Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Technology is Important, But What About the People?

Organizations are defined by their workforces

Since I began my career at TMC years ago, I’ve watched the logistics universe become much more complicated. Yes, I work within our human resources group, but I spend a tremendous amount of time talking to our clients about their objectives and how we can support their people needs. Over the years, I’ve noticed that central to clients’ procurement practices is vetting our technology to the utmost level, but it’s the rare that clients assess our HR processes with the same level of granularity. There is no question that technology is important, but what about the people behind these systems? I would argue – and in talking with most of our customers I think they would agree – that organizations are defined by their workforces. 

With that in mind, I’d like to share a little bit about how we approach our people processes. We’ve always placed a high premium on managing talent within the supply chain, a philosophy that enables us to keep pace with shifts in employment patterns. Still, we have to work hard to recruit and retain the individuals we need to reach our goals.

As Ken Cottrill described in his recent blog (Building a Pipeline for Talent, July, 2010), globalization, the growing strategic importance of supply chain and the function’2013-05-22 19:24:14’s broader reach within companies, are some of the factors that are redefining logistics roles.

In pursuit of ensuring our people are a differentiator, a specific point of emphasis over the last six to seven years has been to ensure that our organizational and customer specific strategies are part of everyone’s job. To a great extent, this approach is about ensuring that we maintain the right culture as we scale our business. It’s also about aligning our employees with the goals and expectations of each client so that they function as an extension of the client’s staff. Specifically, we want to make sure that our people do not just focus on the tactical and operational sides of the transportation management business. While these areas are still important, strategic competencies now play a much more important part in our repertoire of skills. This trend will likely continue in line with growing client demand for sophisticated analytics and decision support.

It is critical that we infuse our overarching organizational goals and client expectations into everyday work practices at TMC — but we need to do this with scale and in a repeatable manner. To help us meet these objectives we have developed specific processes that cascade our organizational goals, client strategies and related targets – which are at the apex of our value creation chain –throughout the organization and to the individual employee at the desk. What’s critical is that the individual staff member has systems and metrics that show the link between client strategy, our organizational strategy, and their role within both. All of these elements must be aligned to ensure success.

One process that drives this alignment is our balanced scorecard, which measures the success of TMC’s high-level objectives. It has four components: financial, customer, internal, and human resources perspectives. Each of these components has a series of prioritized metrics that are transparent to our employee base. A level below the scorecard is a metrics dashboard that brings strategy down to an operational level. In effect, the balanced scorecard and dashboard together ensure that strategy is part of everyone’s job.

From a training perspective, we have developed competency models aligned with specific roles from entry-level to strategic account management positions. Leadership is one example of the competencies that receive particular attention as individuals climb the career ladder. Also, we have established comprehensive training courses coupled with mentoring programs to help employees realize their potential. The programs work very much like credit hours in college. In this case, the competency model outlines the curriculum available to an employee as they look to grow their career.

These are just a few of the people processes we’ve put to work over the years. As our client’s needs continue to evolve, we will adjust the way we recruit, develop, and evaluate employees in line with these shifting expectations. More than ever, our staff must be invested in customers’ businesses, and have a deep understanding of how they can deliver value.

Next week we will delve more deeply into what people questions you should be asking when assessing TMS providers.