Modern logistics. It looks like it’s all about automated processes with all of these machines and robots. But humans, with their unpredictable behavior, are still an essential part of every step.
Researcher Jelle de Vries studied what drives people who work in logistics. He found that safety, security, and productivity can be improved by making better matches between the motivations of employees and managers and their work. A good way to describe what drives people in their work is a concept called ‘regulatory focus’. On the one hand, we have ‘prevention focused’ people. They play not to lose. They try to avoid negative situations. On the other hand, we have ‘promotion focused’ people. These people try to reach the desired end state and they play to win, you might say. Knowing this can help us to explain why people and also managers behave the way they do in logistical systems.
We found those managers with a safety-oriented leadership style typically are driven by a prevention focus. They play not to lose and they try to avoid unwanted situations like work-related accidents. Also, we found that warehouses led by these managers typically have less work-related accidents than other warehouses. Even though there’s lots of automation, there’s still an especially important role for people when it comes to picking orders from the warehouse. Also, security is a large issue and these type of managers tend to have less warehouse theft and make use of security products, cages, and alarms much more than their colleagues.
Knowing the regulatory refocus of these order pickers can be helpful when matching them with a picking method that suits them best. Some order picking methods are based on individual efforts. Other picking methods require more team action. We found that people with a prevention focus work better in order picking methods that require team efforts.
Also, these people work better with incentive systems that reward their collective effort, their team effort. Other order pickers, the ones with a promotion focus they actually tend to work better in order picking systems that focus on individual efforts. They also prefer to be rewarded with an individual incentive system.
We also looked at truck drivers and we found those truck drivers who are by nature more inclined to stick to the rules, actually make more traffic violations. That’s a bit strange, but you might explain this by the fact that these people are probably aiming to please their manager.
They want to reach their productivity targets, rather than sticking to the rules of traffic. At the same time, we found that drivers who are more aware of safety issues at work were in fact also more productive. It is important to know what drives people. Considering the regulatory focus of managers and employees and to make it fit with their preferred incentive system and their particular task will, in the end, help to boost productivity.