What Are You Doing to Improve Your Operations Management?


If you’ve been around long enough, you recognize that there hasn’t been enough experienced management in retail, catalog and now e-commerce operations for decades. With the Internet growth over the last 15 years, management turnover and the lack of highly qualified managers is apparent and may be holding your company back.

DOWNLOAD: Key Principles to Assessing Your Warehouse Operations

 In the past couple months, I gave speeches at four conferences. In raising questions about “Do you need better managers? How are you growing new future managers? Head nod YES but no answers volunteered. I find this distressing because I think our industry should be moving faster to increase productivity, experiment with new technologies and to strategically deal with Amazon’s growing pervasiveness.  

 We have seen clients spend months recruiting and bringing onboard new managers in contact centers, fulfillment, purchasing and e-commerce only to have them not live up to their resumes and have to fire them and start over again.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers but here are some thoughts on gaining more leadership and management for your business:

#1) Tap New Sources for Leadership. I’m not exactly a fan of Amazon with its predatory approach to business in our marketplace. However, like many of Amazon’s innovations, their policy of hiring veterans is a very good one. And one that might work for your company. In Raleigh, NC’s News & Observer, Sunday, June 4, 2007, page 2E had a story from Seattle Times, “Amazon Seeks Vets for Manager Roles”. A year ago Amazon committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years through its Military Leaders Program. Amazon says they have already hired thousands but would not give more details.

 It was a long article and talks about their success with veterans. “This program seeks to directly leverage the leadership skills acquired by officers and cutting-edge specialists in military forces to give structure to its fast-growing logistics operations.” Amazon has 240 US logistics facilities these veterans feed into. The article gives several examples of veterans that have made the transition from complex technology, submarine, and aviation systems to an officer formerly commanding a ship with a crew of 1,700 carrying 2,000 Marines.

The article talked about bringing in the new hires as facility area managers to quickly learn warehouse operations in different order fulfillment departments. They may oversee 50-200 people initially. Within 18 months the new hire managers should be able to run an entire warehouse. It’s also important to keep in mind that much of an effective fighting service relies heavily on worldwide logistics.

 I have always preferred hiring the experienced multichannel, retail manager. However, if the right person is not out there that you can recruit, maybe Amazon is showing us a new pathway to recruiting leadership. If it isn’t the military maybe it’s a logistics manager in some other industry like wholesale or distribution. If they have good management skills and the technical and systems expertise maybe we should give them the opportunity.

#2) Personnel Testing. The problem with hiring is that you never know how well people are going to work out until they are the job for a couple months. We have seen clients do what appeared a credible job of defining positions, being sure of salary and benefits, interviewing, checking references, etc. only to have the new manager underperforming. What success have you had with testing candidates? Why not send us a response. We have used https://www.ttisuccessinsights.com/products/ . This is not meant as an endorsement of this product. In the comments block following this blog why not tell us products/services you use. I think it’s amazing what the tests show. The only problem is that I am not sure how good it is as a predictor for future growth as a manager. Let’s hear from you.


#3) Internal development of managers. Are you filling jobs or creating career paths for growth? One of our clients, Southern States Cooperatives, took a completely fresh look at its warehouse personnel management and how they were challenging their employees to grow with the coop. Southern States has annual sales of $2 billion, 350 company-owned stores and 1,200 independent dealers over the eastern USA. They analyzed every job in the warehouse and what management’s expectations were. They then designed career paths for individuals and communicated how to achieve and benefit from this. It’s in its 2nd year and is making a difference. Clearly, if you can grow from within that’s a great course of action as long as they get the external exposure to changing technology and trends in operations.


#4) Online Education – New Manager Skills. In the last 10 years, online learning through traditional colleges and universities, as well as for-profit education businesses has exploded. Additionally, many businesses have access to night school programs of high caliber. Maybe it’s time to work with your managers about how to acquire additional skills not only to make them better managers but to position your company from a technology and skills for the future.

Exciting times for sure as our multichannel businesses grow and change. Your company’s success, profitability, and the customer service delivered depend on effective managers that answer the challenges and keep the organization motivated and productive. Investing in your managers is the first step to ensuring your long-term success.