The Problem of the Aging Logistics Workforce: How To Attract Younger Talent

Over the past few years, logistics newcomers and veterans alike have been fielding their fair share of challenges. However, despite recent political and pandemic-related developments, a broader threat to forwarders has been bubbling below the surface since long before COVID-19.

As the bulk of the supply chain workforce moves toward retirement, studies are predicting a shortage in new talent coming in to fill open positions. With competition within the industry accelerating, many companies are striving to find new ways to hire and retain young recruits.

Let’s talk about how supply chain recruitment is likely to shift in the coming years, and what your business can do to adapt.

Demographic trends in the logistics industry

The logistics industry is traditionally bolstered by strong knowledge and experience in the workforce. However, continuing to rely on the current generation could be the industry’s downfall in the near future. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 45% of employees in transportation and warehousing are 45 or older, compared to 37% in younger industries like retail trade. This trend, coupled with the lack of young people entering the industry, will likely lead to intensified understaffing problems in the future.

In addition to the general labor shortage, many businesses are also starting to look for fresh perspectives to disrupt the industry. As digital-first forwarders grow their market share, traditional players are increasingly turning to digitization and automation in an attempt to compete. Along with other change management strategies, many companies are finding that hiring younger talent for tech-focused roles can give their business an edge.

OrangeLime Consulting director Shane D’Aprile talked about the need for technical expertise in growing companies in a recent webinar.

“You need talent to support the tech too, right?” he said. “As the tools become more tech-driven, we need to either bring people on that are more tech-savvy, more comfortable with using those types of tools, or you’ve got to raise your own team up to understand how to use those, what those tools are, understanding how integrations work or understanding how to make decisions or find information.”

Shane D'Aprile from OrangeLime Consulting, CargoWise Expert
“As the tools become more tech-driven, we need to either bring people on that are more tech-savvy, more comfortable with using those types of tools, or you’ve got to raise your own team up to understand how to use those, what those tools are, understanding how integrations work or understanding how to make decisions or find information.”

Shane D’Aprile, Managing Partner at OrangeLime Consulting

How to build a competitive workforce

Despite the importance of digitization and efficiency in business, success in freight forwarding comes from prioritizing people. That’s why it’s critical to find the right hires– especially in today’s competitive landscape. Fortunately, you can get a head start by making a proactive effort to attract and retain young talent.

Connect with potential recruits early on

You don’t need to wait until candidates are ready to work before getting on their radars. Just as pre-professional programs like NOVUS are effective in bringing new talent into the logistics industry, you can use similar methods to get new graduates interested in your company.

Look into launching programs to connect with college students who are still deciding what to do post-graduation. Focus on offering something of value, such as mock interviews, job shadowing opportunities, or internships. Even if you incur some expenses in the short run, your efforts will likely boost awareness and reduce recruitment costs overall.

Examine your culture and work environment

When faced with labor shortages, many employers’ initial response is to increase compensation through higher wages and bonus incentives. However, some companies are also starting to shift their culture to encapsulate the values of the newer generation.

Studies have shown that young candidates tend to value less tangible benefits like respect, relationships, and flexibility. Likewise, many businesses believe that prioritizing the social aspects of hiring can improve loyalty and retention in the long run.

Making your business welcoming to young recruits starts with the onboarding process. When new hires first come on, make a point to integrate them into the team. Introduce them to coworkers and supervisors, especially those with whom they’ll be working directly.

You can also foster a more connected environment by looking into initiatives to facilitate interaction and bonding across teams. Try out mentoring, buddy programs, and company social events. If you make it easy for new hires to get to know other employees, they’ll be more comfortable asking questions and looking for help when they need it.

Lastly, enabling employees to lead flexible schedules is key to appealing to younger demographics. Especially with the widespread office closings due to the pandemic, remote flexibility has become an expectation for many workers.

In a webinar with NCBFAA and Logixboard, Holly Scott of OrangeLime Consulting talked about recent shifts in the workforce. “When you think about the shift in the labor force, the labor shortage, it’s shrinking, it’s changing, it’s demanding more, it’s demanding to be able to work remotely,” she said. “We need to help our clients find solutions that help them adapt to that as well.”

“When you think about the shift in the labor force, the labor shortage, it’s shrinking, it’s changing, it’s demanding more, it’s demanding to be able to work remotely. We need to help our clients find solutions that help them adapt to that as well.”
Holly Scott, Managing Partner at OrangeLime Consulting

Streamline work with digital solutions

One of the biggest differences between younger and older generations is their familiarity with new technologies. While many older employees are content with following traditional manual processes, that’s a hard sell for young professionals. Especially with today’s integration of tech in everyday life, going back to old systems can feel repetitive and frustrating.

Investing in automation isn’t only crucial to boosting productivity at your company, but also attracting top talent. Adopting tech-driven processes signals that you’re committed to improving your business and competing in the industry. It also ensures that employees will gain the skills and experience they need to develop their career– an aspect that top candidates will use to narrow down their choices.

Final thoughts

While solving recruitment issues in the shipping industry is a complex challenge, individual companies can take steps to grow and strengthen their workforce. By launching early career programs, refining their environment and policies, and adopting new digital solutions, they can become a top choice for new grads.

Ready to launch your new recruitment strategy, starting with your digital offerings? Book a demo to find out how Logixboard can give your business a competitive edge.

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