As a Regional Operations Manager, I oversee six warehouses throughout the mid-west. The distance varies as I can visit some with a day trip, others require a half-day drive, and I even have a few that require flying or driving the entire day to see. So, how do I engage remote warehouse employees?
Being a manager is a tough job, being a manager of remote employees adds a few curve balls to the managers role. We rely on many forms of communication to get our work done; phone, email, and even video conferencing.
Besides the obvious responsibilities of my role: ensuring the warehouse is running efficiently, hiring the right person to manage the location, coaching the warehouse staff, and overseeing the operations of the locations; my main priority is keeping all employees at the remote sites engaged in their work, their job, and the company.
After all, engaged employees make the responsibilities listed above much easier for me, our warehouses more successful in their operations, and even helped us be nominated as a top 3PL Provider for two years in a row!
Through the last few years, we've seen trends including a variety of items in the employee compensation package that ranges from casual Friday, to wellness programs, to customized incentive plans. The last thing we want to hear a remote employee say is "why do the employees at corporate get to participate in the fun activities, benefits, etc.?"
So, I've created a series of 3 blog posts to include a few tips on how to keep your remote warehouse employees engaged in their work, their job, and their company.
Tip #1 - Communication
"My company is awesome at communication" said no one ever! This is true not only when you work at the corporate office but also can be especially true when you work at a remote location. Keeping communication at the core of your relationships with employees is paramount when engaging remote employees.
So, how often do you communicate with your warehouse? Here's a few examples of our communication strategies to engage remote warehouse employees:
- Daily - Everyday at the same time we hold a Warehouse Operations meeting. Each locations manager or shift supervisor is expected to be on the call. This provides each location time to discuss issues they may be having, a chance to share successes with the team, and to provide shared experiences with others. It's a great way to share our wealth of knowledge across all locations. Additionally, warehouse leaders from the corporate office are on the call along with a member from IT to help work through pain points or process/system issues that they may be experiencing.
- Weekly - Once a week I hold 1 on 1 meetings with each warehouse location manager. This provides them the opportunity to discuss the progress of their goals, daily operations updates, outstanding corrective action plans, and allows for coaching to make them an even stronger leader in their warehouse. Additionally, it's a great way to brainstorm and develop strategic improvements to reduce waste in the warehouse along with strengthening our partnership with our customers.
- Monthly - At a company-wide level, we produce a monthly newsletter that is distributed to every employee. To show communication is a priority, we make it available through many different platforms - employees can even request to have it printed and mailed to their house! The information provided in the newsletter includes: communication for leadership from all affiliate businesses, announcements from departments, featured employees, upcoming philanthropic activities, personal achievements, employee birthdays, and their work anniversary. We also have a section dedicated to showcasing employees nominated by their co-workers for being prime examples of the corporate mission.
- Personal visits - How often does someone from the corporate office visit the remote locations?
- Our executive leadership team (CEO, HR, and VP of Warehousing & Packaging) make their warehouse rounds at least once a year.
- Members of our Safety department rotate their safety audit visits between them to allow the opprotunity to get to know those employees better along with providing a new set of safety eyes for each audit.
- One or a few members of the IT department make yearly visits to all the warehouses as we understand that technical capacity is a primary concern in all warehouses.
- And lastly, I try to make it to each location 2-4 times a year. My goal is to make these visits when the warehouse is undergoing a large event for example: new product/process rollouts, meetings with the customer, or hiring a new manager.
- Social (Media) Groups - Social media has really grown as a communication tool over the past few years; it's not just for sharing cat pictures anymore. Why not utilize a platform your employees are already spending their time on?
- Closed Facebook groups - Create a private Facebook group for employees only to share information about work, their hobbies, or yes, those funny cat pictures. Creating a virtual 'water cooler' helps those warehouse employees on different shifts engage with each other.
What creative ways are you ensuring that your communication goes above and beyond to engage remote employees? Leave your suggestions in the comment section!
Stay tuned for the next blog post in the series where I'll be discussing tip #2, giving your employees influence at work.