Regan Brown, Chief Executive at Impex Personnel shares his thoughts about how to attract, retain and empower staff in a technology-driven logistics environment.
Demand for supply chain and logistics talent is increasing, and according to recent research by DHL the demand is now outstripping supply.
According to the Australian Industry Standards report into the Skills Forecast for the Transport and Logistics industry each subsector of transport and logistics is expected to grow between now and 2024, with the largest growth projected for freight transport at six per cent.
More than 80 per cent of employers in Australia reported experiencing a skills shortage in the last 12 months. With occupations being in shortage including drivers, warehouse staff and supervisors and managers.
Employers identified a number of reasons for the shortages, including an ageing workforce, competition from other organisations and the cost and time to achieve the required qualifications and talent.
Technology is reshaping the industry and there are new kinds of skills that are required now and further into the future. According to the Australian Industry Standards the workforce of the future will need to be skilled in digital literacy, cyber security, and data analytics to improve productivity and customer service.
Software, automation and specialism
One of the biggest trends that I see is the increased level of software automation. Larger corporations have been adopting this technology for the last five or ten years, but now smaller organisations are getting on board.
It’s the software that is really driving the heavy rate of automation of tasks, this is happening in warehouses and distribution centres but also with many office-based roles.
An interesting development is that organisations are now able to specialise in one area. I’m seeing more and more companies take a step back, have a look at what they are good at and then focus in that area to win the market share in that space.
With the increased utilisation of software, companies are finding that they have a much better understanding of their business than before. The data is telling you that you can focus in one or two areas and make a lot of money as well as offer better value to your customers.
New skills for a changing environment
The biggest change in hiring in this new age of software and automation is that people are looking for candidates with a high level of IT competency.
A lot of our clients tell us that they want to up their digital game, that they want to develop skills and increase spend in this area so that they can get the most out of the software investments they have made.
Globally, there is a huge increase in demand for data scientists. We’re finding that people who are analytically driven are in high demand. But from a talent point of view, there is a shortage of these skills in the market.
With this in mind, our advice is that when you find that talent then it’s more important than ever to snap them up. The speed of the transaction has to increase dramatically. Interviewing, reference checking and onboarding used to sometimes take a couple of months, but now it needs to be sped up so that you don’t miss out on the talent.
A lot of people with these skills can pick who they work for, so whoever is given the worst experience when it comes to hiring just won’t get a look in. A quick and good experience says to the candidate that you are an innovative company. If the process is dragged out, if they get messed around, then the individual gets a feel of what kind of organisation it is and how innovative it is.
My advice to logistics providers is to use the same approach you would for your customers when it comes to hiring talent. Logistics is a no messing around kind of industry and it should be the same for recruitment. Organisations need to move as quick as they do when it comes to managing freight. If you don’t, you will get B-grade candidates and lower the productivity and efficiency of your workforce.
Upskilling and retaining talent
One of the biggest changes happening in the skills and recruitment area is that the current workforce needs to be constantly kept up to date with the latest software. This may mean that you need to invest more in current members of staff and bring them on board in a professional way.
Usually the cheapest way to keep costs down is to invest from within. Of course, hire the roles you don’t have the expertise in, but if someone has part of a skill you need in house, then bring them up to speed and future proof them within your organisation.
In addition, if an employee comes to you for a pay rise then give it to them. It always cost more to replace them than just giving them 10 per cent. It’s about looking after your existing staff and renumerating then accordingly.
If a pay rise is not possible, then there are other ways that you can utilise technology to decrease their workload and make their environment more enjoyable.
One innovative way that you can upskill workers is to utilise mentoring. A mentor mentee relationship should be symbiotic. The younger generation can work with the more experienced employees to get them up to speed on the digital side of things, while the older generation can mentor the new staff and bring them up to speed on all things logistics and supply chain.
It’s highly innovative to do it this way, both sides have something to gain and become very engaged when it’s a two-way relationship.
Another innovative way to upskill current staff is to identify super users, ie. people who are very confident with the digital side of things. Once you identify these people, you can use them to bring other staff up to speed.
The benefit of this is that individuals who may need to upskill in digital areas feel confident working with someone they know and trust, instead of using outsiders who may only come in for a few hours at a time and leave people without a full understanding of the software they are using.
Empowering workers through technology
I cannot speak more strongly about the efficiencies that companies can gain through proper utilisation of the correct software and automation.
While the conversation many years ago was around the complete replacement of certain roles, what we are finding now is that the technology is helping people do their jobs more efficiently instead of replacing them.
A company may have a dozen people in customer service, but when they introduce some smart software, they may not increase headcount but the workload can increase five or six times with the same team. This could be due to more accurate tracking software, for example which could mean less phone calls, less chasing, etc.
Technology, software and automation really empowers workers to be better at what they do and to give them the ability to spend more time doing the aspects of the jobs they enjoy.
It allows for more time with clients, more time on the phone, trucks being able to give a better delivery service, these are often the aspects of the jobs that people wish they had more time to spend on rather than tedious tasks.
For every hour you save through automation, you can spend that on professional development or on future planning. To be able to take people out of their everyday jobs and to have a think about what the future of the business might be is very valuable.
Engage the experts
In a highly competitive environment such as logistics and supply chain recruitment, it can be very difficult to find the talent you need. At Impex Personnel we have more than 100 years of collective experience in recruitment, and a further 200 years of supply chain and logistics experience.
All of our recruiters have experience in the supply chain industry, which gives us a huge point of difference in this marketplace. Our people understand the logistics industry and the skills that are needed.
We are in the talent market every day; we know what’s out there and we can make sure that you get the best talent. We pride ourselves on finding the best fit for the marketplace.
Some of the biggest players in the industry use us to source new talent – FedEx, DHL to name a few. They use us because we are the best at what we do, we cover the entire supply chain, from road transport, to warehousing and distribution, to 3PL, courier market to e-commerce – we have expertise and can source talent in every area.
About the author
Regan Brown is the Chief Executive of the Navital Group, a human capital solutions company comprised of Impex Personnel, Labourforce, Labour Health, and Navital Consulting.
As a third-generation supply chain logistician, Regan fell in love with the logistics industry from a young age. In 1997, his father founded Labourforce, a hire and recruitment company in order to address his transport business staffing shortages and staffing quality issues around selection, industry specialisation and knowledge of industry requirements.
21 years later, Regan has taken the Labourforce and Impex Personnel businesses forward to become leading supply chain and logistics staffing businesses, servicing the best in the industry with the best people – holding true to quality supply and ethical service standards that are industry leading.