Distribution Susquehanna initiates new awards program to motivate employees to bring forward new initiatives

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Much like the ABC show “Shark Tank®” where entrepreneurs present their ideas to the sharks in the tank -- five titans of industry who made their own dreams a reality -- hoping to turn their ideas into lucrative empires, leadership of DLA Distribution Susquehanna, Pennsylvania recently held the first version of its own shark tank. 

The intent of the new employee involvement program is to inspire involvement, identify innovative solutions to distribution challenges, and build future industry leaders.

Army Col. March Callis, commander, DDSP, got the idea in discussion with the Senior Vice President for Security Operations at the Marriott Corporation.  

“We had an employee input tool, but it had grown a bit stagnant,” said Callis.  

According to Callis, the shark tank idea is designed to inspire critical and creative thinking across the Distribution Center … to identify, develop and implement all of the promising ideas out there, no matter the origin of the idea.

“As a key part of the effort,” said Callis, adding, “We developed an award program to recognize those employees who offer impactful ideas. Identifying talent in this way, we then invest time in developing their leadership and management skills to increasingly prepare them for additional leadership and management responsibility.

The presentations were well done and compelling, and I believe those who presented were proud to do so and excited at the opportunity and for the recognition.

To get employees motivated and involved, the DDSP project team built an easy to use application on their SharePoint site. The program was earnestly promoted via quarterly town halls, and information was sent via email through the distribution center’s monthly publication, “Victory Times.”

“There was palpable excitement behind revitalizing the employee input program . . . many ideas have been surfacing since,” noted Callis.

Two teams presented their ideas to the council — “Install Blue Lights for Safety,” where adding blue warning lights to forklifts and vehicles will provide better visibility to increase visual safety, and a “Recycle Pallet Program,” an initiative to educate employees concerning pallet usage, train staff on recycling measures, and initiate a cost savings/cost reduction.

During the presentation part of the project, the teams pitched their ideas to the executive council panel, chaired by Callis.  They were given 10 minutes to pitch, then council members were allowed 10 minutes for questions. A 10 minute period for council deliberations followed and then the council was given three minutes to decide on the level of recognition to be awarded.

Once the decision was made, the teams were brought back in and informed that they had “survived the tank.”

They received an “I survived the tank” tee shirt, a commander’s coin, a signed certificate, the appropriate monetary or time off award, and follow-on recognition at the upcoming Town Hall event.

The project has the potential to identify best practices, not only for local distribution center implementation, but potentially enterprise-wide as well.

“Workplace satisfaction studies strongly demonstrate that employees enjoy their work more when they feel that they own a piece of the organization and that their leadership is invested in the employee’s professional development and progression.  Among other things, this program is specifically designed to do just that,” said Callis.