Learning curve: Employee morale [from the July-August MM&D print edition]

by Tracy Clayson

The chronic talent shortage in supply chain means companies are trying to win over new hires and attract leaders in the field with enticements of all sorts, but even perks and good pay may not be enough.

Although job satisfaction is rated in salary surveys focusing on compensation and benefits, salary levels may not reveal the real picture of job satisfaction since work environment and business relationships can have a large impact on a person’s employment experience. Putting employees into roles that demand a lot but offer only short-term career gains, giving them heavy travel schedules or expecting them to relocate can create the potential for job dissatisfaction.

Companies need to understand their employees’ needs. To do this they must carry on open dialogues about business and career goals. They also need to make employees understand the demands being placed on them. Without matching employees’ talents and goals with company needs, employers may lose top performers. They may even suffer problems with their customer retention rates due to high turnover of employees who leave for greener pastures.

According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board’s Corporate Leadership Council, companies are future stars at a fast rate. “The number of high performers who are also high-potential employees has decreased by almost 50 percent from 2005 to 2010. This is not because they don’t have the ability or the aspiration to be successful, rather they don’t have the desire to achieve their potential at their current employer.”

Perhaps the best tactic to successfully attract and retain supply chain talent is to offer professional development programs—specifically matching experienced leaders with those entering the field. Supply chain graduates and high-potential employees want opportunities to work at companies that invest in new hires and put staff on management tracks with guided involvement in challenging assignments and opportunities to participate in decision-making solutions.

Advantages of having a mentor

The Supply Chain Sector Council is one example of an organization taking this approach. It established a mentoring program to match experienced managers with new entries. Dorina Vendramin is one of the mentors and has protégés from PMAC, Humber College and York University. She also has mentors of her own. Vendramin says having mentors means she has somebody to push her further, increase her confidence, and give advice she can trust.

Her mentor, Donna Messor, is a leading networking and coaching professional who owns ConnectUS and published the book Mobilizing Mentoring. Vendramin also has a second mentor who offers wisdom, insight and business experience. She says the relationship helps build a better understanding of where she is at, how to recognized her own accomplishments, and how to reach for the goals she may have not realized she had.

A mentor of mine used to say, “your reach should be further than your grasp” and that was the approach I took when starting and growing my business. I didn’t limit myself with the idea that something wasn’t attainable. But setting goals and having support to help reach them is different from being thrown into a major project with huge responsibilities and minimal orientation, preparation or training. This is a common event in fast-growing companies but it is not an ideal situation for most new hires.

Employers may be putting too much emphasis on salary raises and offering other perks to boost morale and offset the challenge of staff shortages due to downsizing. With a short-sighted view on retention efforts, companies may actually be contributing to the turnover problem due to the lack of resources to coach and guide their talent.

Mentors and protégés are most successful when there are exercises and set goals and chances to challenge both parties to think critically and creatively to work through problems and road blocks. Also having a set of rules and guidelines keeps the mentoring process on track.

Listening to the protégé and understanding their concerns from their standpoint is key says Messer­—giving guidance based on what the mentor would do, think or feel in a particular situation can harm the process if the protégé doesn’t feel the same way about an issue. Also, mentoring programs in a professional context should not involve personal problems that require other types of counseling.

Participants in mentoring programs develop networking skills and get assistance with job searches. They get help identifying key career goals, evaluating professional strengths and weaknesses, strengthening communication skills, writing résumés and practising for interviews. Some of the mentees from the Supply Chain Sector Council are members of the profession but are new to Canada or are in process of entering the Canadian labour market and have boosted their successful employment standings through guidance of a leading professional in supply chain. Mentors can be very effective recruiters and retention strategists. Companies are only as good as their people, and those who give back to future leaders in supply chain will have a lasting, positive impact.

Tracy Clayson is managing partner, business development of Mississauga, Ontario-based In Transit Personnel. tracy@in-transit.com