The distribution centre for the Gresham MAIl Order company is sited in Reading and has 390 staff – mainly stockkeepers, mail order pickers, packers and fork lift truck drivers. The order picking system is computerized and the centre is partly automated, but it is still quite a labour-intensive operation. There is a bonus scheme controlled by the industrial engineering department.
The centre is managed by the Distribution Manager, who reports to the Company Operations Manager. The distributionmanager’s staff includes four departmental managers – goODs inwards, orderpicking, order packing and dispatch. His staff also includes an industrialengineer but no HR specialist. There is an hr department based at headquartersthat provides advice and help as required.
There are a total of 22 team leaders in thefour main departments, with an average of 17 staff each, ranging from 11 to 22.Gresham has had a fair degree of success in the last few years and several newteam leader posts have been created. A number of the more experienced teamleaders have retired or been promoted recently and six new team leaders werEAPpointed in the early part of the year. Four of these were by promotion fromwithin, and the two external recruits had supervisory experience inwarehousing, though in less SOPhisticated distribution centres.
The new team leaders were attached to anexperienced team leader for six weeks to learn the ropes. There was no formalinduction course. In theory the departmental managers monitored the progress ofthe trainee team leaders but in practice they were allowed mainly to sink orswim. They were, however, fairly closely supervised by their departmentalmanagers in the initial period of six months, which was regarded as aproBATionary period, at the end of which an informal review of theirperformance was carried out by the manager. No formal appraisal scheme was inuse. The Distribution Manager kept a close watch on this process and himselfinterviewed each of the trainees at the beginning and end of their probationaryperiod.
The probationary period for the new teamleaders extended over the peak preChristmas period, and while two (one promotedfrom within and the other an external recruit) did fairly well, the others didnot. The informal review process revealed that they had failed to varyingdegrees to achieve their targets but did not establish with any clarity whythis had happened. The Distribution Manager decided that two of the new teamleaders promoted from within should return to their previous jobs and the poorperformer from outside should be dismissed. The former were extremelydissatisfied and registered a griEVAnce, while the latter claimed unfairdismissal and won his case on the grounds that a proper procedure had not beenfollowed.
The Distribution Manager was aware thatthis failure to obtain satisfactory team leaders had substantially affected theperformance of the centre. He had so far neglected to seek HR advice on theirselection and training but he now appreciated that it was essential to create anew post of HR Manager. This was filled by an experienced HR adviser from thecentral HR department who had good experience in learning and development andrecruitment. After a brief induction period the HR Manager was asked by thedistribution manager to review methods of training team leaders.
The HR Manager quickly established the factthat the present training arrangements were inadequate. She also found that theselection process was flawed. There was an old job description for a supervisorbut no attempt had been made to analyse the role requirements of a team leader.
The job description for supervisors in theorder picking and packing department, simply stated that the overallresponsibility of a supervisor was to ensure that orders passed to the sectionwere assembled correctly on the day of receipt. The tasks specified in the jobdescription were to:
● Plan the day’s work on the basis ofestimates of the total number of orders to be processed.
● Decide on the number of staff required tohandle the workload.
● Ensure that work proceeds as programmed.
● Instruct new staff in their duties.
● Ensure that staff work to the standardsrequired.
● Deal with staff grievances anddisciplinary matters.
● Maintain section records.
● Maintain the section in clean and orderlycondition.
The HR Manager decided to carry out a roleanalysis to determine requirements in terms of outcomes, establish the keyperformance indicators (KPIs) for the role and identify the competenciesrequired. She did this by individual discussions with the Distribution Manager,departmental managers, the industrial engineer and a selection of the moreexperienced team leaders. She also conducted two workshops with team leaders toobtain their input. She was careful to avoid HR jargon – for example, nomention was made of key performance indicators or competencies. Instead sheasked simple questions such as: ‘What examples can you give of good or not sogood performance in this aspect of the work? How, in this area, would you knowthat the work had been well or less well done? Can you give examples ofeffective or ineffective behaviour on the part of team leaders in such areas asdealing with their staff? What do team leaders need to know and be able to doto carry out their work well?’
She then analysed the responses to thesequestions and grouped them under headings, as follows.
● Completion of orders as planned.
● Number of orders unfulfilled at the endof the day.
● Absence of delays or bottlenecks.
● Speed with which employees reach bonusstandard, ie expected level of output and accuracy.
●Amount of staff idle time.
● Number of errors per employee.
● Climate of employee relations in section.
● Absenteeism and timekeeping of employees.
● Reports completed accurately and on time.
● Achievement of housekeeping standards.
Knowledge and skills requirements
●Picking, packing and dispatch procedures.
●Bonus scheme arrangements.
● Methods of identifying and soLVing commonproblems.
●Methods of planning work to deal with anticipated throughput.
●Methods of estimating staff requirements.
●Ability to give clear instructions.
● Ability to ensure that staff learn anddevelop the skills they require.
● Discipline and grievance procedures.
●Team orientation – work cooperatively and flexibly with other members of theteam, ie fellow team leaders.
● Communication – the ability tocommunicate clearly and persuasively.
● People management – manage and developpeople and gain their trust and cooperation to achieve results.
● Customer focus – always aware of theimpact of the work of the section on the level of customer satisfaction.
● Results orientation – a desire to dothings well and achieve goals.
● Problem solving – the capacity to analysesituations, diagnose problems, identify alternative courses of action, andproduce logical and practical solutions.
● Planning and organizing – the ability todecide on courses of action, and scheduling work to achieve the desired result.
She also obtained from departmentalmanagers their views on some of the typical performance problems they have metand what needs to be done about them. The following is a selection of theirtypical comments about individual team leaders:
● Staff deployment – too much idle timealternating with sudden crises because of staff shortages. Need to know moreabout how to relate staff requirements to forecast activity levels and how toschedule staff to ‘smooth’ peak workloads.
● Staff supervision and work control – cangenerally complete orders as planned but only by driving staff very hardindeed. The error rate per employee is too high. Need to acquire more skill intraining and coaching employees and more knowledge of errors and how theyshould be eliminated. Better planning should reduce the need to drive staff andthe resulting risk of poor morale. Should learn how to motivate people in moresubtle ways.
● Staff matters – a number of staff in thesection do not understand the bonus scheme. Need to know more about the bonuSSCheme and how to impart this knowledge to staff. Do not fully understandcompany disciplinary and grievance procedures.
● Records – too many mistakes in recordsand delays in reporting results. Necessary to ensure that team leaders know howto complete the records and appreciate the importance of accuracy and deliveryon time.
Armed with this information the HR Managerfelt that she was in a position to make recommendations on the developmentprogramme for team leaders. She was also aware that something had to be doneabout their selection and the performance management processes used (at presentconspicuous by their absence).
Prepare the recommendations you think the HR Manager should make based on this information.