Ruth Edwards, Business Development Director at Talent for Logistics.
The world is heading into a deep recession and everyone is expecting a large number of redundancies. However, the logistics sector should consider its approach towards employees, what benefits it offers, how it builds trust and promotes wellbeing. Ruth Edwards, Business Development Director at Talent for Logistics, talks about the future of recruitment.
‘In some areas we have seen unprecedented peaks - like a months’ worth of Black Fridays have all come at once. In other areas we have seen dramatic falls with hauliers closing down, and many workers furloughed or made redundant,’ begins Edwards. Talent in Logistics has itself seen a significant drop in the number of job ads on its website in the past few weeks. When the lockdown was first put in place, there were numerous enquiries for people requiring key worker roles and training professionals to help upskill their workforce, but these enquiries have now dried up.
Despite the constant need of people in logistics the sector will not be immune to the mass unemployment that could follow because of the coronavirus. ‘I can foresee mass redundancies, with many who have been furloughed, and some that haven’t, being amongst those who face an uncertain future,’ Edwards explains. The future of work is also uncertain as companies have to decide whether they will still rely on people or shift to more automated warehouses and robots.
Edwards stays optimistic. ‘No-one has all of the answers. I think we will all be muddling through this together for quite some time. One thing is for sure - things can only improve. Business will fight back, and logistics will be needed just as it always has been - a backbone without which society would not function.’
Recruitment during a crisis
The logistics sector has had recruitment issues for some time as is highly documented in the FTA’s Skills Shortage Reports. In its own research, Talent for Logistics also found that the perception of the sector is poor, and knowledge about career options available is limited among young people, teachers, and parents. ‘We have not been great at educating and attracting young and fresh talent,’ Edwards thinks.
She believes the logistics sector needs to take the time to review employer branding and improve recruitment strategies, so that when employment stabilises and recruitment is on the up, it is ready to respond accordingly.
Investing in people
Employers should consider the impact of expanding their employees’ knowledge base. It will improve their areas of weakness, drive a higher performance and it shows they are valued and will therefore boost morale. The cost of losing an employee can be high, but training and development is often the first thing to go when a business is struggling. ‘I would prefer to invest in someone in my team than lose them and then spend thousands to replace them,’ Edwards explains. There are two things she would always implement to ensure that continuous development is in place:
1. Creation of Personal Development Plans – this will help ensure employees know that if they work hard and give passion they can progress if they want to (remembering of course that not everyone does want to progress).
2. Have a strong appraisal process - remembering that appraisals are designed to never be a surprise to your employee, who should always have a good idea of the way in which the conversation is going to go due to constant real time feedback in the workplace from management.
At the moment online training/e-learning needs to be utilised more than ever and it can be a very cost-effective way to develop people. It also creates flexibility around their learning so they can do it at times convenient for them which can increase engagement in the process.
Large budgets allow for more perks, but this is not always what employees want when it comes to wellbeing. The starting point of creating any employee wellbeing programme is to speak to your employees. Find out where they are struggling, where they think more support is needed and what importance they place on their own health and wellbeing.
‘There are many other things that can also be done for free, such as having an open door policy so employees feel like they can talk to a manager when having problems,’ Edwards explains. Additionally firms could look at promotion of a sensible work/life balance, and employee recognition schemes from healthy snacks in the vending machines to monthly exercise initiatives that promote getting your steps in at lunch time etc. A simple thank you goes a long way.
Diversity at work
Diversity starts with your recruitment approach, where you think carefully about the words you use in your job postings. Organisations should have policies in place to ensure employees and potential employees are treated fairly. Having an equal opportunities policy in place is important but it should be monitored, not just left to get dusty in a pile of paperwork. Do you review data on recruitment, pay and progression to check they are being conducted fairly? Can you introduce diversity training for all employees that helps them to embrace neurodiversity and allows employees to be themselves without the risk of discrimination?
Another consideration for employers is that highly skilled people may leave the workforce mid-career, to have and care for children, and this can result in a lack of diversity within many organisations. Ensure jobs allow flexibility, then review or implement flexible working policies. This will also help with the wellbeing strategies discussed earlier.
‘A diverse workforce will bring its own rewards in terms of increasing cultural awareness, sensitivity, creativity, and productivity, but to reap the full benefits of a diverse workforce it’s vital to create a truly inclusive environment where everyone can fulfil their potential,’ finishes Edwards.
A good investment if you have an available budget is choosing an appropriate number of employees to take part in mental health first aider training. This will ensure you have someone that can spot triggers/signs of issues and offer support and reassurance to anyone who is struggling. Given the rise in mental health issues and related absences this measure is just as important as having a ‘standard’ first aider in the workplace.
- A few simple steps that companies can take to improve their recruitment are:
- Use internal employee engagement to help with recruitment – word of mouth from happy employees travels fast and is one of the best ways to attract talent;
- Think about how the language and images you use in your company marketing and recruitment ads come across – do they showcase your company’s passion and culture?;
- Think about community outreach. Get into local schools/colleges, talk to them about the sector and the opportunities available