The logistics industry has a talent problem. Here’s how to fix it.
Authored by SMC³ on November 7, 2023
Of all the macroeconomic issues that have plagued the business world over the past few years, the persistent shortage of skilled labor has been a uniquely painful thorn in the side of industry. This trend is especially distressing in the realm of supply chain management, where expert analysis, bold leadership, and hard-won industry know-how are key in keeping companies (and the economy at large) functioning efficiently.
Supply chain leaders find themselves in a bind: They realize that optimizing their supply chain strategies is a crucial opportunity for scaling their company and gaining a competitive edge, and yet they lack the bold, experienced talent in their upper levels of leadership needed to seize that advantage.
There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel. This blog outlines the talent challenges currently facing supply chain leaders and covers strategies that LTL companies can employ to regain their competitive advantage and scale confidently.
Talent is in short supply
A recent study from the executive search firm Alcott Global makes the talent problem in the logistics industry clear. From a pool of more than 300 senior executives in the supply chain industry, a startling 50 percent acknowledged the existence of a talent shortage in the field. The issue topped rising labor costs (36 percent) and capacity constraints (26 percent) as a major challenge facing their companies over the past 12 months.
A closer look at their survey data reveals why the challenge is proving so difficult to resolve. 64 percent of respondents cited trouble finding candidates with the right skill set as a key obstacle, while 58 percent noted that specific shortages in data analytics, optimization, and automation skills created additional issues.
Inefficiencies within leadership are exacerbating the problem. Logistics Management recently released its 32nd annual study of logistics and transportation trends, which found that only 49 percent of supply chain leaders ranked their company’s strategy for attracting, retaining, and developing talent as satisfactory. 48 percent admitted that their company was doing a “poor or below average” job planning for future talent demands based on business strategy and industry trends.
One way to face the problem is to employ more technology to make employees more efficient and automate routine processes. Respondents cited increased technology and software adoption as a priority, with 82 percent noting that their company views new tech as a strategic necessity for competing in the modern marketplace.
Dr. Chris Boone, lead co-author to the 32nd annual study of logistics and transportation trends, had this to say, “Technology, particularly AI-enabled technology, is one of the ways firms can narrow the skills gap by automating and deskilling many entry-level tasks as well as leverage AI-enabled technology to augment and enhance decision-making traditionally limited to those with significant experience. However, we must be mindful that it also widens the experience gap because employees will not be exposed to many of the core operational functions of the business and miss out on the experiences and understanding they provide. To ensure the availability of essential skills and talent, companies must create and provide experiential opportunities that enable employees to develop the skills and insights crucial for the industry’s future.”
Of course, this technology strategy must go hand in hand with a strengthened talent strategy. Technological advances are only as valuable as the leaders guiding their implementation. In order to benefit fully from new cost-saving and productivity-boosting solutions, supply chain and logistics companies must establish a long-term plan for attracting and retaining the right talent, as well as a plan to upskill their existing workforce.
Addressing the problem
The first step in leveling up your hiring practices and connecting with future-ready logistics talent is putting together a clear rubric for identifying the ideal candidate. Alcott Global delivers some useful pointers here, noting that the most in-demand leaders in the logistics space must have:
- A rich, end-to-end understanding of supply chain operations, including strategies for addressing weaknesses and ensuring smooth coordination between stakeholders.
- Mastery of data analytics, specifically with regard to predicting demand patterns, optimizing operations, and identifying opportunities for improvement.
- Strong risk management skills that empower the team with a proactive posture toward unexpected events (e.g., supply chain disruptions, natural disasters, geopolitical changes) that helps leadership establish continuity in the middle of volatile market forces.
- Effective inventory management knowledge that extends beyond the bare minimum and encompasses cutting-edge optimization techniques and demand forecasting methodologies.
- Superior soft skills like problem-solving, collaboration, and understanding customer preferences. Oftentimes, these soft skills are the key to staying adaptable and therefore responsive to unexpected disruptions.
Many professionals who currently occupy the highest levels of supply chain leadership have gained these skills from years of experience. For younger professionals looking to gain the same expertise, further studies and certification programs offer a viable path to applying their skills to the rewarding and important work of supply chain management.
SMC3 Online Learning: The key to filling the talent gap
In order to address the widening talent gap in the logistics industry, SMC3 has partnered with Logistics Training Center to provide ambitious professionals and growing companies with the industry’s only coursework geared toward mastery of LTL transportation concepts.
Our coursework covers the fundamentals of LTL as well as more in-depth topics like operations, freight pricing, regulatory oversight, and business analytics. Students have the option of becoming certified in LTL by SMC3, which recognizes that they have developed the skills and competencies demanded by the modern LTL industry. Instructed by seasoned logistics and supply chain management professionals, these courses are the key to unlocking the exact skills that are in such high demand. For companies looking to scale, our coursework is a thorough and cost-effective solution for upskilling your current workforce and establishing a baseline of core competencies to guide future high-level hires.
To learn more about how SMC3 can assist you in training the next generation of LTL titans, go to https://www.smc3.com/onlinelearning/ or schedule a call with Joe Tillman at CLTL@smc3.com if you would like to train a team.