The Increasing Role of AI in Effective Management of Labor and Productivity

Takt Coach marks an important step forward in our goal of leveraging AI to better support warehouse labor via the labor management software.

For too long, “Labor management” effectively meant “identify the low performers and replace them.” This approach sufficed for a very long time - supply chain labor was in abundance…and then, all of a sudden it wasn’t. COVID…The Great resignation…It seemed as if, almost overnight, everyone reassessed their relationship with (and expectations of) work. Operations responded by significantly raising hourly pay, but turnover still surged, with facilities still struggling to find adequate staff.

It’s never been just about compensation. 

The individuals and teams pulling 10 and 12 hour shifts, powering the supply chain 24/7, want to be engaged. They want to understand where they are proficient and where they have opportunities to grow. They want a culture where they understand how they contribute to the success of their team and organization. In the simplest terms, they want regular communication and feedback. And this isn’t a passing trend…the incoming Millennial and Gen Z workforce expect more feedback and communication than any previous workforce. It’s an important (and scary) realization facing every organization hoping to retain and motivate the existing and incoming workforce.

Effective feedback and communication isn’t easy - but it’s critical.

Consistent feedback and employee check-ins are not the norm. In far too many facilities, operators receive feedback a couple of times a year - if at all. There’s a reason: Feedback can range from a general check in or scheduled review, to tougher conversations about expectations and performance improvement. In many cases, the managers we expect to lead these conversations have little or no training in effective employee coaching.

When speaking with a potential customer recently, they shared their current “feedback system” - a drawer full of loose leaf paper. The first page they shared had nothing more than a date, a supervisor name, and free text which read in its entirety (and I quote): 

“Tommy ain’t havin it today.” 

This feedback is obviously devoid of any discernible value - it lacks qualitative or quantitative assessment, has no expectations, and offers no support or guidance. It presents nothing of value to an employee - or a supervisor for that matter. Effective feedback requires structure, training, and practice. But when done correctly, it can make a huge difference. At the close of 2022, we compared the performance of every operator across our platform. The results were significant, albeit not terribly surprising:

Employees that receive regular feedback and/or coaching (feedback provided every 30 days) are 18-23% more productive.

Arguably more important than the productivity gains is the fact that these employees are more engaged and motivated, understand that they are part of a team, and are clear on expectations and opportunities for growth.

Generative AI as a management “coach” 

It’s not realistic to expect every people-leader to have the intrinsic management skills to lead effective coaching and feedback conversations. There are consultants whose sole purpose is to train managers in effective coaching communication (if you’re in need of this service, reach out to me and I’ll gladly make an introduction to an amazing team)

At Takt, we believe that technology should do its part, too. Too often, valuable insights and analysis get lost amongst screens full of numbers. This is particularly detrimental when a manager needs to have an effective feedback conversation with an employee, whether it’s to provide training, a scheduled performance review, or to provide kudos to an employee having a particularly good day / week / month. 

In our latest release, we’ve leveraged generative AI to create “Takt Coach” - a tool that prompts managers with suggested coaching topics and helps ensure that the feedback they provide is fair, effective, and actionable.

We’ve eliminated the need to dig through mounds of employee performance data and individual shifts. Takt Coach looks across all of the employee data for you, giving managers a quick set of “suggested topics” they might consider covering in a feedback session. And when it comes to helping managers write more effective free text feedback, Takt Coach is particularly capable of helping managers avoid future cases of “Tommy aint havin it”, ensuring that feedback is a balance of quantitative and qualitative feedback, consistent with documented employee performance.

Takt Coach is already helping managers have more effective feedback and coaching discussions, creating a culture of engagement and regular communication. It's just one small part of the latest release of the Takt platform, but it represents a marked step forward in our endeavor to better serve the teams who power our supply chains. We’re excited about the potential of these new technologies, and are already hard at work on additional ways to leverage their power to support the organizations we serve.


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