Recruiting and retaining skilled workers in logistics ecosystem

Though the logistics ecosystem is comparable to industries like oil and gas, coal and steel in terms of the massive economy it sustains, the fundamental difference lays in the extent of its fragmentation and the complexities that it accompanies — making it a market with virtually no parallel.

Being an industry in which companies definitively depend on a talented pool of people to gain an edge in the market, recruiting and retaining workers is a standard concern. Logistics management looking to recruit personnel must actively encourage in-house discussions on defining their quintessential worker characteristics and structure a process that helps them spot the right people among their applicant pool.

“For decades, the logistics and transportation industry has been dynamically changing and developing. It is a highly competitive and fragmented industry, and the recruitment processes must mirror its unique characteristics,” said Christoph Szakowski, the managing partner of LogCon East, a Vienna-based logistics advisory. “Recruitment needs to be fast and effective, transparent for all stakeholders, with the dedication to have the best possible outcome of the complete executive search process.”

In the context of ground-level staff recruitment, Szakowski contended that the process heavily depends on the economic situation of the market in question. In a developed market like the U.S., where unemployment levels are at a record low, attracting skilled candidates is hard as they have various job offers to fall back on.

In an emerging economy, there usually is a strong trend of temporary migratory workers looking to stay out of unemployment — making it hard for companies to choose the right people from a largely unskilled workforce.

Joanna Porath, managing director of Porath Customs Agents, commented on this predicament, saying it was about creating a balanced workplace with experienced employees and an eager-to-learn young workforce.

“As a manager, I’m stressing on the fact that we need both these kinds of people to meet market demand. There are several points where I see similarities in the recruitment of lower-level versus higher-level workforce — in both these cases, it is based on trust, loyalty, partnership and a sense of teamwork,” said Porath.

Recruitment is just one side of the coin, as retaining and training employees to meet current industry standards is essential for a company’s continued sustenance. And in that stretch, technological competence is a vital trait.

Szakowski explained that companies should take the initiative to help employees leverage technology for improving efficiency at work. On the flip side, companies might sometimes go on an overkill, introducing technology ubiquitously across operations, believing it to be a one cure for all. “When employees are not properly informed about the tools and its practicality, the whole experiment often fails,” said Szakowski.

Nicolai Præstholm, director of business development at Freja Transport & Logistics, explained that if management showed interest and ambition on technology adoption, employees would follow suit.

“Having the right blend between competencies and age groups will also naturally lead to some being front-movers in this area. Having young employees with relevant digital background helps as their eagerness spreads throughout the organization. In general, growth and bringing in new talent will add a continuous spark to the workspace,” said Præstholm.

To retain talent, Szakowski argued that besides the standard employee-retention program that includes perks, flexible working arrangements and better onboarding, a dedicated retention strategy should receive a new wave of popularity. The strategy should be more than just a program and be a continuation of the organizational culture.

“The C-level management starts to be a partner and not only a goal-pushing hierarchy level,” said Porath. “There is a lot of communication, understanding and fairness needed to retain talent. The managers need to undertake the steps to make sure there is a long-term development in the company and that for talent there is and will always be a place in the future organization.”