Invest in your Supervisors if you want true Employee Engagement

Our clients frequently approach us for guidance on how to address the current challenges of the qualified labor shortage.

This has been a reoccurring problem throughout the country; companies are struggling to retain current staff and compete for new employees…and this problem is especially exasperating in peak season. 

As a result, we are seeing many companies invest millions of dollars in programs and technology to address this challenge.

For example:

  • Labor Management Programs are being implemented to recognize achievement   and to reward top performers. They are also being used to proactively coach and support others to achieve success in a positive environment. 
  • Both monetary and non-monetary incentive plans are being employed to provide added motivation above hourly base wages.
  • Workforce Management Systems are being implemented to optimize shift schedules and provide flexibility for employees.
  • Facility enhancements and perks, such as gyms, high-end cafeterias and break rooms with team and culture building games like cornhole and ping-pong aim to create a better work environment.
  • Employee engagement programs and digital workplace apps that specialize in employee communication, open shift marketplaces, shift swapping and gamified reward programs. 

While these initiatives help drive employee engagement, a major factor that is  often forgotten is the inclusion and investment in the front-line supervisors…These are the men and women that have the most one-on-one interaction with hourly associates and can single handedly either create a positive or negative work environment.

Everyone has heard of the phrase, people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss.  The big question is…What tools, training and investments are being made in Supervisors to become better leaders and coaches that will in turn foster a positive work environment?    

Front line supervisors are truly caught between a rock and a hard place.  On the employee side, they are asked to manage and motivate a highly diverse workforce in the most competitive job market of our lifetime.  On the company side, they are pushed to achieve the ever-increasing productivity and service levels expectations of the digital economy.

For example, we’re asking Supervisors to:

  • Understand technology platforms, warehouse control systems, troubleshoot automation, reduce downtime and increase overall utilization. 
  • Identify lean concepts, waste in the system and drive process improvements. 
  • Analyze labor management reports, business intelligent analytics and identify trends in performance and utilization data to root cause the issue.  
  • Become coaches and motivators and drive performance excellence. 
  • Have tough conversations with their associates about performance and show empathy for personal problems that show up at work. 
  • Take complete ownership of their department and stay within their budget.
  • And moreover, whatever happens, don’t miss a cutoff time or shipment! 

In short, we’re asking Supervisors to do everything! 

Many times, they have not had the type of training to be successful. Many companies don’t even have the right span of control (i.e.  number of supervisors to hourly associates) and they are stretched so thin that they can’t possibly be effective. And finally, Supervisors wage rates and compensation packages are often misaligned for the skills and job requirements they are being asked to complete, which drives turnover at a position where companies can least afford it. 

 Conversations around employee engagement are still very important and should always be top-of-mind; especially in this highly competitive job market. But perhaps it’s time to consider starting the conversation on leader engagement for the front-line Supervisors.

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Jonathan Huesdash, industry thought-leader and Director at Connors Group, leverages his deep experience both in distribution and consulting to craft innovative workforce management and execution solutions for clients. He can be reached at [email protected]
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