On the Market

With skills shortages on everyone’s lips, most employers now realise they need to adopt savvy recruitment tech­niques and offer competitive pack­ages if they want to attract and retain staff

LINK Recruitment’s practice leader in technical and operations, Sue Parsley says in particular, the ageing workforce and a highly mobile Generation Y means there’s a candidate-driven market.

“Those people with the right skills and qualifications, such as 3PL experi­ence, have more choices and job opportunities than ever before,” says Parsley, who specialises in logistics and supply chain recruit­ment.”

“Jobseekers know they are in demand and recruiters now have to sell organisations to them.

This means it’s important for employers to provide recruiters with as much information as possible, particular­ly regarding staff incentives.”

Founder and group managing director of global recruitment com­pany Logistics Recruitment Solutions Kim Winter says leading companies are encouraging moth­ers to return to the workplace and providing considerable opportuni­ties for compassionate leave or leave for ill health.

“They’re also maintaining continuity for their valuable people by giving them time off, three, six, even up to 12 months to explore other things in their lives such as extended educa­tion and travel

Findings from Logistics Recruitment’s 2008 Employment Market Survey Report reveal once again that while competitive remu­neration is essential, it isn’t the only motivation for staff engage­ment, loyalty and retention.

“Career development and enhancement by way of training and education is equally important,” Winter says.

“The opportunity for improvement and career positioning includes travel and introducing diversity across the employment spectrum.”

“We’re finding X and Y genera­tions are becoming more dominant in the workforce,” Kim Winter says.

“The companies we’re working with globally are hiring younger, more mature people who are sophisticat­ed about their expectations.

“Indicative of generational influ­ences, they demand to be treated individually as opposed en-masse and smart companies are develop­ing careers and employment around those needs.”

LINK Recruitment’s Sue Parsley agrees.

“We are seeing increasing pressure on companies to offer more exclusive packaging, so employers need to start getting cre­ative,” she says.

“In today’s environ­ment, we’re talking cars, laptops and relocation costs.”

“We even had a recent request for packaging school fees.”

General manager human resources for leading logistics solutions company Schenker Australia and New Zealand Yvonne Villinger says her company actual­ly changes roles to meet the needs of candidates.

“We just don’t have the pool out there that we used to,” she explains.

“So we’re re-jigging job descriptions and changing roles to be able to welcome the talent that’s out there.”

While Villinger says Schenker hasn’t made any drastic changes yet, the company currently has project teams working on how to attract and retain talent.

“We’re basically looking at who’s out there,” she says.

“There may be peo­ple in retirement who’d like to work part time or new parents who’d like to slowly get back into the workforce or work part time.”

“We’re also looking at job shar­ing and flexible hours if they have to pick up the kids or look after elderly parents, for example.”

“Our head office in Singapore has flexi-time. It’s mandatory that you’re in the office between 11:00 and 3:00, when all the meetings are conduct­ed, but you can come and go as you want outside of those hours.”

“At the end of the day, for­warders offer much the same kind of package,” Villinger adds.

“But Schenker Australia is trying to iso­late what it can offer that’s more attractive.”

“For some, that might even be the ability to order their lunch or shop online, or it might be the sort of communication tools available.”

“We’re looking at what’s going to make an employee say, ‘that’s the company I want to work for’.”

Sue Parsley says recruiters and employers are also turning to non-traditional strategies, such as online social networking, to source candidates.

“Social networking sites, such as blogs, Facebook and MySpace, can tell you a lot about a candidate’s personality,” she points out.

“Generation Y candidates are completely self-assured about using online technology to secure work, such as posting online videos to sell their skills to recruiters and potential employers.”

“This can help with headhunting.”

As we witness the increasing in profile of environmental and com­munity issues on corporate agen­das, Kim Winter maintains corpo­rate responsibility is becoming a major factor to consider for younger generations before making a decision about who they’re going to work for.

“They want to work for organisations that are not only making a buck but are also having a positive impact on the environ­ment, community and ultimately, their world,” he says.

Winter believes corporate responsibility is so important that it will be the focus of a new sec­tion within the company’s market research next year.

“There is a whole raft of excellent, best prac­tice companies, who almost all have a very strong position on cor­porate responsibility and this is increasingly attractive to their staff,” he says.

Within Australia the resources boom continues to directly impact the logistics and supply chain sec­tor where skills are significantly more transferable.

“There’s a strong demand on the supply of talent and skills amongst the wider supply chain and logistics commu­nity, in particular in the states of Queensland and West Australia” Winter says.

According to regional director of Hays Logistics Personnel Tim James, the majority of vacancies are operational, however senior leadership activity continues to be strong.

“Within supply chain the key hotspots of demand exist for supply chain planners and demand analysts,” he says.

“Over the past five years these roles have become more highly valued functions with­in businesses, as new and cutting edge world-class processes require planning and demand accuracy and organisations become aware of technology and methodologies available to them.”

“Candidates with front-end plan­ning experience are also required to accurately manage production/import requirements,” he adds.

“Within the transport arena there is a severe shortage of driv­ers and experienced mid level oper­ations staff, specifically transport schedulers and fleet controllers,” James says.

“Unfortunately, the shortage of candidates is also affected by the low appeal of mid to lower level transport operations roles to potential candidates, who do not view the long hours or stereotype of the industry positive­ly.”

“In warehousing there’s an increased demand for warehouse supervisors who can motivate and manage staff while controlling profit and loss.”

“This demand is driven by the increased pressure placed upon warehouses to be effi­cient.”

With more warehouses viewed as production plants and Six Sigma and Kanban utilised to drive changes, the traditional supervisor now needs to be multifaceted — more than a leader.

“Candidates need to demonstrate their ability to be an essential part of processing and analysing information,” James emphasises.

Schenker’s Yvonne Villinger’s experience backs this up.

“One spe­cific skill set that’s difficult to recruit for is the ability to really grasp a profit and loss statement and analyse how the business can be made more productive and effi­cient,” she points out.

“From a sales side, the people coming forward are often good sales reps and excellent operators, but have prob­lems when it comes to managing the sales team effectively.”

“Again and again, we hear our general managers saying they’ve got supervisors or managers in a role who’ve never had proper train­ing, but who’ve been promoted along the years because they were good operators,” she explains.

“Suddenly they’re managing a budget, or managing people but they don’t know what their bound­aries are.”

“So we’re developing pro­grams for them. It’s a big need and it’ll probably take a few years before the next lot are ready.”

Despite the difficulties, Yvonne Villinger says gradual increases in the availability of university degrees and apprenticeship sys­tems means talented young people are being promoted up the ranks at Schenker.

“This is wonderful to see, but again, when they start they’re very green, some have never worked before, so it takes a few years before they’ve finished their degree and we’re able to offer them jobs within the company.”

In the meantime, Schenker like others is forced to bring in people from overseas.

“Even though we have more positions on offer with better career paths, since the Bax Global-Schenker merger, we’ve sud­denly moved away from where we used to be,” Yvonne Villinger says.

“If we want to progress, we need people who’ve worked for a compa­ny at least the size of ours.”

“For example, we had a recent vacancy requiring a NSW manager to look after the sort of numbers that in the Schenker world, could repre­sent a small country.”

“So suddenly you’re looking for a completely dif­ferent skill set.”

Kim Winter argues organisations that deploy the right strategy around ‘people skills’ set the basis for technical performance, and bot­tom line outcomes.

“I’ve dealt with companies recently in Asia and Africa that are growing by over 100 per cent a year in terms of staff,” he says.

“Some of Australia’s most successful logistics organisations are predicting a significant per­centage of their growth to occur outside Australia over the next five to 10 years.”

“You can’t hope to hold together a company of that magni­tude unless so called ‘soft skills’, the management, the recruitment, the training, the development are sophisticated enough to compete on a global scale,” he says.

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