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How do we address the staffing crisis in logistics?

In the final part of the series, Kirsten Tisdale, principal of Aricia Limited, describes the steps that can be taken to diversify and strengthen the logistics workforce, particularly at senior level.

Kirsten Tisdale.pngNearly half of all managers and directors working in transport and storage are due to retire over the next six years. I realised our sector had a problem but hadn’t realised just how stark the situation was until listening to Bethany Windsor, Operations Manager of NOVUS, speaking at IMHX Connect recently. So, although in talking about staffing, everyone tends to focus on the immediate need for HGV drivers, I’m going to concentrate on the more senior roles in this piece.

I hope that in the two previous articles, where I’ve been talking through a presentation I gave recently to the Cold Chain Federation’s People Week, I’ve shown that there are proven benefits from having diverse teams …and in logistics we employ way less than the normal proportion of women. So what can we do? I take no credit for the points below - they are all elements of advice that I’ve read about, or seen in practice, and taken on board.


Getting new staff

Attraction – having said that I’m going to concentrate on more senior roles, this one is applicable to all positions. Think about where and how you advertise, and who you’re trying to appeal to. If you want fit people, why not ask if you can put up a poster beside the mirror in the changing rooms at the local gym. When I worked for M&S, the company was good at understanding the communities it was part of, and that putting an advert for staff on the noticeboard at the local mosque as well as outside the church hall could help to improve diversity. Dave Patten, MD of Abbey Logistics mentioned in a CILT presentation he gave in September, that using a real company driver – in this case a 70-year-old man – was producing much better results than an airbrushed stock photo.

Recruitment - go for ‘culture add’ rather than ‘culture fit’ – here I’m returning to a theme in my previous article about diversity, avoiding clones and, in turn, groupthink – you don’t need someone who is just like you …you already have you! And recruit for competence rather than confidence. According to Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who is Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup and Professor of Business Psychology at Columbia University & UCL, women are in a lose-lose  situation. Women are often perceived as less confident than men (even when they feel confident in themselves), but if they display confidence, that can grate because of gender stereotypes! If you use only job interviews to evaluate external candidates, you will be very likely to end up with a confident candidate, which does not necessarily correlate with competence and working as part of a team.

Existing staff – four thoughts

The first is pay – be open where possible and make sure it’s equal for equal contribution, particularly where there’s a salary range or discretionary bonus.

My second point is actually two separate ones around promotion. a) Leadership roles should not be a reward (think showing off the new jag at the golf course). But also, b) when considering promotion, make sure that you’re objective, men tend to be judged for future potential, but women on past performance – yes, there is research to support this, which means that women have to come up with even more evidence of competence to be considered for the same role!

Third, if you don’t know what you’d do without key staff (I’m thinking of Mavis, the traffic clerk, or Chelsea, the MD’s PA), review their roles and make sure positions and pay reflect their contribution.

And retention – we’ve seen that there are proven benefits from more diversity at senior levels, which means retaining female staff when they need flexibility - think part-time, working from home/blended, flexible hours, job shares, day-care… and similarly for male colleagues. My husband’s comment on this one is that you mustn’t let diversity get in the way of diversity!

Women on the board

If you ‘re recruiting at board level, remember the rule of three – three women on a board is generally accepted as the point at which there is real impact. And also remember that ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ – make sure you have women in operational and commercial roles, and not only in HR, support and non-exec roles.

Change mindsets

Have a daughter or niece? Tell her she’s clever and brilliant rather than pretty … and encourage her to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths etc – STEM-careers often pay more, and with the move to automation we need more engineers.

Back to the gender pay gap

In the presentation I gave to the Cold Chain Federation last month, I was very keen to stress that diversity is not just about women - there are many other forms. But women are a very obvious lack in logistics, and we have hard data to show this because of the gender pay gap submissions that larger companies need to make.

At the time of writing this piece, we’re nearly a week past the extended deadline for 2020-21 submissions, and what a difference a week has made in the number. So, here’s a quick update. For logistics companies which have submitted all data in both of 2018-19 and 2020-21, so like-for-like, the proportion of females in the top quartile and in general has increased very slightly, and the average mean pay gap has reduced from 8.1% to 7.0%, which is a move in the right direction.

Finally, remember, there are plenty of other initiatives you can take, not just those above!

Kirsten Tisdale is principal of Aricia Limited, the logistics consulting company she established in 2001, specialising in strategic projects needing analysis and research. Kirsten is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport and has a track record helping companies with logistics decisions.

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