Shawn Chen, Commercial Director, Asia & Southeast Asia and Regional Director, C.H. Robinson, shares the four key things companies should do, including changing the negative perception of the logistics industry and engaging with students to promote career opportunities in logistics.

The logistics industry is a big one – with growing volumes of global goods trade expected to reach US$18tn in value in 2030. E-commerce is a key driver of this growth, with sales in Asia Pacific continuing to top the global chart, projected to reach US$1.2tn in 2019.The need to meet logistics capabilities is more urgent than ever, and the industry is facing manpower challenges to meet its ever-rising demands.

For an industry responsible for the global movement of goods and services, the stakes are high in the battle for talent. Coupled with a fast-aging workforce, changing economic currents, and a skills shortage, the logistics sector in Singapore and across the region has much to do to prepare for the days ahead.

The Singapore government is well aware of the potential of this industry and has taken active steps to promote talent development and retention within the logistics sector. From the new career transition programme to lower the entry barrier for workers seeking logistics related roles, to S$2.8mn investment to boost innovation and talent development, many efforts have been made to ensure the success of this industry.

Beyond the public sector support, what can companies do to ensure they have the right talent?

#1 Change the negative perception of the logistics industry

Branding is a start. Transportation and logistics executives need to improve the sector’s image – and have the numbers speak for themselves. According to a report by PwC, more than 1 in 4 (27%) millennial employees working in transportation and logistics perceive their jobs as those of less high potential, as compared to the average of 14% of respondents from all industries.

But logistics is a hidden area with lots of career development opportunities. The demand for workers will continue to see an uptrend in the next few years, with supply chain jobs expected to grow 26% from 2010 to 2020.This is a dynamic space that offers employees ample opportunities for collaboration, creativity, problem-solving and room to grow for years to come. On top of that, the industry is going through exciting times with new technology-driven transformations such as drone, IoT, blockchain, just to name a few.

There is certainly a case for educating the broader industry on the prospects of a career in logistics to improve the overall perception and job satisfaction amongst logistics workers. More importantly, doing so will go a long way in maintaining a healthy pipeline of talent capable of supporting the industry’s current growth rate.

#2 Implement programmes to promote continuous learning

In this year’s National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the importance of continuous learning, even among older workers, to prevent the loss of valuable knowledge and overcome the generation gap in the workplace. He encouraged companies to re-design training and re-skilling programmes to promote continuous learning and knowledge exchange amongst employees, even those who are 40 and above.

C.H. Robinson’s Win by Design is one example of a training programme designed to improve employees’ skills in customer approach, retention, and relationship building through knowledge exchange and internal coaching. Employees are provided a platform to connect and share valuable knowledge with newer members to increase the effectiveness of customer communications.

As today’s business landscape continues to evolve, organisations demand for more than just tailored, market-leading supply chain solutions. Logistics players who strategically invest in building a global network of skilled consultants capable of offering deep expertise and valuable insights to customers will claim the lead in the competition. Knowledge transfer opportunities in the workplace are a strong place to start to work towards that goal.

#3 Build a future-ready workplace fit for young talent

With the challenges of keeping the industry agile, sustainable and innovative, technology is oftentimes put forth as the recommended solution. But technology isn’t a silver bullet, and we have not reached the stage where machines can or necessarily should completely take over.

However, technology does play a role in recruitment for the logistics industry. Studies point to the rising trend of employees considering technology access when deciding between jobs. This is especially applicable to Generation Z, those born between 1995 and early 2000s, also known as the most digitally adept generation yet. Logistics players can significantly raise their chances of recruiting the right Gen Z candidates by providing a collaborative and digitally driven working environment.

With the right digital tools at hand, these young talents will leverage the information advantage in the form of data and predictive analytics to develop smarter solutions for their customers.

#4 Engage with students to promote career opportunities in logistics

Internships and graduate programmes, for instance, give students exposure to a wide range of opportunities available within the industry, at the same time provide them with the necessary guidance and skills to work towards their career goals. Companies can also help students gain a clearer understanding of the skills required, such as robotics, machine learning, and data analytics - skills that would appeal to the younger demographic.

Above all, solving the talent problem requires the logistics industry to demonstrate a strong and ongoing commitment to helping workers build fulfilling and rewarding careers, with ample opportunities to learn and grow. This is a mammoth undertaking, but with the right game plan, logistics players have a good chance of winning this high-stakes battle for talent.

Photo / provided