MHI Industry Leadership Program Equips New Leaders with Tools for Career Success

WERC Matters

Designed to help emerging leaders hone their management skills, the program builds confidence and connections with industry peers and seasoned mentors.

michael mikitka

Most companies consider their employees to be their biggest asset. With the ongoing workforce hiring and retention challenges facing supply chains, many are realizing the benefits of investing in the professional development of their people, particularly for new and emerging leaders within their ranks.

Helping companies build strong leaders—and ultimately retain and nurture top talent—is the purpose of the MHI Industry Leadership Program. Targeted to leaders at the outset of their new roles, the program helps them grow their leadership skills and expertise while providing a broad perspective of the supply chain and material handling industry. It also gives participants the opportunity to learn from others in the field via connections with industry peers and experienced leaders.

Launched four years ago, the program has been virtual since its inception—thanks to the pandemic. This fall, however, MHI and WERC are offering the MHI Industry Leadership Program in both virtual and in-person formats for the first time.

“The content is the same for both cohorts, and both run for multiple weeks,” explained Rebecca Woods, MHI’s director of talent and professional development. “The in-person event will cover eight workshop sessions over three days, September 10-12, at MHI’s offices in Charlotte. The virtual cohort breaks that content up into two-hour sessions spread over eight weeks and runs from August to November.”

mhi industry leadership

Program’s Evolution Informed by Participant Feedback

Adding an in-person version of the program resulted from participant feedback, Woods continued. Several past and prospective participants noted that in-person sessions enable people to step away from their day-to-day and focus completely on the content.

“Being in a physical classroom eliminates the potential for distractions that can pop up in the office or at home,” said Woods. “It also gives participants the opportunity to network, discuss and learn from their peers face-to-face. Offering the program in both formats allows participants to choose the approach that works best for them.”

The core material combines tools, assessments, online content, live discussions, one-on-one coaching, peer networking and mentoring from senior-level industry leaders. The curriculum includes emotional intelligence, problem-solving, resolving conflict, decision-making, communication styles, art of negotiations, influencing strategies and more. Participants engage in role play and gamification activities to gain experience in the impact of daily decisions on company strategy and profitability.

“We’ve had people from warehousing and operations, sales and marketing, engineering, information technology and more,” she recounted. “Many of them have been promoted to leadership roles that now place them in charge of their former peers. The content covers how to successfully manage that shifting dynamic.”

Mentoring Often Continues After Program

Prior to the start of the session, participants complete two assessments to identify their personality profile. Based on that information, Woods and her team match each participant with a mentor.

“Many past participants have continued that relationship after completing the program,” added Woods. “It’s absolutely encouraged, and we’ve found that the individuals who do remain in touch with their mentors are the ones who have gone on to attain higher levels of advancement within their organizations.”

More than 100 participants have completed the program since its launch. Nearly all are at the outset of their leadership careers and represent job titles and roles throughout the supply chain, said Woods.

Among them are Alex Holzgen, solutions engineer at MHI member DLN Integrated Systems. Holzgen was a member of the sixth cohort in 2023. He feels that the most valuable part of the program was the opportunity to learn from others.

“The ability to hear how others in the industry have dealt with certain scenarios—including the professional speakers who shared their stories—was a huge benefit,” he explained. “My biggest takeaway from the program was learning how to manage the personal interactions I have in the workplace. Hearing how others have handled these situations has helped me immensely.”

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