Are You Paying Enough Attention to Providers’ Talent Management Strategies?
As part of their due diligence, shippers routinely review a number of key capabilities when evaluating logistics service providers. One capability that is less obvious—but of vital importance—is the provider’s approach to managing talent.
The quality of a 3PL’s staff determines the level of service they offer. And this know-how has become even more critical with the increasing complexity of global supply chains.
What aspects of a provider’s talent management strategy should shippers watch out for?
Taking the time to ensure that there is a good cultural match between account managers and their counterparts at the customer end is high on the list. Managers should be compatible both in terms of their personalities and the corporate cultures of each organization.
Savvy providers build a profile of the shipper during the sales cycle, which they use to assign the right personnel to that account. For example, a shipper that is looking for detailed freight network analyses and strategic insights probably leans towards provider managers with deep technical knowledge. A company with a strong six sigma culture might be better served by a support team that includes at least one black belt.
On a broader level, account team members should have a support mentality, where the shipper client is regarded as an extension of their own organization.
The matchmaking task is more complicated when the shipper has a global footprint, and requires account teams in multiple countries. How the provider deals with this challenge indicates the extent to which their talent management resources extend to the global marketplace.
For example, an important component of any talent management strategy is recruitment, and the way the provider hires people in other countries can be revealing. Do they use local offices to recruit personnel or control these activities from the corporate headquarters (HQ)? Labor markets vary from country to country in accordance with cultural differences and changing business practices.
Another consideration worth noting is how the logistics service provider maintains connections between satellite offices. An office that is many thousands of miles from the corporate HQ can easily become isolated if inter-organizational communication links are weak. There are a number of ways to avoid this problem. One example is regular meetings that bring together staff members from different national and regional offices. At TMC we have a system where employees from other countries shadow senior managers in the United States for a set time period to help them learn about the company’s culture and modus operandi. Another possibility is to give staff members short-term assignments in other countries to widen their horizons.
Why are measures like these important to shipper clients? Strong communication links between the provider’s offices facilitate the exchange of best practices, which benefits customers. Also, a provider that is geographically unified is better able to maintain service standards across their network. Thirdly, shippers know what to expect when each office they deal with complies with the same technology platform and service ethic.
Talent management might not receive the same scrutiny as technology platforms when evaluating the suitability of a logistics service provider. But the expertise of the provider’s managers, and their ability to stay attuned to the customer’s needs, can mean the difference between a mid-performing freight network and one that sets the competitive pace.