In the Netherlands, the road transport sector employs about 150,000 people and the logistics sector employs a total of 617,000 people – that means 1 in 12 people in The Netherlands work in these sectors. Competition for candidates is therefore fierce, and it’s why managers, and agencies, should be actively looking at how they can source and retain their best staff.
There are currently more than 13,000 vacancies for logistics drivers on one of The Netherlands’ biggest career sites, National Vacaturebank. It’s also an issue that is going to get more challenging as a result of our ageing population and the lack of diversity in the candidates that are attracted to the sector. Companies urgently need to ensure they are both retaining existing staff and attracting future candidates if they want to keep the wheels turning.
Here are some ideas that could help you tackle the staff shortages in logistics:
1. Diversify the talent pool
According to figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), men are over three times more likely to work in transport compared to women, and of all the logistics employees in the Netherlands, just 18 per cent are women. Yet young women, particularly those aged between 15-25, are more likely to be unemployed and therefore represent a largely untapped employment resource. Targeting a younger demographic would also alleviate the strain of churn as a result of an ageing workforce.
Many logistics companies will argue that the reason for the lack of diversity is simply that women do not apply for these jobs. Yet as argued in this whitepaper by Bis Henderson Recruitment, companies should be looking at what they can do to encourage more applications from a diverse talent pool, instead of accepting this position.
This includes using gender-neutral language in job applications and adverts and being aware of the unconscious impact that certain words may have. For example, words such as ‘honest’, ‘understand’, and ‘trustworthy’ tend to lead to more female applicants whereas ‘ambition’, ‘challenging’, and ‘leader’ potentially put women off.
Combating the image problem of the industry and busting the myth that only men work in the sector is just as important. This could be achieved by building the profile of existing females within the team, which would encourage applicants who might not have considered a logistics career before.
Logistics isn’t the only sector to have an image problem and businesses could look to other industries to see how they are addressing the challenge. For example in the construction sector, scaffolding and access provider PHD Access in collaboration with Project7 and ChronicMedia, created a video showcasing women on-site as part of an initiative launched on International Women’s Day 2021. Through the video, it hoped to challenge stereotypes and raise awareness that women also worked in the industry.
Having a variety of shift patterns and embracing more flexibility in the workplace can also make positions more attractive for female candidates. Especially if they need the flexibility for childcare reasons.
Mobile apps such as Engage can give workers control of their work-life balance in the palm of their hands. This increases candidate engagement, drives improved shift coverage and reduces employee turnover.
2. Train for gain
One of the biggest problems facing logistics staffing firms is there are not enough workers with the right skills or qualifications for the jobs available. Apprenticeships or training schemes could help businesses find younger workers and get them onto a logistics career path sooner. Offering training schemes targeted in areas of high unemployment could further widen the talent pool available.
Training also provides another benefit for both existing and new workers because it demonstrates that a company is willing to invest in its people. This makes a company more attractive to those looking for a new role and could mean the difference between losing a potential candidate to a competitor.
Remember that training can be offered both externally and internally. For example, companies could create mentors within their organisation which can boost the confidence of the mentor in having been chosen, while the mentee is able to learn new skills. Another area growing in popularity is reverse mentoring, where younger employees are paired with executive team members. Research has also found that reverse mentoring can lead to increased retention of millennials as it provides them with the transparency and recognition that they are seeking from management.
3. Don’t discount temporary or migrant workers
Another large group that could offer further potential workers if they had the right training are migrants. The population of the Netherlands is expanding as a result of refugees who have made their way into Europe choosing the country as somewhere to settle. Between January and October, 2015 more than 45,000 people sought asylum in the Netherlands. Numerous schemes exist currently to help these migrants find suitable and sustainable employment and given the staff shortages in the logistics sector, these groups could offer a potential solution. The Refugee Talent Hub is one such scheme that works with migrants and employers to support training and job creation.
Moreover, it’s expected that as workers crave more flexibility and work/life balance, they will be more open to exploring positions with temporary staffing firms. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected steady growth for the staffing industry, and some temporary workers can also go on to become permanent employees at companies.
4. Retain current staff by investing in tech
Replacing lost employees can cost nearly three times their salary. Why? Finding new recruits may include advertising costs, recruitment firm fees, or even time being spent on processing applications and interviews instead of seeking new business. Productivity or capacity might also be impacted while onboarding.
Competitive compensation will often rank highly when employees are looking for a new job, but it might surprise businesses to discover that salary is typically not the main reason why an employee leaves.
That’s why managers need to look beyond salary in terms of benefits when looking to engage workers. Other perks could include generous time off or recognition and rewards for length of service to ensure employees feel valued.
Flexibility and empowering workers to choose their own shifts based on the needs of the company can also help foster better engagement. This flexibility and an opportunity for workers to self-serve is crucial. Workers should be able to choose when they want to work, showing when they’re available and requesting work, as well as managing their own time off. By implementing the technology which allows them to manage their own work/life balance, they’re much more likely to stay in their roles for longer.
Also, look for where employee/manager relations can be improved. The saying ‘people don’t quit jobs, they quit bad managers’ is a case in point. If a logistics manager relies on paper schedules or a non-digitised payroll system, the room for human error is far greater and they could be the source of frustration for an employee. Investing in the right technology to automate and streamline processes will reduce the chances for error and help operations run smoother for everyone.
The domino effect
With the Netherlands being one of the main logistics hubs for Europe, thinking ahead to solve the looming staff shortage crisis is imperative. In fact, the Cold Chain Federation has already warned that both Brexit and Covid-19 are causing a severe shortage of lorry drivers and production workers, which will see a shortage of chilled food this summer in the UK. Furthermore, The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) estimates the shortfall of HGV drivers to be 70,000.
Sourcing new workers and retaining existing ones will be key to future-proofing the sector against rising demand and future predicted staff shortages. Sirenum helps staffing for logistics companies and logistics companies of all shapes and sizes ensure they’re getting the right people into the business, and keep them there with innovative technology that goes beyond ATS and scheduling. Find out how.