Exceptional warehouse workers are not a dime a dozen, especially when they are trained and supported as Industrial Athletes (IAs). Who are these Industrial Athletes, and how can they transform your workforce into a well-oiled machine? We are glad you asked.
The Team: Who Are Industrial Athletes (IAs)?
The reason we use this term at Eclipse (instead of associate or anything in that vein) is fairly straightforward. We liken our environment to a professional sports team. Why? For starters, our environment is a lively one. Individuals with low energy and low motivation won’t make the cut.
We scout for people who enjoy being active and also possess a go-getter mentality. Industrial Athletes combine the physical and mental aspects of a successful warehouse worker. They don’t have to be a bodybuilder, but they need the stamina, agility, and the heart to work.
The mental aspect of an exceptional worker is often the bigger challenge to find. The ability to focus, block out distractions, stay flexible, and adapt to new situations are not easy to teach. And that’s where the team environment comes into play. Day in and day out, IAs work as a unit, depending on one another to complete any given task.
All in all, that’s why the term Industrial Athlete is the perfect blend for our work model.
How IAs Approach Teamwork
In order to win a football game, all the players have to work together, and the same is true in your work environment. We emphasize that everyone works from the same playbook, which removes the excuse and mentality that a certain task “isn’t my job.” The team knows they have a defined amount of work to complete and is united in completing the project in the most efficient way. Everyone is zoned in to accomplish the same goal.
Therefore, teamwork is threaded through everything IAs do. Our model is “do more with less”. Our team takes the big task and splits it into smaller tasks, often finishing in less time than a typical eight-hour shift. Our onsite managers know their team. Just like football has the receivers, the running backs, the offensive line, and the defensive line, every IA has a specific skill set. From pickers to stockers to packers to sorters, certain people have a knack for certain positions, and our managers know just where to place each one.
Training Ground for Good Habits
The IA workforce is the perfect training ground for solid work ethics and habits. This playbook increases accountability because everyone must work together – they depend on each other, and you can see them sharpening one another’s skills in at least four different ways.
- If someone needs help, teammates chip in until the job is done because everyone’s success is built on each other’s work.
- Fast-paced learning
- In this hands-on environment, innovation, efficiencies, and improvements come from working together. IAs learn from and create a free-form method of communication in their daily work.
- Healthy competition
- “I think I can do that as fast as he did it.” It builds this friendly rivalry and leads to higher production.
- Tight-knit relationships.
- Teams grow, bonds form, and the camaraderie becomes contagious.
“Not everyone will make the team,” states Michel Plasse, a Director of Operations at Eclipse, “but those who embrace this IA mentality thrive in our warehouses. When the rubber hits the roads, you find out who will make the cut.”
Why IAs Love this Model
When you create a strong team with a solid core group of workers, people come in droves – they crave this kind of environment. They know their place. When this isn’t the case, an entitlement mentality easily creeps in. Even if someone is a strong leader and more capable than others, the IA model encourages the leaders of the pack to teach their teammates, not get ahead of them.
“Ultimately, everyone wants to be part of something. People want to make an impact with their jobs. IAs enjoy the physicality of the role and the fast pace that makes the days fly by,” states Plasse. “They value a sense of accomplishment and how they are rewarded for the work they put into each project. And this momentum snowballs – they are enjoying their work and making more money. It just clicks that it’s the model for them.”
Why Managers Rave About IAs
As a manager, you have the freedom to put IAs in the positions where they excel. This is a significant advantage compared to an hourly work model where everyone does the same thing in the same amount of time for the same amount of pay. The workers often don't care what role they have and are far less motivated.
Brandon Skipper, a Directors of Operations at Eclipse, says it like this: “If IAs are working on an assembly line, the manager can play to everyone’s strengths. By putting the strongest or most experienced player at the front, that IA motivates everyone to keep going.”
“This model moves itself. No supervisors. No complaints from leaders. It’s muscle memory,” states Skipper.
Wrong Calls People Make About the IA Model
Companies unfamiliar with a team-based pay structure can take a little time to adjust to this model, but at Eclipse, we manage the labor and are cost-effective. At the onset some wonder if this model is truly sustainable, but after a few months, it all begins to fall into place. We don’t have micromanagers but show our clients the unparalleled advantage of a cohesive team. This is a significant paradigm shift, but companies that give this model a shot are amazed at the positive difference.
And we don't just hire anyone off the street. As we described above, we find IAs committed to the work and skilled to do it well. We understand each shipment and delivery has a specific breakdown in the numbers and overall organization of the company – it’s not just grunt labor.
Additionally, some distribution center leaders believe this pay model will cost them more money – it won't. Again, we bill off the Cost Per Unit model. A client may have 1,000 widgets to get from point A to point B. We are not billing them based on the amount of time it takes our IAs to complete the task. We only bill for the number of widgets. In short, working faster benefits both the company and the workers themselves.
Why IAs Are the Real MVPs
This entire model is self-motivating. IA teams figure out how to excel in their roles efficiently, allowing them to live full lives outside their job. They work hard, get paid, and go home without mindlessly punching a timecard.
When you have Industrial Athletes on your side, you create an unstoppable workforce. Everyone plays their part to be productive, and at the end of the day, the IAs are a cohesive team that can't be beat.
This is part five in a seven-part series examining how Eclipse Advantage's Industrial Athletes are different than traditional warehouse workers. You can read all of the posts in the series here.