Why is there a lack of new talent in shipping and logistics? How is the industry addressing this?

David Cohen, November 29, 2019

A reduction in talent

As a Recruitment Consultant I am constantly speaking to both employers and potential candidates and as such I need to keep a close eye on industry talent trends to maintain relevancy, and I’ve noticed something. There is a problem globally for the Shipping and Logistics sector; there is not enough new talent entering the industry.

To clarify, I am not talking about people within the industry searching for a new position but instead, a fresh generation of school leavers and graduates coupled with a wider talent pool in general that could be curious about the industry. This has been a problem for years but with the increasing age of the professionals within the market, this problem will only continue to cause disruption as employees retire without passing their knowledge and experience onto the next wave of talent. But why is this happening?

A Lack of Flexibility

I believe one of the main reasons for a lack of new talent entering the shipping and logistics sector has been in a shift in the mindset of the employee. Individuals today are seeking opportunities for agile working and flexibility which may not be obviously conducive to the industry from the outside perspective of potential new talent. Candidates want work/life balance, and from what they tell me, they don’t see a possibility of achieving this in shipping and logistics.

Admittedly, within the shipping and Logistics sector flexibility is not something I hear about on a regular basis. This is an industry based on scheduling, where timelines and delays can cost millions of pounds, flexibility isn’t always possible. Also, many roles within the sector are shift-based demanding long hours, which can switch off applicants who desire agility and work life balance.

Addressing Agility

However, there are companies out there are working to address this as part of their candidate attraction strategy. These ‘on-the-ball’ companies are using tech to get around agility concerns with most documentation now being processed via online systems that allow businesses to be more flexible with home/flexi-working.

Companies such as Flexport, OnTruck, Shypple & Twill (Maersk) are taking this approach to allow their workforce to work remotely or work flexible hours. This way, workers will not need to worry about poor weather, transport conditions or being let down by childcare. I have seen, that in some cases, flexibility is more desirable to candidates than a higher salary – so flexibility is certainly something shipping and logistics employers should be focused on.

Speaking to candidates that work for a business that offers this kind of flexibility, when they’re considering new opportunities, if the new business doesn’t offer the same flexibility, many automatically discount the role. People become accustomed to the environment and circumstances they are in, so to change the way they live to move to a new position is not always an attractive prospect.  Therefore, this kind of flexibility ultimately can increase staff retention.

Opportunity

When I speak with industry leaders about how they got into their present positions, most tell me they started as junior office staff tasked with entry level responsibilities whilst gradually learning the sector from more experienced colleagues. This naturally led to career progression via the gaining of industry knowledge and experience.

Today, I’m noting that individuals are more likely to make various career moves throughout their working lives, moving from company to company to facilitate progress. This contrasts with previous years where sticking with one company for several decades until retirement was not unlikely, whereas today this is seen an unusual.

As well as changing employers, candidates are more likely to transition between sectors in junior level roles, only staying put where opportunities for progression are clearly attainable – hence a lack of junior and mid-level employees. Today’s candidate led market shows that applicants know how to sell themselves based on transferable skills.  

Promoting Progression

I truly believe that one of the best ways to increase the interest of fresh talent entering the sector, and young people specifically, is to speak to them about the benefits of a career in shipping and logistics before they start making lasting career choices impacted by their elected path of education.

To address this, many shipping and logistics companies are conducting open days, career days and school and higher education visits to provide young people with transparency on what can be expected from a career in the industry, coupled with promoting the sector by discussing an increasingly flexible work attitude that can be made possible through the incorporation of technology.

Graduate schemes are also essential, along with allowing multi-departmental secondments to allow future and existing employees to truly understand the opportunities that are available to them if they choose to stay with their present employer, or indeed the industry at large. Implementing these changes will continue the development of the industry by ultimately benefitting existing companies by promoting the desire for fresh talent to enter such an interesting, challenging but rewarding sector.

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