbell | One of the things that SCMA is focusing on and it’s a project that I’ve been deeply involved in is how do we open up new pathways for people. Coming into our designation program, traditionally you had to have a bachelor’s degree, you had to have at years of experience before you could come in to our designation program. We’re now looking at opening that up.

We’re also talking about transferability of skills. Someone might say, “I’ll stay within supply chain, maybe not necessarily with the same employer, but I’ll stay within supply chain if the knowledge and expertise that I’ve gained through my employment, wherever that is, is recognized.”

How does that get measured in terms of learning outcomes that are clearly measurable in terms of someone’s ability to move forward. Ross, when you’re looking at people I imagine there is some sort of flexibility around if they’ve worked in [supply chain] for 20 years, but don’t have a degree?

Ross Reimer | Almost all the time. There are still some that stick to their must-haves. I kind of shake my head sometimes thinking, ‘Wow, so we’re passing over these four people with clearly demonstrated career paths? That’s great when they’re banging down the doors, but most of the doors are pretty silent.

THE PANEL: (clockwise, from top left) Ross Reimer, President, Reimer Associates; Pina Melchionna, President & CEO, CITT; Doug Harrison, former President & CEO, VersaCold Logistics Services; Paul Kurrat, Director of Operations, Global Warehousing & Distribution; Pat Campbell, Vice-president, Strategic Initiatives, SCMA

What are some of the compensation and benefit strategies, that are changing, or are new ideas in that environment, in terms of employee retention?

Doug Harrison | Every employee can go find a job for more money, generally speaking. Paying fairly, equitably is certainly important, but to me it’s a hygiene or maintenance factor. It’s other motivator factors that are more important. What are my benefits? What’s my work environment? Who are the people I work with?

What you’re seeing are flex benefits and more open benefit programs to be able to try and attract that labour, all those other things that mean different things to different people. I’m not so sure at the end of the day that the total economic package matters as much as those other flexibility characteristics.

Pina Melchionna | One of the attractive things is actually investing in employees from a professional development point of view. Doug you had said it’s a two-way street, an employee has to take responsibility for their own development and learning and absolutely I agree with that, but boy is there a different level of engagement when we get a call from someone who says my company is investing in me and I’m able to take your courses because they’re invested in me over the long term. I think professional development is one of those perks that people are looking for when they’re looking at a total compensation package.

Pat Campbell | I think that when we talk about work-life balance we often talk about it in terms of millennials, new people coming into our organizations. I think that work life balance is a practice that we need to think about in terms of that knowledge retention. In my career I want more work-life balance. We’re moving to a second stage in our careers around retirement and whether or not that’s a next phase of our career and I think that that’s a practice that we need to look at in terms of retaining some of that knowledge and keeping some of those senior folks around.

Ross Reimer | I’m trying not to be too stereotypical, but as you move into the millennial world, benefits become far more important. That discussion comes up and [benefits] matter more than to some of the folks of my generation. They’re not all about the money.

Paul Kurrat | For many years we’ve had a bonus program that has been based on the success of the company and have over the last perhaps five moved that to a split one on how the company does and one on how the individual does. Because we know that the person sitting in front you works the hardest of anybody else in the place and should be getting more, so we’ve linked that to performance. Including damages, attendance, everything you can think of that they think is important is now part of a compensation that they’re finding, I think more valid.

What do companies actually need to offer people in the way of career trajectories now in order to get them interested and to retain them?

Doug Harrison | I think it starts with you have to offer a menu. First of all it’s an employee market and I think the starting point is what does that particular employee want? Do they want to be a CEO, do they want to be a manager or do they just, want to drive a truck and be the best they can at it? How do I tailor that career for that individual and really allow them to enjoy that role? I think about it as a menu of items of here’s what’s important to this person, and how do I craft something to make that role meaningful to what their desires really are?

I think recognizing its employee-owned, the market is employee owned and it’s going to be employee owned for a long time. We’ve got to think about those people as individuals around that plan.

Pina Melchionna | An investment in the employee. There is research that links professional development and investment in employees with increased engagement and with increased retention. If it’s one thing that I would leave everyone with it’s the necessity of employers to start thinking differently about total compensation packages and ensure that they’re including some investment in terms of professional development and learning for their employees.

Ross Reimer | I think we need to look at attracting new people to the industry We have to walk across the hall to the marketing department. We live in a world where marketing of products today is incredible. We can’t move five seconds without seeing something on our phone or seeing something in some media format. Much of it is really, really creative and really good. Let’s get some of those people working on attracting people to a career. We have to tell a story, paint a picture and put money, real resources towards selling this industry.

Pina Melchionna | I was recently speaking at an event and one of the career employers asked, “How do we make supply chain sexy to attract that new demographic?” That is a branding issue I think that supply chain suffers from. I think as an industry, we need to promote and market the industry as a designated profession to go into. I think there’s additional work that we need to do. The fact that Amazon, one of the most trusted brands in the world, is really a supply chain and logistics company—we have to start telling more of those stories to attract that new demographic to the profession.

Pat Campbell | I think technology is an enabler and I think we need to embrace it, we need to talk about it, we need to share it with people and we need to use it as one of the sales pitches. Whenever I talk to people about AI, it’s something that people are terrified of. They think that it means they’re going to lose their job. I think that we need to be clear about the messages that we’re delivering about how this is going to advance the quality of people’s work as opposed to be a detractor. I think we need to stop using words like destructive and be more positive about these changes that are happening because I think they give us huge opportunities.

To close out our discussion, each participant  was asked to provide their advice in terms of what companies and/or employees need  to do moving forward.

Doug Harrison | Canadian companies, especially, are still learning the opportunities that supply chain and logistics bring in terms of competitive advantage. I think the more companies start realizing that, the more we’ll create interest in their sector and career opportunities and growth opportunities. There’s absolutely a war for talent. If you’re going to be a leader in your field you’re going produce above average returns, above average customer satisfaction. It will come through above-average employee engagement and being able to attract talent and to be able to think about how you leverage that talent as we go through the next decade.

Pina Melchionna | Invest in your people. It results in a win-win for both the company as well as the employee. [You get] increased engagement and retention and loyalty from the employee, and from an employer perspective, if you’ve got good talent you want to keep that good talent. Invest in them as the skill-set changes so that you keep them long-term.

Pat Campbell | We need to change the dialogue. We need to talk about the advantage supply chain bring to our country from an economic perspective. Whether it’s the employee, the company, post-secondary education, or our governments, we need to work with them around how do we build the kinds of programs that will encourage people to see the value that an occupation in supply chain can offer them.

Paul Kurrat | As we’ve said over and over, you’re investing in the employee, but as an individual seeing more to their needs and balancing that with the needs of the company. It’s that balancing that all of us have to get really used to, and fast.

Ross Reimer | In the recruiting business, our work is facilitated by working with clients that have spent serious time and investment on building leadership, and a reason for people to be there. Secondly, they’ve taken recruiting seriously and invested in selling and marketing their business like they market their product. They take it just as seriously. I think that 20, 30, 40 years ago you didn’t have to do that and in the new world, if you’re going to survive and prosper, you’re going to have to do that.