In times of change, It’s people that matter

While every industry has been affected by the global health emergency that we are all living through, the logistics industry has endured a particularly difficult time. Some sectors have faced unprecedented spike in demand, with online shopping and consumer stockpiling causing challenges for the retail and groceries sectors. On the other hand, firms transporting goods for the construction, hospitality and events industries saw varied demands making the daily management of its fleet operations and staff levels problematic.

Many transport and logistics workers became ‘key workers’ during the pandemic, allowing them to continue doing their jobs even as everything else shut down. For months, they have worked tirelessly to ensure the country has what it needs during one of the most challenging periods in recent memory.

Protecting your workforce

Those working in high-demand sectors, such as warehousing and distribution, have been under huge pressure to perform during lockdown. All the while knowing that the nature of their jobs means they may be more exposed to contracting the virus. They have maintained the supply chain admirably and deserve gratitude, like the many other key workers who have supported people throughout the first lockdown. Compounding these difficulties is the known driver shortage and aging workforce (particularly among haulage drivers).

There are many varied roles in logistics, but those behind the wheel of their delivery vans or HGV will often be working alone and sometimes for long periods of time. Couple this with restrictions imposed by Covid-19, they may face longer periods alone compared to others who may be in a team environment. These periods of isolation could add to anxiety and potentially impact on mental health. Drivers should not be overlooked accordingly, and their mental health monitored as far as possible.
In difficult times, looking after your people has never been more important.

Placing increased emphasis on communication and supporting employees’ mental and physical wellbeing will do wonders for logistic workers’ morale, productivity and health. Retention in the workplace can be problematic so checking on your workers can increase a feeling of belonging and inclusion. Businesses are working hard to navigate through the financial pressures caused through the pandemic restrictions and the constantly evolving situation, but compliance with health and safety measures and taking steps to maximise the wellbeing of their workforce is essential.

This can be achieved by:

• Effectively communicating and enforcing new policies and procedures, such as social distancing within warehouses and contactless deliveries for haulage drivers.

• Supporting employees’ physical health by ensuring they take adequate breaks and providing them with suitable PPE and hand sanitizer.

• Incentivising employees to take sick leave if they develop symptoms by providing them with information about government sick pay entitlement and the firm’s own sickness absence policy.

• Placing emphasis on mental health and wellbeing and ensuring that staff are aware of the support available to them.

The Government, through the HSE, are issuing guidance in respect of various workplaces including in vehicles and business premises. Business mangers should keep up to date with that guidance accordingly.

This should not just be a tick box exercise, but to include measures that are of benefit to their staff and will promote a positive working environment and hopefully reduce staff turnover and build business repute.

A wealth of opportunities for new talent

While the pandemic has led to thousands of job losses, logistics looks set to become a major driver of employment going forward. In April 2020, the British Chamber of Commerce revealed that logistics was seeing the biggest demand for staff; Amazon alone stated its intention to hire an additional 100,000 warehouse staff at the height of lockdown. Now, as the country teeters on the brink of a second wave and Christmas rapidly approaches, a well-staffed logistics industry is set to be more important than ever. With the government currently pushing its ‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.’ drive, there is greater potential than ever before to attract talent from other industries, with transferrable skills that could help drive positive change.

Speaking as I do regularly to educational establishments, I seek to encourage people into the sector by explaining the diverse range of opportunities available and the imposition of supply chain working. The industry is well regulated and requires a high degree of professionalism at all levels.

In these times it is the perfect time to reach out to younger generations to teach them just how rewarding a career in logistics can be. Just last year, a Talent in Logistics report revealed that only 8% of young people consider the sector to be an attractive career option, while 42% do not have a clue what logistics means. The pandemic has made the logistics industry more visible as we receive more goods and deliveries to our homes, and this has led to a new found appreciation of the vital role of the logistics sector. Now could be the perfect moment to appeal to younger generations, many of whom have seen their career prospects damaged by the pandemic and may now be more receptive to a wider variety of employment opportunities.

What’s more, the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, which directly pays employers who create jobs for 16 to 25-year-olds on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, provides a massive incentive for logistics firms to start taking on younger staff. It also rewards employers who take on trainees and apprentices under the age of 25. With just 9% of the current logistics workforce under the age of 25, there is no better opportunity to rectify the historic lack of new talent entering the field.

A new era

The industry is currently standing on a precipice between the old world and the new. Ahead lies a wealth of opportunities for logistics firms to thrive in a post-COVID world. Much is still uncertain, but ensuring you look after the people you have and being proactive in attracting new talent is an excellent way to start planning for a prosperous future. In the words of Walt Disney himself: “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world… but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

Mike Hayward

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