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Plugging the Logistics Talent Gap

Now that the Great Recession is behind us, logistics and freight transportation are facing the challenge of finding the qualified people they need to keep the supply chain flowing.

“Leading companies understand that their supply chains – and the people who run them – are essential to their ability to grow profitably,” observes Lisa Harrington, a professor at the University of Maryland.

“However, the task of finding people with the right skillsets required to run these highly complex operations is increasingly difficult, especially at the middle and upper management levels,” she adds.

Boston Consulting Group research finds companies that excel in talent management increased their revenues 2.2 times as fast as and their profits 1.5 times as fast as what BCG calls “talent laggards.”

Harrington is a widely recognized expert on the logistics industry and is president of the Lharrington Group LLC research and consulting company. She was hired by DHL to conduct a survey of 350 of the top logistics executives in five global regions and to report her findings.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of jobs in logistics are expected to grow by 26% between 2010 and 2020. One worldwide study estimated that the demand for supply chain professionals exceeds the supply by a ratio of six to one, although other researchers believe that ratio could be as high as nine to one.

For every graduate with supply chain skills, there are six holes to be filled, and it could be as high as nine to one in the future,” stresses Jake Barr, CEO of BlueWorld Supply Chain Consulting.

According to the supply chain executives who responded to the DHL survey, one of the top factors driving the talent shortage is the aging of Baby Boomers, with as much as one third of the workforce at or beyond the retirement age.

Other factors include changing skill requirements, Harrington notes. “Today, the ideal employee has both tactical/operational expertise and professional competencies, such as analytical skills, but 58% of companies say that this combination is hard to find.”

Executives surveyed say tomorrow’s talent also must excel at leadership, strategic thinking, innovation, and high-level analytic and technological capabilities.

Lack of development is another issue. One third of the executives surveyed admit that their companies haven’t taken any steps to create or feed their future talent pipeline, the study finds.
In addition, logistics employers find themselves in a position where they also must battle the perception among young people that supply chain jobs lack excitement, while many other fields are more prestigious and offer better opportunities.

To start closing the talent gap, companies need to offer clearer career paths and a visible commitment to professional development combined with competitive pay, the report advises.
DHL says employers must stress needs for skills in robotic management, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle control – all of which are attractive to a younger demographic and can help combat the industry’s negative perception.

“We recommend that companies start with prioritizing the development of their current talent pool to adapt to the changing job requirements through training programs, and then retaining staff through clear career paths,” says Louise Gennis, vice president of talent management/acquisition, learning & development for DHL Supply Chain.

“We strive to combat misconceptions surrounding working in the supply chain through highlighting the technological developments which are digitalizing the industry and that are attractive to younger demographics,” she points out.

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