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Effective Strategies to Offset the Talent Gap

Effective Strategies to Offset the Talent Gap

59% of supply chain executives feel that the success of their organizations will depend extensively on available talent by 2019.

The ever-changing requirements and demands of operating a DC (Distribution Center) are key factors logistics managers need to take into consideration when looking for effective strategies to help reduce labor shortages — “peak” season or not. Distribution is growing at a fast pace in today’s market due to e-commerce solutions for order fulfillment, the drive for omni-channel distribution, and fast delivery speeds. There is also a drive to customize solutions and enhance the customer experience by leveraging the supply chain. Combined, these trends directly impact distribution networks locations and strategies, management demands, labor requirements and other factors. In addition, the talent pool is faced with learning how to adapt to today’s market for: employees, skilled, aging workforce, and competition.

The fight for quality talent is hitting the supply chain and logistics industries pretty hard right now, and there’s no immediate relief in sight. According to Accenture’s most recent estimates, 59% of supply chain executives feel that the success of their organizations will depend extensively on available talent by 2019 (versus just 31 percent in 2016). Concurrently, 43% of executives see “demand outstripping the supply of talent,” as one of the most critical issues for their supply chain workforces.

“The drive towards customer engagement and customer experience along with companies recognizing they need to be an employer of choice is a great intersection for business today. The concern for business leaders should be in how to drive these initiatives together,” says John Stikes, DB Schenker’s Director, Innovation & E-Commerce, Americas Region. “Leveraging top-tier talent to drive value for your client can help solve the requirement for talent because it allows employees to create value to the business because they are closer to the mission of the business.”

Steps to Take Now

Historically transactional and tactical in nature, and rarely (if ever) mistaken for highly desirable careers, supply chain and logistics jobs require a broad spectrum of business, strategic, and people skills. Ready for an infusion of younger, tech-savvy individuals, the industry has long suffered from an image problem that’s kept it from attracting top talent.

“Though the warehouse and logistics industry continues to need employees, Baby Boomers are retiring at alarming rates, and no one is stepping in to take over,” writes Blytheco’s Tess Boros. “Fact: If your company doesn’t focus on hiring now, that labor shortage may take a large chunk out of your company’s profits and put you out of business.”

What strategies can you implement to minimize and take steps to close the talent gap in your warehouse?  

Educate younger workforce generations about logistics and supply chain careers. The fact is, many middle- and high-school students stay away from supply chain jobs because they have no idea what they are or what they’ll be doing in those roles. You can reverse this by working with area schools, vocational programs, and STEM programs (science, technology, math, and engineering) to promote the industry as being global, extremely dynamic, challenging and financially appealing. Emphasize the critical nature of the global supply chain, and how it functions, to both middle- and high-school students (e.g., by providing logistics use-case studies to STEM education training programs) and it won’t be long before they start filling out job applications, attending job fairs, and otherwise getting involved with logistics. DB Schenker recently participated in its first high school field trip this May in Granite City, IL., where it used the event to promote post-high-school career opportunities in logistics and supply chain.

In a separate DB Schenker STEM workshop series in partnership with Business Models Inc.(BMI) and FIRST, students worked on acquiring a deeper understanding of innovative mindsets when approaching business problems. They were able to frame and scope problems around logistics and transportation in a way that informed more empathy for their customer (in this case study, DB Schenker), and design solutions around those problems. “I think the concept of bringing workplace challenges to bright, young people is an innovative way of getting them to learn about challenges in other industries, other than what they have already been exposed to,” says Shiara Beecroft, manager of DB Schenker’s San Francisco branch. “It’s really exciting to see so many young people so motivated to work outside of their standard school hours to learn new tools and skills.”

Promote and offer on-the-job training opportunities to college students. The earlier you create interest in a students’ academic career, the better. This way, students will choose your industry first instead of being “picked up” by other opportunities. You can also give students hands-on experience via internships, which will help you assess the candidates while also getting them to consider logistics jobs post-college graduation. As an added bonus, this will also allow students to take more college courses specific to logistics and supply chain while they’re still in school. Focus on pre-graduate college students and find ways to attract them to job rotations in partnership with a manufacturing company, for example, where students do one term at the manufacturer and one term at your company. DB Schenker has used this approach successfully, and with various business partners. In St. Louis, for example, the company has reached out to numerous area and vocational colleges — an effort that allows it to target a desired workforce within all levels of the company’s hierarchy. Rich Waligurski of St. Charles Community College is one workforce development professional that DB Schenker is working with. “I think you have a great company,” he says, “and we look forward to working with you.”

Position the warehouse worker job as a flexible working opportunity. Work-life balance is a “must-have” for today’s workers, most of whom have multiple job opportunities to pick from. DB Schenker’s NearMe platform provides an online website where candidates can search for hourly-paid jobs, and book themselves based on skills and availabilities. They can work a minimum of four hours per day (versus full 8- to 10-hour shifts) on an independent contractor basis. This helps workers of all ages, and at all levels, benefit from a more flexible workstyle and achieve a healthier work-life balance.    

Listen to industry feedback and gain insights into employee engagement.  After spending one year being the most engagedindustry, logistics plummeted eleven spots in 2017’s rankings, according to a recent Quantum Workplace survey. Only 68 percent of logistics employees are engaged versus a national average of 74 percent, it reports. Companies can offset this nosediving statistic by utilizing new tools to measure employee satisfaction and doing some “easy” surveying on a constant and dynamic basis. DB Schenker, for example, piloted a new employee engagement solution in the U.S. and is on track to roll it out globally next year.

Use advanced tech to shorten employee onboarding and training times. With e-commerce, omni-channel, and an increasingly-demanding consumer all driving up expectations on the transportation and logistics fronts, companies can’t afford to spend months onboarding and training new workers. Focus on shortening those timelines by using virtual reality (VR) to train hourly workers directly on the shop floor, warehouse floor, or out on the loading dock. For example, Audi is using VR to give logistics trainees realistic simulations of their individual work stations. They use controllers to move virtual images of their work equipment (i.e., containers or components), apply labels, and pack boxes. “Because this no longer requires actual components and containers,” the company reports on its website, “the training can be accomplished flexibly at any location, and the company saves valuable space as well as time and money.”

Becoming the Employer of Choice

In today’s competitive business world, it’s no longer enough to just offer a good compensation and benefits package and hope that your valued logistics employees choose to be around long enough to make a positive impact on your organization. With the Baby Boomers in the throes of retirement, the labor pool tightening, and the economy continuing to improve, now is the time to take action to improve your company’s recruiting and retention techniques in a way that positions it as the “go to” logistics employer in its field.

“One of the ways we can show this is through our core value of taking customers further. When we allow our employees to be part of that process, they are more engaged in both a career at DB Schenker as well as in driving value for the client,” says Stikes. “Innovation helps us with this because it can remove the nonvalue-added services that employees do not enjoy.”

For example, whether we hire someone who would sit in a top-floor, cornered office or an entry-level employee, we want to make sure that they have a place to grow and be able to provide the necessities that they and their family need. At DB Schenker, we offer the same benefits to our hourly, warehouse associates that we do to our executives … not just our excellent health benefits, but also paid-time-off, set wage increases, company paid life insurance, and lucrative 401(k) that all of our employees can take advantage of to save for their retirement.

Here at DB Schenker, we consider every employee a vital part of our success and part of our family and we take care of our family. Whether you are just launching your career or wrapping one up, come join the fastest growing contract logistics provider in the world. You’ll be glad you did!

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