ArcBest Digital Transformation Initiatives

About the Customer

ArcBest delivers integrated logistics solutions for a variety of supply chain challenges. Its offerings include less-than-truckload services via the ABF Freight network, ground expedites solutions through Panther Premium Logistics, household moving under the U-Pack brand and vehicle maintenance and repair from FleetNet America.

Scope and Challenges

ArcBest selected IBM Watson Talent Frameworks, a library of industry-specific job profiles that helps enterprises define, develop and hire people with the necessary skills for success. Based on 30 years of industry research, the solution outlines responsibilities, competencies and functional and technical skills, as well as suggested interview questions and coaching tips for managers.

The company started with a pilot project in which its regional vice presidents—responsible for more than 9,000 employees-would coach its field leaders. Working with Cornerstone, ArcBest met with its leaders to uncover the skills, competencies, and behaviors that made them in top performers in their roles and then customized the descriptions for the roles in IBM Watson Talent Frameworks.

“Working with the IBM and Cornerstone teams has been a great experience from the outset. By adopting a train-the-trainer approach, we quickly disseminated knowledge on IBM’s best practices around meeting with subject-matter experts and capturing their insights in IBM Watson Talent Frameworks. By the time we reached the end of our pilot, we were practically self-sufficient in the solution, and ready to hit the ground running.” Said - Kellie Black, Manager of Organizational Effectiveness at ArcBest

Today, the company is in the process of defining proficiency levels for each of its leadership roles, with behavior statements and expectations for each stage. ArcBest is also categorizing its jobs into families, and mapping out linear progressions from entry-level leadership roles to more senior positions.

“Our new approach to performance management is making it easier for our managers and our employees alike to understand the skills they need to move from an individual contributor to a leadership role,” adds Black. “Better still, our people can work on their personal learning and career development items in our Cornerstone online training portal, which means it’s easier than ever for them to cultivate the skills and behaviors needed to achieve their career goals.”

Outcome and Implications

With IBM Watson Talent Frameworks supporting its performance management strategy, ArcBest is nurturing a new generation of leaders. “After we’ve worked with a group of managers and their team members to capture their insights in IBM Watson Talent Frameworks, we train them to use the solution to drive more valuable conversations,” Said - Kellie Black, Manager of Organizational Effectiveness at ArcBest. “

Today, all leaders in our project scope are using the platform to support performance reviews and deliver more targeted coaching to frontline sales employees. The solution empowers our employees to talk about themselves as a whole person—not just in terms of their numbers and targets. It also enables us to set consistent, high-quality standards for coaching, which include level-setting conversations with their managers about where they are in their careers today, and where they want to be in a year’s time.”

Although its journey with IBM Watson Talent Frameworks is just beginning, ArcBest is already measuring positive results. The company recently completed an employee pulse survey that included the members of its pilot project and a control group that was not using the IBM platform. The survey included 15 questions on topics such as engagement, management and supervision effectiveness, communication and culture.

“We saw significant improvements in 11 out of the 15 questions in our pilot group compared to our control group, the most significant of which was: ‘I am an active participant in my performance evaluation’,” says Black. “We know that engaged employees are more likely to go the extra mile for our customers, and we’re extremely happy with our achievements so far. Most importantly, our employees are happy too—we maintained an industry-leading retention rate across the organization this year.”

Over the next two years, ArcBest plans to roll out its new performance reviews to every employee in the business. Black concludes: “IBM Watson Talent Frameworks is helping us define the role-specific culture and competencies that leaders need to thrive at ArcBest—and based on our successes so far, our goal is to map out a clear path for our people to attain the highest leadership roles in the business.”

Quotes

“This process is helping our top talent put names to skills they know are critical, but couldn’t quite put their finger on before. Gaining these insights is especially important for areas of the organization that are changing rapidly to meet customer demands. IBM Watson Talent Frameworks enables us to ensure that our descriptions reflect the requirements accurately, and helps us keep them up to date as they evolve.” Said - Kellie Black, Manager of Organizational Effectiveness at ArcBest.


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