Blog Article

ALOM is a global leader in supply chain management serving as a strategic partner to our customers by expertly and seamlessly conducting their key business functions from manufacturing to marketing.

Staff Retention Critical to Avoid a Supply Chain Train Wreck

By Hannah Kain, ALOM President and CEO

After having gone to the same nail salon for the last 8 years and receiving very good service, I had a series of bad experiences over recent months. The nail polish would chip within days. The wait for getting service was interminable, dragging out what was normally a 40-minute service into a multiple hour ordeal. Staff was searching for power outlets, struggling to answer phones and use equipment, and customers were kept waiting.

As I reflected on the experience, I realized this echoes experiences that friends are relaying to me with increasing frequency. Service is in decline. Interesting enough it is not necessarily because of understaffing. Often, there is ample staff. The problem is that the staff is not trained. With untrained staff, each interaction is slower and more painful, often filled with errors. As part of the restlessness in the workforce, employers experience more turnover and often new employees making a career transition that can be extra painful. Employers who are not retaining experienced staff may find themselves in a situation where there is nobody around to train those new employees. Then it gets left to the customers to train – or at least tolerate – the untrained “customer service” staff.

The supply chain profession is extra hard hit by staffing issues. We all can see the train wreck in the making with an anticipated deficit of millions of trained supply chain professionals over the next years. As supply chain professionals are working long hours to fend off one crisis after the next and trying to get ahead of planning and risk mitigation, the training burden is pushed out by necessity. When there are not enough hours in the day, it is easy to get caught in the delayed training trap. It also does not help that much too few new professionals are graduating with supply chain undergrad and grad school degrees. It begs the question how should leaders handle this situation?

If the workforce is more restless with less longevity in each position, then fast onboarding becomes critical. My company began implementing a faster onboarding program 5 years ago through a new and highly successful program called ALOM University with easy-to-use systems, clear and visible processes, strong value foundation, and explicit training requirements.

Another obvious solution is addressing employee retention to make sure trained employees remain with the company.  Greater retention leads to higher customer satisfaction and to higher profitability. This is one of several reasons why ALOM has made it one of our core values to be the employer of choice. The idea is to attract the best staff, but also to retain staff. It allows us to focus our training budget on elevating our staff and giving everyone better opportunities. It has earned us great awards and recognition – but first and foremost allowed us to maintain an extremely high employee and client satisfaction rating.

As we are celebrating 25 years in business, I have the privilege of recognizing staff with 25 years of service at ALOM, along with what we laughingly call “newbies” with 5, 10 or 20 years of service. I feel so very privileged to have loyal and long-term staff members. Recently, during a new medical client program risk assessment, a long-time staff member determined that the product classification was not in legal compliance at the client’s prior supplier. The product is now reclassified correctly, eliminating a significant risk for both the client and ALOM. As I was waiting in the nail salon, I pondered the difference in service and competency. The benefit of highly trained and skilled staff simply cannot be overstated.

As some supply chains fell apart during the pandemic shifts, companies with strong technology and visibility had a significant advantage. Yet the true star performers also had very competent and dedicated staff. These highly skilled staffers were thinking on their feet, had the skills and knowledge to react fast as well as the creativity that often comes with experience. In a dynamic environment, agility can only be achieved by combining technology and highly skilled staff.

As we near the end of the 25th anniversary year for ALOM, my gratitude is not only to our clients and suppliers, but very much to the staff that goes over and beyond every day. I am so privileged to work with these phenomenal star players. Here’s to 2023 and continued awesomeness.