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Use Gateway To Build Your Business

Build Your Business graphicEvery material handling business’s senior leader shares the responsibility to build the business for the future. Strategy development, execution, process improvement and succession planning are often discussed as the basic building blocks for growth in market share, customer satisfaction, revenue and profitability.

Did you ever wish you could accurately see into the future and know exactly what moves would generate the desired results?

Seeing the Future
You get to see the future more often than you might realize. The future is shaped by the talent you see walking around your organization every day. The people in every role at every level within the organization represent the future of your business. After that next meeting with a key member of your leadership team, you have had a glimpse of your company’s future. Did you ever walk away with the feeling, “That person really gets it!”

If that’s the case with every one of your key people and you know who will replace them if they were to leave the organization, good for you. If you are like most business leaders, there will be a few areas where you conclude that the basic talents you know are necessary for success in that specific role are missing. Let’s examine some alternatives for developing the talent that is needed to secure your future.

There are two basic approaches to securing talent. An organization can develop the talent from within or they can look to recruit talent from outside their organization. After years in a variety of distribution businesses, I know the best approach is to develop talent from within the organization. Sometimes rapid growth, strategy changes, acqui- sitions, new product lines and un-foreseen departures provide a sense of urgency that makes recruiting the required talent from outside the organization a necessity.

MHEDA’s Gateway Program is an option that allows you to bring recent college graduates into your company (and the material handling industry) and develop that talent for future mid-level and senior-level leadership needs from within the organization.

Opening the Door
MHEDA announced its Gateway Program at the 2008 Convention in Orlando. The program recognizes that recruiting and hiring new talent is an ongoing challenge for the material handling industry. We compete for talent with every other industry in our community. The Gateway Program is cultivating relationships with potential sources of this talent. This presents a great opportunity in the form of creating a bridge between new talent looking for career options and the industry. The features and tools that MHEDA’s Gateway Program (job posting boards, résumé access, etc.) are explained in detail under the Jobs tab on MHEDA’s Web site at www.mheda.org. Having the Gateway Program in place provides a world-class tool where the initial barriers to access our industry’s and your company’s future talent have been removed. What needs to be done is to put in place the process to make this a workable opportunity to meet the future talent needs of your organization. Like everything else, it won’t happen without a commitment from your organization in the form of a champion, plus a continuing investment of time and dollar resources. This need for succession planning is a key element of your organization’s strategy to assure a profitable future.

Recognizing Diversity
The next step after recognizing the potential in MHEDA’s Gateway Program is to identify the specific steps required to get this new talent to pass through the portal and join your organization. Suffice it to say, recent college and university graduates are very different from the people who entered the work force 15 years ago, and different still from the previous generations that entered the work force 30 or more years ago. Much information is available about the differences in motivation and expectations among Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.

Robert Wendover’s article “How Emerging Managers Will Alter Material Handling’s Leadership Paradigm” and Kevin Freiberg’s article “Gutsy Leaders Anticipate the Future and Hang On Tight to Talent” are available in The MHEDA Journal Online. These articles address changes in the critical expectations and behaviors in more detail. Things have transitioned from the Organization Man of the 1950s and 1960s, who valued lifelong employment in exchange for total commitment; to the Baby Boomer who grew up in an optimistic world of expanding possibilities and tremendous economic growth; to Gen X, with its focus on personal branding and individual contribution; to today’s Gen Y, who is technically savvy and expects greater integration of work, life and family. Such changes modify the way we recruit and retain talent in our organizations.

Integrating family and work, providing fulfilling jobs, allowing flexibility, recognizing contributions, defining a clear path for development and promotion, cultivating relationships with immediate supervision and establishing good communications with all levels in the organization will become more important in retaining talent as Baby Boomers are replaced by Gen X and Gen Y in key roles in our organizations. Recognizing this expanding diversity will require greater recognition and responsiveness to these changing motivators if today’s leaders hope to continue to recruit and retain the future leaders that the Gateway Program will introduce.

Commitment and Investment
Commitment and investment is required to recruit and retain talent identified via the Gateway Program. Recruiting talent takes a dedicated champion within the organization. The champion’s role is to establish a relationship with the colleges and universities that provide access to the talent. Making your company known to prospective future leaders requires campus visits for orientations, career fairs, interviews and building relations with key faculty and placement advisors. The time and expense required is really an investment in the future leadership and the future of your company. If this investment is to have a payoff, additional investment in developing a planned rotation of assignments within your organization (summer internships and meaningful work assignment for the first several years of full-time employment after graduation) is a necessary ingredient to deliver a successful return. Design and construction of these meaningful work assignments must consider not only the company’s point of view (which a Baby Boomer might have accepted without question) but must consider the Gen Xer’s point of view in terms of integrating personal and work life, technology sophistication, flexibility, contribution and foundation for professional growth. The development of specific performance goals and measures, frequent performance feedback from direct supervision and access/communication with assigned mentors throughout the program will be key.

MHEDA’s Gateway Program is accessible under the Jobs tab on MHEDA’s Web site at www.mheda.org.

Tying together the selection, re-cruiting and retention elements are what make the identification and selection of the champion so critical to a successful return on investment. It requires the commitment and involvement of the most senior levels of the organization. In Straight from the Gut, and again in Winning, Jack Welch makes the point that developing future talent was how he spent a major portion of his time. To assure that recruiting, “on boarding,” assignment rotation, performance measurement, feedback and mentoring all deliver the desired return on investment, I recommend that the company president/CEO take on the role of champion. Delivering the talent to secure future growth in customer satisfaction, market share, revenue and profitability is that important.

What does your organization’s future look like? Do you have the talent in place to guarantee the future you wish you could see? MHEDA’s Gateway Program provides the initial steps in solving the critical problems of obtaining the talent to secure your material handling distributorship’s future. It’s up to you to make the effort.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Meet the Author
Steve Fallick is executive search consultant at Manning Search Group, located in St. Peter’s, Missouri, and on the Web at www.manningsearchgroup.com.

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