When it comes to improving inventory performance, many businesses focus on technical improvements such as implementing real time inventory control, reducing excess stock and switching from spreadsheets to online inventory management tools. Improving your inventory team’s technical capability works best when the whole team is engaged and on board. So here are seven ways you can boost morale and encourage teamwork in the inventory space.
Observe and Check In Regularly
To identify problems before they set in, stay alert to issues that might suggest teams are not collaborating well; for example, frequent stockouts may suggest that the procurement and manufacturing teams are not communicating well or often enough. Check in regularly with team leaders to stay on top of team issues and, from time to time, check in with junior and support staff to get another perspective.
Balance Teamwork and Ownership
Most workplaces are team environments. Procurement, inventory and logistics teams share common goals, such as ensuring that a business’ supply chains are reliable, or that customers receive their orders in good time. As part of achieving those broad goals, however, individual teams and team members have varying (and often competing) priorities.
One of the major challenges in building well-functioning teams is to ensure that individuals’ goals align with the overall goals of the team. Delegation is crucial; each team member should ideally feel some ‘ownership’ over a particular function or role.
Share the Load
Although it is important for team members to have specific tasks and clearly defined roles, it is also crucial to make sure that everyone shares the load. This is not to say that every person should be equally busy; warehouse staff may need to pull a long shift during stock take season, while accounts staff are likely to be busy near the 20th of the month. What is important is that managers identify when team members are at risk of burning out and, equally, when someone doesn’t have enough work to feel engaged.
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Set Team Targets
In a collaborative environment with common goals, teams should work towards achieving common targets in addition to personal performance measures. If a particular focus is on timeliness, teams should have a shared target that everyone can get behind. By focusing attention on team success, team members are more likely to compete as a team rather than compete with each other.
Although leaders in inventory management should ensure that team members are united behind a common goal, they should also aim to create an open environment in which team members feel encouraged to share their ideas. While not every idea will suit the business, an open environment is vital to ensure that team members feel valued and respected, and without this environment, truly useful suggestions are unlikely to come to the surface!
Invest in Communications
Many stock-based businesses have multiple warehouses and stores and deal with complex supply chains. If staff are mobile or geographically dispersed, having modern communication tools is important for teams to work collaboratively. In addition to telephone and email, consider implementing team messaging software and investing in cloud-based workflow and project management tools.
Mediate Disputes Quickly
As teams grow, it is inevitable that personalities, working styles and priorities will clash from time to time. Rather than denying that conflict exists between individuals or teams, it is important to encourage teams to share their experiences, stresses and frustrations. While not every difference of opinion is easily resolved, encouraging team members to open up usually builds understanding and empathy, particularly between different teams.