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February 22, 2024

Purposeful approach to hiring and training helps manage the evolution from forklift-only to integrated solutions provider

A continuing U.S. labor shortage and a growing consumer thirst for online shopping have spurred exponential growth in the warehousing and distribution segment, with an emphasis on new technology and automation that moves products faster and more efficiently.

Carolina Handling’s evolution from a forklift-only provider to a company offering integrated, automated solutions has meant significant growth over the last two years. Our ongoing expansion into the sales and service of integrated, automation solutions such as conveyors and vertical storage and retrieval systems has not only increased our associate count, but also added new job titles such as design engineer, systems engineer and controls engineer to our sales, service and intralogistics teams.

Our level of growth can also mean growing pains such as hiring the right people, knowing when and how to scale, effective communication and developing the next generation of leaders. Those pains can be compounded by more recent conditions such as remote work and managing five generations in the workplace.

Like many companies in the material handling space, we are laser focused on business and succession planning. That means looking at expected growth over the next three to five years and anticipating the appropriate ratio for adding service and sales positions, coordinators, human resources business partners and other support roles as we add new customers.

Carolina Handling welcomed 182 new associates in 2023, with our total workforce nearing 800. While many companies use staffing agencies or contract recruiters to handle that kind of workload, we have our own corporate recruiting team to find and hire new associates.

Our in-house recruiters can speak first-hand about our company culture of service and caring and an environment that empowers associates and gives them the autonomy to go out and do the right thing. And their extensive knowledge of the technical skills required, as well as the makeup and personalities of various teams gives them a leg up on finding the best candidates.

For example, almost 13 percent of Carolina Handling associates served or are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, with skills learned in the military easily transferrable to the type of work we do. That’s why we’re so excited to now be a DOD SkillBridge Authorized Organization that provides job training opportunities for military members transitioning to the civilian workforce. DOD SkillBridge is a cost-effective talent acquisition pipeline that provides access to highly trained individuals with technical skills and strong teamwork and leadership experience.

Being intentional

With associates spread across five states, many of them working remotely, we’re not together around the water cooler like we once were, so we must be more thoughtful and intentional about growing and maintaining a company culture that previously happened more naturally. Through training and professional development programs, we’re helping associates be more intentional about their personal interactions, how they manage their day and how they build collaborative relationships with coworkers.

For example, last year we tripled the size of our field training team to assist with the onboarding of new field technicians. We’ve also expanded our professional development offerings and are coaching associates on how to take control of their own career development.

And with five generations in the workplace, we’re teaching managers how to flex their management styles to better assist team members who want to advance their careers. It’s very different managing a Baby Boomer compared with a Gen Z, so our focus is on situational leadership rather than practicing a one-size-fits-all leadership style.

Communication and collaboration

The growth of automation and integrated solutions makes the material handling industry an exciting place to be and it’s exciting to know that Carolina Handling is offering businesses solutions that make our customers more efficient. As we continue adding new associates, learning new products and adopting new processes, we know that communication and collaboration are key ingredients to our continued success.

Our people want to understand where the business is going, how we’re going to get there and how they contribute to that. Being consistent and transparent in our communication, we believe, leads to an environment where teamwork is fundamental. 

We believe that if we take care of our associates, they will take care of our customers, and that means giving them the onboard training, continuing education and resources necessary to provide elite service. The value that our associates bring to work each day allows us to be successful as an organization and to provide them with a meaningful career rather than just a job. 

Go HERE to learn more about careers at Carolina Handling and to view our open positions.