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process, the supply chain planning
manager must manage planning
processes, but virtually overnight is
expected to include customer interaction
and strategy deployment as it relates to
the supply chain, along with a host of
other tasks. In addition, a deeper planning
acumen became a must. This manager is
not alone. How executives choose to han-
dle these situations can create employee
engagement or an avid job searcher.
Undoubtedly, retention of top talent must
become a higher priority. Seventy-seven
percent of manufacturers are struggling
to find qualified candidates, according to
the skills gap survey. The research shows
that succession planning and mentoring
programs are tied as top contenders for
retention strategies. However, manufacturers
fall short in most cases, according to the ex-
ecutive panel. Thus, retention and develop-
ment programs must become a key priority.
The question becomes larger than just how
to attract and retain top talent. Instead, the
question becomes, how can we make man-
ufacturing careers more attractive.
The bottom line is that top-notch manu-
facturing talent is in short supply yet the
demand continues to increase. Those
manufacturers that follow three core
strategies for success will not only attract
and retain top talent but will also make
manufacturing careers more desirable
and be more likely to outpace the compe-
tition. The three key strategies are:
• Communicate the vision
• Explain the value
• Provide opportunities to test ideas
Communicate the vision
Retaining top talent is not rocket science.
Empower and engage your employees.
So, why does it so rarely occur? It boils
down to the lack of leadership. At the
center of engaging and empowering
employees is communicating the vision.
For example, at PaperPak, the company
struggled after absorbing too much too
soon — a former P&G product line that
was larger than the original business took
the company global in one fell swoop, an-
other company with a similar product line,
a new ERP system and a new manage-
ment team, just to name a few changes.
A new CEO came on board and rap-
idly clarified the vision. Even though it
sounds insignificant, it turned out to be
anything but inconsequential. From that
point forward, everyone understood
where the company was headed. It was
not only communicated through regular
channels but the grapevine also picked
up the news. The CEO also brought key
informal leaders under his wing to get
them on board with the vision. News
spread rapidly, and employees under-
stood their purpose.
Explain the value
The next key strategy is explaining each
team’s value and each employee’s value
— in essence, how they contribute to
the vision and goals. As a part of the
performance management process,
collaborating on just a few core goals to
be accomplished each quarter will drive
substantial results. First, management
should clarify which goals should be the
focus. This alone puts you ahead of the
majority of companies. The discussion
also adds meat to the bones. Employees
better understand the goals from both
a conceptual perspective and a tacti-
cal perspective. Suddenly, employees
understand how they contribute value
to the company, which goes a long way
toward engaging employees.
For example, at PaperPak, the manager
and employees formulate and discuss three
key goals on a quarterly basis. Not only do
employees gain insight into which goals
are important and how the goals contribute
value but they also feel valued through the
process. Managers are busy. In 10 years
and multitudes of clients, we have yet to
come across a manager who wasn’t busy.
Worse yet, the majority feel overloaded.
Thus, putting aside time to meet with each
employee on a quarterly basis demonstrat-
ed that the manager was investing time in
Lack of time is not a resource problem;
it’s a matter of priority. Employees took
note. The result was an accelerated pace
of progress with substantial results. There
were several examples but one that
stands out is that the supply chain team
was able to help the company reduce
inventory by 40 percent to 50 percent
while maintaining and improving service,
including being awarded supplier of the
year by their No. 1 customer through
collaborative inventory management pro-
cesses and tightly aligned goals.
Provide opportunities to test ideas
The third strategy to retain employees is
to provide opportunities for employees
to test ideas. This sounds much easier
than it is to implement because failure
is a par for the course. Great successes
typically come after multiple failures.
Leadership must be prepared to support
failed attempts at innovation, even if they
result in hits to financial performance.
The true test to leadership occurs in his/
her reaction to failure.
Take a step back and think about how quickly bad news travels. What if the
manufacturing community was to take an active position in spreading positive news
and generating excitement for the types of results and the significant impact top talent
can have on success?
SENIOR SUPPLY CHAIN AND OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE AND MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT
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