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The transport industry is definitely, and quite rightly, changing. In the same way that many fleet managers have embraced the positive change of technology, managers and business owners are also turning their attention to the need for a more diverse, modern workforce. Ruth Waring, founder of Women in Logistics UK, joins the Teletrac Navman team as a guest blogger to discuss diversity and the positive impact it can have on the industry.

Demographic challenges

There is a demographic time bomb in the logistics sector. The average age of a lorry driver is 53, with very few young people joining the sector. There’s also little ethnic diversity amongst drivers and transport staff. The situation is slowly improving, but there is more decision makers can do to help speed things up. The biggest issue with the age profile is having a workforce that is from one small demographic. This means the industry has developed a major skills shortage, which has, in turn, become an issue for society, as we all rely on the logistics sector to keep the country moving.

Remember the fuel crisis of 2000? It didn't take long for things to grind to a halt. The current aging workforce will not be around forever, so it's so important the we introduce new blood into the industry as soon as possible. 

How does a diverse workforce improve business?

Working with individuals made up of a wide range of characteristics and experiences really helps shape a company, and those in the sector need to respond in kind by developing a hiring strategy to creates a workforce that better resembles the country's population. 

In fact, having a mixed workforce can improve the working atmosphere, reducing the risks associated with groupthink (where everyone just agrees with everyone else – often attributed as the reason the financial crash in 2008 occurred).  For example, a study published in Forbes last year shows that companies with 30 percent of female executives generate as much as six percentage points more in profits, feeding into a global debate over the scarcity of women in decision-making roles. The conclusion stems from a study of about 22,000 publicly-traded companies in 91 countries. 

Recruiting drivers

Examples of successful recruitment schemes used by logistics companies include 'Warehouse to Wheels' where existing staff can transfer to driving roles. Other great schemes involve apprenticeships (such as this scheme from Aldi) where new entrants work towards gaining their Class C then upgrade to C+E. It is also possible to upskill courier and van drivers too. These schemes mean that the overall number of drivers is increasing and companies are not just poaching others companies’ trained talent. They also have the advantage of appealing to a wider demographic, in particular, younger people who are currently under-represented within the industry. 

Think Logistics

Encouraging millennials to enter the industry is the mission of Think Logistics, the multi award-winning industry-led initiative which involves experts working in logistics visiting a school or college to educate a group of 16-19-year-olds on the logistics industry, and the opportunities that exist. Think Logistics is actively seeking more supporters and people who want to get involved by going to schools to talk about the benefits of joining the sector. This is a great way to champion your business, tell young people about the careers on offer, and improve the demographic pipeline of potential new starters. 

Women in Logistics UK

I set up WIL UK in 2008 to help both employers and employees improve female representation throughout the supply chain. This is achieved by hosting a number of networking events around the UK each and hosting an awards ceremony to celebrate the successes of women in the industry (as well as the employers who support them).

There is also a well-established mentoring programme, all the networking events are run in a supportive and friendly way to attract women (and men) who are not necessarily confident networkers. It is free to join. Suggesting that female staff join the group, and promoting its work, is a good place to start. WIL UK is a great option for women and men to join and improve their networking confidence; organisations can also get involved to support the group by sponsorship or assistance in kind. 

These initiatives are now starting to bear fruit for some employers, and schemes such as nurturing women through maternity leave, and making them feel welcome when it is time to return to work, send a very powerful signal to our top female talent. Sensible working hours and flexibility is also key.. 

What works in the real world?

Here are three of my top tips for attracting and retaining staff from across the spectrum.

  • Plan to attract a diverse workforce. Think about what could make someone want to work for you? Simple stuff like having pictures of a diverse workforce in job adverts and in general publicity, offering flexible working, term time contracts, engendering a “going home on time” culture. These small things benefit everyone. 
     
  • Having diverse staff attracts more diversity. Research suggests that 30% is the proportion when critical mass is reached – in a group setting, the voices of the “minority” group become heard, rather than simply representing the minority (Source: The 30% Club)
     
  • Ensure that existing staff are aware how to be respectful toward more diverse colleagues. 

But don’t forget to use innovation to attract diverse talent.
The transport industry has a good track record of embracing new ideas; despite the fact that it is sometimes perceived to have a somewhat out of date image. 

Telematics and cloud-based solutions have helped bring the industry into the twenty-first century, giving fleet managers the tools they need to stay compliant, safeguard business operations and improve general road safety. 

Businesses in the transport sector need to put the work in to attract top talent, and embracing innovative ideas and technologies is a great way to encourage millennials to come on board as they will naturally be drawn to companies who are leading the way with the latest solutions. 

The industry has moved on significantly, and it is time to shout about the opportunities we can offer to the whole population! 

Based in Leamington Spa, Ruth is a multi award-winning Transport Consultant and Founder of Women in Logistics UK. She is also a member of the Logistics 100 top influencers. You can follow Ruth on Twitter via @RuthWaring.