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How do you manage feedback in a distributed logistics and distribution workforce?

05/03/2024 minute read OneAdvanced PR

The distribution and logistics industry consists largely of distributed workforces; where businesses have employees that work in multiple locations. Differing from remote work - traditionally applied to desk-based workers given the option of working from home - distributed workers are spread out geographically due to necessity. Examples include a fleet of drivers that reports to different bases and spends much of working life in transit, or a last-mile distribution company where warehouse workers are divided across different sites closer to consumers.  

In cases such as these, it is likely that line managers do not have a great deal of day-to-day interaction with their reports. They are less able to assess and evaluate their performance first hand, and to provide feedback in person. Effective employee feedback, however, is crucial for continuous improvement and continued business success. Distribution and logistics HR leaders need to think carefully about how to recreate the conversations and in-person assessments that occur between employees when working together at the same site. With the right software, the feedback culture of a single workplace can not only be reproduced but elevated to new levels of effectiveness and productivity. 

Communicate to retain 

In a sector faced with a skills crisis, workforce turnover remains a top concern, recently coming out as the biggest operational gap identified by leaders in a McKinsey survey. While there may be many different reasons behind a high churn rate, poor feedback is an important piece in the puzzle that is often overlooked in the face of the more obvious push factors of low pay or poor conditions. People who receive low-quality feedback are 63 per cent more likely to leave their organisations than anyone else. And in 2023, a national logistics company retained 1000 more employees compared to the previous year by investing in stronger communication and creating a strong feedback strategy for continuous improvement. Workers that receive consistent, timely and actionable feedback feel more valued in their roles and clearer about their pathways to progression, and therefore are more likely to stay. If regular in-person feedback conversations are not feasible in a distributed workforce, it is vital that HR finds another way.  

Taking feedback online 

Communication between employees can be taken online by a performance management software solution. This will facilitate feedback across multiple locations, with the best options mimicking and expanding upon the everyday conversations of traditional working life. Goals can be set by managers and tracked within the software, with opportunities for workers to regularly report on their progress. Rather than outlining the objectives once and checking in several months later, put the “continuous” into continuous improvement by creating a system where employees can update on advances or setbacks from their phone or laptop, as easily as they would update their social media.  

It is important to also acknowledge that feedback can go beyond a set number of formalised goals, however important these are. A software solution like Performance and Talent allows managers to have one-on-one conversations with their team members within the platform, capturing learnings and allowing workers to look back on what was discussed. There are a series of available templates to kickstart productive discussions, including a wellbeing conversation, career conversation and onboarding conversation. This allows for a two-way interaction, where workers can speak upwards to their managers about improvements to their working life. Sending out surveys is another way to actively engage employees and demonstrate that their views are valued. 

To combat the issue of managers not being able to directly observe the day-to-day performance of their team, a software solution like Performance and Talent democratises feedback across the business. Any employee can provide feedback to any other employee, allowing managers to assess one person’s performance based on the views of a wide range of different individuals within the team. For example, for a driver, the warehouse workers and colleagues at various distribution centres could comment on efficiency and performance, which a manager could then discuss with them in a virtual 1-1.  

HR leaders at distribution and logistics firms must work towards synchronisation across physical distance. With many businesses in the sector having a vast geographical footprint and fluid, ever-changing operations, feedback management is a multi-dimensional challenge. Luckily, the changing nature of work across sectors means there are many software innovations to take advantage of. Harness the potential of employee feedback and ensure your workers feel supported and listened to, every step of the way.