THE PRESSURES OF TACKLING DIVERSITY WITHIN YOUR LOGISTICS OPERATIONS

Diversity. There has never been a more important time to talk about this issue in the logistics sector. Employment figures for LGV drivers fell by 21,000 in the second quarter alone last year. The driver recruitment crisis has been exacerbated by the one-two punch of a decreased post-Brexit recruitment pool and jobs lost due to the pressures of COVID.

For an industry whose workforce has traditionally drawn only from certain limited demographics, increased diversity may well be not only the best, but the only solution.

But right now, logistics has a serious diversity problem. Talent in Logistics’ own research established an enormous gender gap among drivers: 95% male, 4% female, 1% transgender / prefer not to say. This issue isn’t limited to the drivers; it affects the industry as a whole. According to Logistics UK in 2019 , women comprised 13.7% of the industry workforce. 78% of the national workforce is white; in logistics it is 91%. 32% of LGBT employees in our industry choose to hide their sexual orientation at work.

What’s more, this diversity problem may be self-perpetuating. The younger generation of ‘internal customers’ is more politically and socially conscious. According to Logistics UK, ‘80% of millennials believe a diversity and inclusion policy is important when deciding to work for a company’. In other words, recruitment among all young people, regardless of gender, could be negatively impacted by a lack of diversity.

In order to face problems like this, we need a clear focus on what the terms we use actually mean. Even more so, we need to foster sensitivity to what distinctions mean to the people they are supposed to describe. Our understandings of all of these terms, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘ethnicity’, ‘gender’, ‘disability’, ‘sexual orientation’, are developing and changing all the time.

Increasing sensitivity to categories and distinctions like gender non-binary or neurodiverse is eroding stereotypes about who we are as people. Some decry the increasing complexity of our professional and social relationships, but for those of us looking forward, this is a good thing.

The pressure is on to stop relying on problematic, inaccurate binary divisions like white vs BAME, or men vs women, or gay vs straight. Instead of lumping people together in these convenient blocks, we have to respond to people with nuance, as individuals.

Yes, this is more work. But when we start doing this, the benefits can be astonishing. In particular, research has established a strong link between diversity and creativity. A 2017 US study found that diverse teams generate 19% more revenue. The diversity in ideas, perspectives and insights allows teams to better anticipate customer needs.

A diverse team is a team which has more than one way of working effectively, and this is never truer than when diversity is harnessed as a company asset rather than skirted as an uncomfortable issue.

Just as one example, as many as 1 in 20 working age adults in the UK may have ADHD. A lot of attention is given to the less desirable aspects of ADHD, but those with the condition may actually have significant advantages over their peers in higher-order skills, especially creative skills such as divergent thinking. The increased ability to make mental leaps and link together seemingly disconnected ideas is something that can be harnessed whenever thinking outside the box is needed. And even supposed weaknesses, like impulsivity, can be an advantage: those with ADHD will say things others are too afraid to.

So, what can organisations do to break the cycle and improve diversity?

  • The most important thing is to act. Simply paying lip service to diversity or sweeping it under the carpet will not achieve anything
    • Solutions need to be cultural, practical and deeply embedded. And all the stakeholders involved need to be on board
  • TIL’s research suggests attention to work-life balance and flexible working options is essential in the recruitment of women in particular. With flexible working options across other sectors rising in the past year, logistics cannot afford to be left behind
  • Cultures of silence need to be dismantled, and replaced with avenues for communication Our differences need to be addressed sensitively, but they shouldn’t be taboo
  • Workplace policies on disability access need to take into account government support that is available, for instance under Access to Work
  • It should be a company goal for shortlists and interview panels to show greater balance
  • Policies need to consider how a broad variety of needs could be accommodated, including those of transgender, neurodiverse, or physically disabled employees, for instance
  • Finally, policies should aim to enable and embed varied approaches to working, communication and problem solving, so as to get the most out of the differences a team can bring to the table

The Big Logistics Diversity Challenge

Over recent decades barriers have been broken down and, as a society, we have come to realise and accept that not everyone fits the same mould. As a nation we are a diverse mix of genders, abilities and beliefs; so fundamentally it should follow that all employers embrace the wealth of talent available when recruiting and retaining staff.

The Big Diversity Challenge series of events was developed to provide an opportunity for industry organisations to experience a unique way to promote the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion in their workforce.

GET INVOLVED IN 2022.

COULD A ‘RIGHT TO DISCONNECT’ HELP CURB TOXIC PRODUCTIVITY?

A recent article appeared in the Huffington Post entitled ‘What Is Toxic Productivity? Here’s How to Spot the Damaging Behaviour.’ For those who haven’t heard of it, toxic productivity is everywhere in our culture: from the pressure to be supermum and wonderdad, to viral tweets condemning those who didn’t come out of the pandemic able to play the tuba while riding a unicycle. Toxic productivity is the little voice in your head that tells you you’re lazy when you don’t fill every second of your day with activity, and every second of your working day with work.

Which is to say, it is cultural, personal, all-pervasive, internal, everywhere and nowhere, and it is costing us a lot. The cost of burnout to productivity, health, and happiness is immense, and 17.9 million work days lost to stress in the UK per year isn’t something an organisation can overlook.

Fortunately, working habits are shifting. The success of work from home over lockdown is causing many businesses to look hard at shifting to hybrid and flexible working policies, and employees are very happy.

On the surface, it may seem like the shift to hybrid and work from home would be a tonic to toxic productivity; after all, with no colleagues or managers watching over your shoulder, what’s to stop you taking it easy? This thinking is doubtless one reason for some employers being so leery of work from home pre-lockdown, and for the proliferation in employee monitoring software and other such invasive techniques for making sure employees don’t skive.

But lockdown didn’t lead to a drop in employee productivity. It turns out most people are broadly responsible, take pride in their work, and are motivated to achieve results. And this is why we are experiencing the opposite problem, now.

Why ‘from home’ means ‘for your toughest boss’

The issue with working from home is that it makes it harder for some employees to switch off. When the office is right next to the living room, the distinction between working time and resting time gets blurry. Without ‘the boss’ checking in to see how things are going, we are forced to turn to our inner boss for help managing our time, and sometimes the inner boss is far less forgiving.

The very concept of ‘skiving’ can play into this. We are conditioned to think of productivity as a thing born of brute, grinding effort, the ‘knuckle down’ mentality. At home, we may feel we are skiving because we are comfortable, or because we just watched a five-minute YouTube video, or because we are having our fourth coffee break of the day. We might feel the need to ‘make it up’ after hours. Or we might feel that there is so much work to do we can’t have any breaks or YouTube videos, and coffee is something we can only eat out of the tin, because there’s no time to put the kettle on.

Either way, we may feel like, when a call comes in at 7.30 on Thursday, we really have to pick up. Everyone else is still busy, why else would they be calling now? And I can’t let them down, and there’s so much on, and remember when I skived yesterday to walk to the shops because I’d eaten all the coffee?

Suddenly, we’ve worked five consecutive twelve-hour days, some intensely productive and some exhausted and ‘skive’ riven. We’ve achieved everything we were meant to and more, but we’re spent, burnt out, and full of guilt.

The irony here is that we have actually had a very successful week, at least as far as productivity goes: we met all our goals! So, what went wrong? As Huff Post puts it, ‘What’s funny about toxic productivity is that it exists more in our heads than in our actual work environments.’

Employers are typically much, much more interested in results than how much effort or time it took to get there. But because our culture is saturated with the idea that procrastination is not just bad business, but bad morals, we put way too much pressure on ourselves to ‘knuckle down’.

Strategies

Fortunately, there are things employers can do to help prevent this. One crucial strategy is to address the elephant in the room and tackle the myths that give rise to toxic productivity head on.

The concept of ‘skiving’ is a flawed one. Human beings are designed to skive; it’s how our brain architecture works. Our ebbing, flowing attention is what keeps us safe in a hazardous, dynamic world, and it is the font of all creativity—the ability to make new and novel connections between seemingly disconnected things. This is why so many artistic and scientific breakthroughs are made in the shower, the bath, or on a leisurely walk (this is a fact supported by research as well as anecdotal evidence, by the way).

Likewise, ‘knuckling down’ is often not an efficient strategy. Gritting your teeth may get you through a scrape when the chips are down, but if there are chips on the floor every single day, someone needs to retrain the chef.

Employers should make it clear that elegant, easy wins are just as good if not better than long grinds to the finishing line. Huff Post suggests, rather than ‘what should I be doing now, ‘a better question to ask yourself is: “What could I do or create with ease now? What would it take to create this with zero stress?”’

Clarifying this requires actions to speak louder than words, however. It’s no good pushing the work-life balance agenda without creating an appropriate culture. Employers can work with employees to develop hybrid and flexible working policies that let the individual have a say in how they work best. So, get rid of the employee monitoring software: this isn’t a George Orwell novel.

And consider enforcing a ‘right to disconnect’ across the business. CIPD summarises right to disconnect thus:

  • The right of an employee to not have to routinely perform work outside their normal working hours.
  • The right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours.
  • The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).

Making private time sacrosanct like this encourages employees to respect their own boundaries and not bite off more than they can chew. It encourages them to work smarter, not harder. And that benefits everyone.

A TALENT IN LOGISTICS GUIDE TO OFFERING THE RIGHT INCENTIVES TO RETAIN AND RECRUIT DRIVERS

LGV Drivers

Retention and recruitment are a big concern for many transport and logistics companies, especially during the current driver shortage. A shocking 70% of drivers do not feel valued, and less than half feel motivated to work hard for their employers (identified in a recent Talent in Logistics white paper). To address this, and stay competitive as an employer, it is vital to provide the right employee incentives and benefits package. But where do you start?

Carry out a driver survey

To understand what incentives and benefits your drivers would respond well to, try asking them! Carry out a quick, simple survey to learn what motivates your drivers by listening to their needs and understanding what encourages them. If you need help to create a short driver survey, contact the Talent in Logistics team.

Come up with ideas for LGV Driver Incentives that don’t include salary

As well as conducting your own survey, look out for the nationwide LGV Driver Incentive and Benefits survey and report by Talent in Logistics, set to launch soon in conjunction with RTITB Master Driver CPC Consortium.  It will offer a unique insight into the views of LGV drivers across the country and may give you ideas. In the meantime, below are some suggested driver benefits:

  • Comprehensive healthcare package
  • Flexible working schedule/pattern (choosing their own working hours)
  • Training and development opportunities
  • Extra holiday
  • Vehicle upgrade
  • Cash incentives and bonuses
  • Public recognition (for example by management at company events)
  • Special assignments (for example drivers’ favourite routes)
  • Access to external services (such as yoga, meditation, or counselling)

Remember, your idea of a benefit or incentive, may not be the same as your drivers’, and different drivers may have different preferences. It may take time to put together a flexible package that appeals to the majority of employees, but it’s worth showing your drivers they are valued.

Communicate your incentives and benefits effectively

Once you have come up with some genuine incentives and benefits, you will need to communicate them effectively to your existing and potential drivers. Here are some tips to help get them on board:

  1. Be precise, clear, and concise – Tell your drivers why you are offering what you are offering in plain English. Use everyday language and be brief and to the point. For example, (as Google re:Work advises), don’t just say ‘well-being’ – explain that you mean ‘emotional, physical and financial health’. Avoid corporate jargon and toxic positivity if you don’t want to seem insincere.
  2. Communicate regularly, and from the top – Top-down support of your drivers and incentives and regular communication are important, no matter the size of your operation. If you as the manager / business owner get behind your own incentives scheme, so will your drivers. Regular communication will help you drive the enthusiasm needed to make your incentive scheme successful and your drivers feel valued.
  3. Talk to existing and potential drivers – Incentives and benefits are a good tool both for staff retention, and recruitment, so shout about them through internal communications, such as newsletters and on bulletin boards. Incentives make you an attractive employer, so in a challenging job market, ensure these are also included in job advertisements too.
  4. Don’t overexaggerate – Don’t dress up a standard contract term as a benefit as this won’t inspire trust and confidence. For example, if what you are offering is 20 days holiday plus eight bank holidays, don’t call it a 28-day package, which is actually the legal minimum holiday entitlement anyway. Instead focus on the genuine or unique benefits you can offer as an employer.

Need more advice?

There is a range of valuable resources and guidance for logistics employers at the Talent in Logistics website to help you attract, engage, and retain the very best drivers. You can also contact the Talent in Logistics team for expert advice and support, by calling 01952 520216, or emailing info@talentinlogistics.co.uk.

THREE TIPS FOR RUNNING A DRIVER SURVEY FROM TALENT IN LOGISTICS

In a recent Talent in Logistics white paper, ‘Driving Engagement in Logistics’, we identified that just 30% of LGV drivers in the UK feel valued, with less than half feeling motivated to work hard for their employers. A quick, simple survey can be used to learn what motivates your drivers by listening to their needs and understanding what encourages them. Here are three tips to help you conduct a survey that will ultimately benefit your drivers and your operation.

1. Choose a suitable survey platform – There are many online survey platforms (including free services, such as SurveyMonkey) with different formats and question types – from open-ended questions to multiple choice, and rating preferences on a scale.

Don’t overcomplicate your survey design, but don’t rush it out in five minutes either. Do consider the structure, the questions, and the data collection method, in order to achieve usable results.  And of course, don’t make the survey too long – you don’t want your drivers to lose interest part way through!

2. Explain the goals of your survey – Clearly explain the objectives of the survey to your participants, to get more useful, honest, and engaged answers. Emphasise that this won’t just be a box-ticking exercise and explain how you plan to act on their suggestions. Commit to ensuring change happens but do make sure you manage their expectations because you may not be able to give your drivers everything they ask for.

3. Ask the right questions – To get useful information that benefits your drivers and your operation, you must ask the right questions. They could be closed questions, such as “How much overtime would you like per week?”, or open questions like “How can we make your job easier?”. An effective survey will include a combination of the two. Avoid making assumptions, or including leading questions, that guide the driver towards your own viewpoint. And be sure to give drivers sufficient time to complete the survey thoughtfully, rather than feeling rushed to do so, as you’ll get much more valuable responses.

If you need help to create a short driver survey, please contact the Talent in Logistics team for expert advice and support, by calling 01952 520216, or emailing info@talentinlogistics.co.uk.

A SPOTLIGHT ON SUICIDE IN MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRIES: TRANSPORT AND LOGISTICS

The issue

Wellbeing has become something of a touchstone issue for the business world in recent years. Yet, against the backdrop of increased awareness and discussion, statistics surrounding the worst outcomes of poor mental health have worsened. In 2019, the suicide rate for men in England and Wales was its highest for two decades—higher even than during the terrible years following the 2007 financial crisis.

Transport and Logistics is an industry particularly afflicted with poor wellbeing, being the sector with the highest rate of absenteeism and the second highest rate for workplace stress according to a 2017 study. Also in 2017, ONS revealed that the suicide rate in forklift truck drivers was 85% higher than the national average, with van and LGV drivers also experiencing higher rates.

Clearly, suicide is an issue the industry needs to address.

Going beyond ‘boys will be boys’

Conversations on suicide in male-dominated industries often focus on the chilling effect traditional models of masculinity can have on conversations about wellbeing; we expect to see phrases like ‘a culture of silence’, ‘boys don’t cry’, or ‘toxic masculinity’. It is important to recognise the negative impact taboos around the sharing of emotion can have on mental health in male dominated workplaces. But the way we talk about male suicide can itself contribute to the issue, by conditioning us to see suicide in male-dominated industries solely as an unfortunate bi-product of male culture.

There are numerous reasons why this simplistic view is problematic. For starters, there’s a real danger of placing all the responsibility for the issue on the shoulders of those who are at risk, rather than recognising that the trends run wider than that. Evidence that mothers use emotional language more frequently with their daughters than their sons suggests that social conditioning starts young and isn’t simply bound to male-male interactions. Messages harmful to mental health can come from all around: they are not just confined to ‘the locker room’.

And then there is the fact that male-dominated industries skew towards high-demand, high-pressure, competitive roles which involve working long hours. These jobs are frequently isolating; in the case of construction, the cause may be the need to work away from home on site; in the case of LGV driving, it’s long days alone at the wheel, and long nights alone in hotels or at the roadside. Focusing solely on male-male interactions ignores the role business culture has in creating these conditions.

And finally, presenting the issue purely as a product of male-male interaction ignores the fact that the issue affects men and women; women who work in male-dominated industries are more likely to commit suicide than women who don’t. The conversation needs to recognise and include them.

Tackling the issue

There are numerous organisations, charities and initiatives seeking to tackle the issues of wellbeing, male suicide and suicide in male dominated industries. These offer resources which can be used to improve workplace culture and tackle the issue head on.

One of the cornerstone strategies used is to open up the conversation, creating a culture where issues of mental health and wellbeing are discussed, and modelling what that can look like. Those working in male-dominated environments need to be empowered to discuss their mental and emotional health openly, and without stigma.

But really getting to grips with the issue is more involved than simply ‘having the talk’. The charity Mates in Mind, which works with transport and logistics companies to tackle suicide, takes a holistic approach with a raft of resources aimed at educating, informing, developing effective policy and assigning meaningful roles. The charity Mind offers training, resources aimed at helping employers develop their organisational approach to mental health, and guidance on how to implement Thriving at Work standards.

As with any facet of workplace culture, we need to do more than talk the talk to create a culture of openness with regards to wellbeing. Strategies need to be bedded in, and backed up with meaningful action and support. If this can be done, there is good reason to hope things can and will get better.

There are hundreds of free online resources to further help and assist with wellbeing and mental health. These include information on how to manage wellbeing and mental health, how to manage stress and more. Here are just a few you might find useful to access and share:

Organisations, charities and initiatives here to support you and your colleagues: 

MANAGING WELLBEING IN 2021

During 21st-30th June, World Wellbeing Week held its third year event. To commemorate the occasion, Talent in Logistics takes the time to consider guidance from CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) on how organisations can promote health and wellbeing.

In the wake of the pandemic, emphasis on wellbeing has never been higher, yet the findings of CIPD’s most recent report on the topic shows a long way to go towards making improvement. Key findings in the report include ongoing issues with presenteeism and leaveism despite the rise of wellbeing up the corporate agenda. Particular attention is given to the role of line managers in managing employee wellbeing, and the apparent dearth of support they are given in this crucial role.

According to CIPD, ‘Around three-fifths of organisations have a supportive framework to recruit, manage or retain people with a disability and/or long-term health condition,’ yet fewer than a third of organisations train and support the line managers in performing this responsibility.

Fortunately, CIPD itself offers a variety of resources and guidance line managers can use to tackle wellbeing issues. In their publication A Guide to Preventing and Reducing Stress at Work, recommended strategies including:

  1. Get to know your team better
  2. Lead by example to promote healthy working habits
  3. Review workloads, duties and responsibilities
  4. Reflect on your own management style
  5. Identify potential conflict and people issues and handle them early
  6. Discourage ‘presenteeism’ in your team
  7. Manage the mental health of your team while remote working.

While such resources will be of use to line managers, senior management’s involvement is crucial too, given the pernicious risks of poor wellbeing. CIPD’s guidance on the report recommends actively reviewing health and wellbeing activity; tackling the problem in a ‘joined-up’, strategic way; employing the use of wellbeing champions; and harnessing data. The importance of financial wellbeing policy is given particular emphasis.

Just as importantly, considering the dearth of training many managers receive, it’s just as important that senior managers are proactive in ensuring everyone in a position of responsibility has the tools they will need. This is something Talent in Logistics has covered before. According to CIPD, ‘A line manager’s behaviour, and the culture they create in their team, is the biggest influence on an employee’s work experience. By improving their management capabilities, managers can improve their own wellbeing as well as that of their team.’

The risk of poor wellbeing in managers themselves, particularly those promoted into middle management from a different role, is also worth bearing in mind. Authority often brings a feeling of increased responsibility both to the organisation and to those directly managed. This can lead to pressure, especially when the organisation is under strain. Unpalatable responsibilities like delivering critical feedback, reprimands, or, worst of all, the news that an employee no longer has a future at the company, can take a toll on a manager’s wellbeing. Feeling obligated for the needs of others, some struggle to meet their own.

Just as importantly, middle managers in particular often end up picking up a lot of work. Their position in the ‘gubbins’ gives them a Tiresias-like knowledge of the organisation: what is happening, where, how and why. There may be a temptation to ‘do it all’, picking up slack, troubleshooting, covering for others. And this comes on top of the often extensive and sometimes entirely new responsibilities that come with the role.

Newly elevated managers may also feel isolated. As one rises through the hierarchy, the dynamics of relationships and social-professional interactions shift. At worst the slippage can be tectonic, and new managers might have to deal with the animosity of a former peer. But even where support is warm, the change in the way communication works can feel distancing.

For all these reasons, senior managers and middle managers alike have a responsibility both to themselves and to those around them in the hierarchy. And sometimes, that responsibility is to take it easy. Practicing self-care, taking leave, delegating, and most of all, not overdoing it, are crucial to ensuring continued health, happiness and productivity. It can be tempting to be a work martyr, especially if we care about the people around us. But as the CIPD report makes clear, setting a positive example in self-care helps create a culture where others are empowered to do the same.

IS YOUR BUSINESS POST-COVID READY?

With the nation fast approaching the heralded end of lockdown, the mood is optimistic. But as we have learned all too well over the last 18 months, any large-scale change can bring with it new challenges. In order to help you get ready for the impending ‘opening up’, today TIL brings you a checklist of key issues to consider in the coming weeks.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing has been a workplace watchword in recent years, and with good reason: HSE figures show that stress, depression and anxiety account for 51% of all work-related ill health and 55% of working days lost.

While for many the chance to reconnect with colleagues and friends face-to-face will be something of a wellbeing boon, it is worth paying more than lip service to the potential difficulties to mental health another big change might pose.

With uncertainty in the air, and the recent shock of lockdown, The Mental Health Foundation predicts fear and anxiety may be common responses to the onset of another change, especially among those who have developed coping strategies over the last 12 months they will now have to abandon. Tips on easing the transition include making any changes gradual to build up tolerance to the new way of working. It may also be necessary to offer flexible working to employees to allow them to manage their own wellbeing effectively. Which takes us to our next item to consider.

Flexible Working

Work from home has been crash-tested over lockdown and the news seems promising. More than 80% of employer respondents to a BBC poll said hybrid working was likely to be part of their plans post-lockdown, with many heralding big changes to the workplace and the working day. And that may be a bus you don’t want to miss, because a recent report by the consultancy Barnett Waddingham indicates a third of young workers would look for a new job if their organisation did not offer sufficient flexibility.

Tech

Naturally, with flexible and hybrid working touted, tech is going to play a big role in keeping businesses connected. The Zoom boom was brought a spotlight on the tools we use for verbal communication, and the need to organise teams without direct supervision has accelerated the rise of project management tools. Selecting the correct technology to suit your purposes and assessing how it, and your working processes, are implemented, can make all the difference to utilising your resources effectively.

Training and Development

Another critical effect of the lockdown has been a training crunch. The tightening of budgets was, perhaps, inevitable as a cost saving measure under lockdown, but employees are feeling the impact. According to recent research published by AI-driven learning platform Soffos, only 22% of employees feel their development has been invested over the course of the pandemic. Concerns are especially prevalent (once again) among younger workers.

Vaccination Policy

COVID-19 is still with us, and for as long as it is, it remains crucial that we are vigilant. Vaccinations will go a long way towards safeguarding the workforce, so it is in every organisation’s best interests to assist staff as much as possible in getting inoculated. ACAS recommends employers consider offering paid time off for vaccination appointments, paying staff at their usual rate if they are off ill due to the side-effects of a vaccine, and not counting vaccine-related absences towards absence records and ‘trigger’ systems.

They also recommend opening the lines of communication with staff about vaccine policy; advice that works for all the key areas we have covered in today’s blog. Opening the lines of communication and collecting your own data might be the best way to ensure you’re as prepared as you can be for the coming change.

IR35 REFORM: WHAT LOGISTICS FIRMS NEED TO KNOW

This week’s rollout of reforms to the tax rules on off-payroll working (known as IR35) will have a significant impact on the way many logistics firms employ contractors. In today’s article, we break down the essential information you need to know about the changes: why they are happening, what they mean, who they affect, and what to do next.

Why the reforms are taking place

The growth of the gig economy has seen a rise in the number of contractors utilised by private and public sector clients as a flexible temporary workforce. When dealing with contractors, many client organisations prefer hiring companies rather than sole traders. Historically, this has helped the client organisations to avoid liability for costly employment benefits.

In response, many contractors have established personal service companies (PSCs), which act as an intermediary for tax purposes. This makes the contractor more attractive to clients (indeed, it may be the only way to do business in some cases). It can also lower the rate at which earnings are taxed.

The government has decided to clamp down on this practice. HMRC feels that many contractors are, in essence, employees, and should be taxed as such, estimating the tax shortfall due to the practice to stand at £1.3bn a year by 2023-24. The changes were originally due to begin in 2020, but were pushed back until this year due to the COVID crisis.

What the reforms mean

The changes are designed to address this shortfall by shifting the responsibility for deciding the IR35 status of contractors to the client organisation. The government offers a number of tools to assist organisations in making this determination, as well as guidance on the changes: see the weblinks below for details.

In summary, organisations need to review the employment status of every contractor supplying services through a PSC on an individual basis and determine whether that person would be considered an employee if there were no PSC to act as intermediary.

If the answer is yes, the organisation needs to inform the PSC and individual in writing. Responsibility for operation of the contractor’s PAYE will then fall to the client or an outside agency.

These changes have several knock-on effects on the way companies do business. Alongside re-examining and potentially amending existing contracts, client organisations also need to put processes in place to ensure future hiring meets the legal requirements. This includes establishing a procedure to deal with disagreements. According to an article for peoplemanagement.co.uk, clients also need to consider training for those responsible for compliance, as well as examining the way they do business with agencies.

Who is affected

Medium to large companies across all sectors of the economy, including logistics. Accountancy and advisory firm Macintyre Hudson predicts that ‘the new rules will have a significant impact on the engagement of drivers and warehouse workers where these are supplied through intermediaries’.

Whether your organisation counts as a small, medium or large company is determined by your status under the Companies Act 2006.

What to do next

Follow the links to find government guidance on what your next steps should be. It is important to bear in mind that the new rules are designed to prevent a one-size-fits-all approach to deciding who in your employ falls under IR35. Failing to assess contractors on an individual basis could be a costly mistake, as HMRC have shown they are willing to pursue organisations making what it sees as bad faith assessments.

But issuing a blanket ban on the hiring of contractors—as some organisations have done in the run up to the reforms—may prove costly, too, with IR35 experts predicting those companies who follow a strategy of compliance will gain a significant advantage over those following a strategy of avoidance.

A PLAN FOR WELLNESS

Today, Talent in Logistics shines a spotlight on wellness, with the TIL Wellness Action Plan. But what is a wellness action plan, and how can it help? Read on to find out.

Wellness is something of a workplace buzzword these days, but before you scratch it off your bingo card and move on, you would do well to give wellness some deeper thought. Too often, wellness is either left by the wayside as a nice idea that, in practice, we don’t have the time to pursue; or worse still, dismissed as an HR gimmick.

Even if we acknowledge the mountain of evidence that wellbeing is crucial to both productivity and job satisfaction, it takes a shift in habits and perspective to put that knowledge into effective practice. On an individual level this often requires a step change in the way we see not only work but ourselves.

Wellness action plans are a means of doing just that. They offer a simple, structured approach to addressing wellness that focuses firmly on practical action. And no, you don’t need an extant mental health condition to benefit. All you need is an open mind, and to put aside a little time to consider your habits and circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

In the TIL Wellness Action Plan, we ask you to start by thinking about these questions:

  • What are the key pressures and obstacles you find yourself dealing with right now?
  • How are they affecting your sense of wellbeing/mental health?

Don’t worry about writing anything down just yet; simply mull these questions over in your mind and see what you come up with. Answers to the first question might include issues with work from home, for instance, whether that means a sense of isolation, difficulty with self-management, or a hectic home environment you find it hard to work out of.

Answers to the second question might be more nebulous, but try to take into account not only how you feel right now, but the general trend over the past weeks and months.

Now we’ve considered obstacles to wellness in general, lets do a more thorough analysis. Our objective here is to identify both specific problems and the practical steps that can be followed to solve them.

Grab a piece of paper or pad and write out detailed answers to the following questions. Aim for more than a few lines: anything up to about half a page is good; more if the situation demands it.

  1. How would you describe your sense of wellbeing/mental health right now, over the past few months, and in general?

If it is difficult to answer this question, try keeping a journal for a week or two in which you jot down thoughts and feeling a few times a day. This can be an eye-opener, revealing patterns or changes you might not otherwise be aware of.

  1. How would a period of poor mental health/wellbeing negatively affect your life at home and at work?

You know yourself better than anyone, so the best placed person to predict the kinds of obstacles, symptoms and repercussions of poor mental health is you. Remember, everyone experiences difficulty differently. There are no right or wrong answers.

  1. Are there any early warning signs you or your colleagues/managers could use to identify when a period of poor wellness is approaching?

Think about both behavioural changes others can look out for, and thought processes/patterns you can spot yourself.

  1. What are the key issues which cause you stress and difficulty? Consider both present moment obstacles and general triggers which can cause you to feel pressure.

Again, journaling can help to track and monitor this, too, so consider looking into the question on a rolling basis over time.

  1. How might you adapt your habits and working environment to alleviate specific problems?

The key here is to focus on the more diagnostic questions above and what you learned from answering them. Pick specific problems, especially ones which cause your pressure levels to spike, and consider practical, SMART targeted solutions.

These might include changes to the layout of your workstation, creating a ‘quiet period’ in your household at a certain time of day, taking a healthy walk over lunchbreak, or setting an alarm to remind you to eat a nutritious breakfast, for example.

  1. What can your employer do to help minimise triggers and provide support when things are tough?

Prevention is often better than cure, so try to consider how problems can be headed off before they arise. Nevertheless, it’s important to recogise that this is not always possible, and that there is no shame in asking for or receiving additional support should the need arise.

Now you’ve analysed the potential problems and solutions, the final stage is to communicate. Consider using this wellness action plan as the basis for a conversation with your employer, or even providing them with your written responses. Above all, check back in regularly with yourself and your plan. A wellness action plan can be a powerful weapon when you are struggling, but it is not a fire-and-forget solution. Revise your plan, answers and approach as and when things change.

FUTURE WORK: 5 TRENDS THAT MIGHT CHANGE THE BUSINESS UNIVERSE (PART 2)

Talent in Logistics delves into the future of our industry by imagining how present trends might reconfigure the workplace by 2030. Part 2 continues where we left off last week. Recap on part 1.

3. Employment Relationships

External drivers like Brexit, the economic environment, consumer demands and more recently COVID-19 have fundamentally shifted the idea of the ‘typical employment relationship’. The traditional career model could change in the future: it may be more likely people won’t have a

‘career for life’ like in the past, but that an individual’s working life will feature a range of cross-sector and cross-functional experiences, requiring the attendant skills.

This increased flexibility offers benefits for workers, and the potential to negotiate harder where their skills are in demand. But there are also potential costs; the gig economy and zero-hours contracts, both recent innovations, have come under stern criticism not only due to their poor security but also the perceived erosion of employee benefits and the mercurial nature of the gig market. Meanwhile, young people entering work may find it hard to gain the experience and skills needed to progress and access good quality jobs.

There may be some benefits to the logistics industry, nonetheless. With more workers than ever pushing for work from home, an evolution in motivation and engagement and health and wellbeing strategies may be coming. That can only be good news in an industry whose backbone—the drivers—have long been working remotely.

4. Demographics, Diversity and Inclusion

Life expectancy and retirement age continue to trend up, meaning we now have and will continue to have more generations in our workforce than ever before. Simultaneously, the younger generations joining the workforce are challenging the status quo, with a greater understanding of and insistence on workers’ rights and the flexibility and willingness to move elsewhere if their needs aren’t being met. How will we ensure that the invaluable skills held by our ageing workforce are passed onto younger workers? Will phased retirements and job-sharing become more standard and accepted?

The Millennial cohort and their Gen Z counterparts are rising to become both the dominant consumer bloc both externally and as ‘internal consumers’: employee stakeholders. Clare advises that these ‘consumers’ are increasingly political, with support for social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter significant, along with endemic environmental pessimism. Young people are less loyal to brands, more critical of corporate ethics, and are liable to think with their feet.

This is likely to force businesses to behave less as commercial entities and more as communities of shared interest. Traditional workplace policies and processes designed for treating people fairly by treating everybody the same might need to give way to more nuanced approaches. This would include recognising that absolute equality of treatment tends to accentuate existing inequalities rather than addressing them. Will D&I move away from outdated policies designed to safeguard ‘equality’ and toward the principle of supporting individual needs?

 

 

 

 

 

5. Responsible Business

The pressure for better people policies comes from outside, too. What evolved D&I practices are to employee morale, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are to consumer goodwill. Additionally, there is a rise in demand for sustainable, ethical and responsible business practices coming from regulators and investors, as well as dire warnings from the science community regarding sustainability.

The common theme in many of the threads examined in this article is the need to reimagine work as a force for good. Shallow commitment to shareholder value is unlikely to make good financial sense in the coming years, even leaving the social ramifications alone. Commercial pressures must be balanced with the need for ethical practices, since the two are becoming increasingly synonymous.

The dangers of failing to heed the call to change may be stark: with the environmental doomsday clock ticking, the rise of cancel culture and the growing number of citizens and intellectual leaders questioning whether contemporary capitalism is capable of dealing with proliferating crises, the threat might not merely be financial ruin but seismic changes to our way of life. The future of the world of work may be unclear, but one thing is certain: in ten years’ time, things will be different. They will have to be.

Based on findings from CIPD’s People Profession 2030 report.

FUTURE WORK: 5 TRENDS THAT MIGHT CHANGE THE BUSINESS UNIVERSE (PART 1)

Talent in Logistics delves into the future of our industry by imagining how present trends might reconfigure the workplace by 2030.

The hammer of the future descends. To paraphrase the spuriously attributed ‘ancient Chinese curse’, we are living in interesting times. Covid-19 in particular has presented a challenge to business unprecedented in the last half century, but the pandemic is only one of multiple impactors beating the business world out of its current shape: Brexit, the home delivery boom, increasing focus on social inequalities, the tectonic creaking of global economies as they shift against each other. The degree of success logistics firms will enjoy in 10 years’ time depends on whether the force of change shatters them open along old fault lines or is harnessed to shape them into something stronger and tougher.

In order to help readers get a head start in the notoriously tricky business of augury, TIL will be looking carefully into present day trends. These trends were established in a November 2020 paper by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), so all credit goes to CIPD for identifying and developing these. The paper in question is available in the link at the top of the page. TIL also got in touch with customer experience expert Clare Muscutt, founder and director of CMX Ltd., for some additional insight into the nature of the challenges ahead.

1. Internal Change

In the short term, Covid-19 has necessitated bold changes in the way organisations operate and make decisions. But the long-term consequences of this culture shock are yet to become clear. What can be said is that traditional ways of working are being challenged—not least the role of the ‘workplace’. With the viability of work-from-home proven, potential cost savings and the flexibility work-from-home solutions offers employees may redefine our concept of the workplace from a physical space to a social and technological network.

The need to manage operations at a distance is increasing the relevance both of technological communications platforms such as Zoom and workflow management solutions such as Monday.com. The proliferation of these and growing concern about information overload may force organisations to rethink both how they communicate and what, perhaps leading to more stringent policing of internal communication (fewer emails? Yes, please.)

Businesses on high alert, in aiming to react dynamically, may even dissolve traditional organisational leader/team structures in favour of mobilising possies to confront specific projects before disbanding and reassigning them once their objectives are complete.

Here, Clare issued us this word of warning: excessive, ill-considered or mismanaged change could atomise unwary businesses. Getting transformation right is a delicate process requiring clear objectives, unwavering customer focus, and the right methodology and tools.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Technological and Digital Transformation

Tech has a habit of bowling googlies to the business world. Impossible to augur innovations force large scale changes on an increasingly regular basis (the internet, mobile tech, data). The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2019) suggests more than one in ten jobs will cease to exist within the coming 15–20 years and a further 32% will be significantly different due to automation possibilities. This in turn could mean significant restructuring of the workforce, with reskilling and the development of new roles—not to mention the obvious social and ethical ramifications of removing so many jobs from the market. And this is the predicted impact of just one sphere of technological advancement: automation.

Much as with internally motivated change, the drive to adopt sexy new tech can also be dangerous. For Clare, any change is dangerous where top-down decisions are made without input from frontline staff, as their on-the-ground expertise can be used to identify potentially devastating pitfalls before they become costly mistakes.

Anecdotally, the author of this article saw the evidence for this first-hand, working in education: the school that replaced all its whiteboards with glitzy, unreliable computer tech without asking the teachers; the school that installed an advanced multimedia classroom suite for foreign languages without realising the department lacked the skills necessary even to send an email with an attachment.

In light of risks such as these, the appetite in the logistics industry may be to ‘defend traditional ways of working’, making businesses slower to transition. But if the growth of home delivery shows anything it is that logistics will likely be profoundly affected by changes—whether it chooses to engage with them or not.

Our analysis of the five trends that may change the business universe continues next week, when we look at what the future holds for employment relationships, diversity and inclusion and responsible business.

Based on findings from CIPD’s People Profession 2030 report.

IN TIMES OF CHANGE, IT’S PEOPLE THAT MATTER

While every industry has been affected by the global health emergency that we are all living through, the logistics industry has endured a particularly difficult time. Some sectors have faced unprecedented spike in demand, with online shopping and consumer stockpiling causing challenges for the retail and groceries sectors. On the other hand, firms transporting goods for the construction, hospitality and events industries saw varied demands making the daily management of its fleet operations and staff levels problematic.

Many transport and logistics workers became ‘key workers’ during the pandemic, allowing them to continue doing their jobs even as everything else shut down. For months, they have worked tirelessly to ensure the country has what it needs during one of the most challenging periods in recent memory.

Mike Hayward of Woodfines Solicitors explains further. 

Protecting your workforce

Those working in high-demand sectors, such as warehousing and distribution, have been under huge pressure to perform during lockdown. All the while knowing that the nature of their jobs means they may be more exposed to contracting the virus. They have maintained the supply chain admirably and deserve gratitude, like the many other key workers who have supported people throughout the first lockdown.  Compounding these difficulties is the known driver shortage and aging workforce (particularly among haulage drivers).

There are many varied roles in logistics, but those behind the wheel of their delivery vans or HGV will often be working alone and sometimes for long periods of time. Couple this with restrictions imposed by Covid-19, they may face longer periods alone compared to others who may be in a team environment. These periods of isolation could add to anxiety and potentially impact on mental health. Drivers should not be overlooked accordingly, and their mental health monitored as far as possible.

In difficult times, looking after your people has never been more important.

Placing increased emphasis on communication and supporting employees’ mental and physical wellbeing will do wonders for logistic workers’ morale, productivity and health. Retention in the workplace can be problematic so checking on your workers can increase a feeling of belonging and inclusion.  Businesses are working hard to navigate through the financial pressures caused through the pandemic restrictions and the constantly evolving situation, but compliance with health and safety measures and taking steps to maximise the wellbeing of their workforce is essential.

This can be achieved by:

·       Effectively communicating and enforcing new policies and procedures, such as social distancing within warehouses and contactless deliveries for haulage drivers.

·       Supporting employees’ physical health by ensuring they take adequate breaks and providing them with suitable PPE and hand sanitizer.

·       Incentivising employees to take sick leave if they develop symptoms by providing them with information about government sick pay entitlement and the firm’s own sickness absence policy.

·        Placing emphasis on mental health and wellbeing and ensuring that staff are aware of the support available to them.

The Government, through the HSE, are issuing guidance in respect of various workplaces including in vehicles and business premises. Business mangers should keep up to date with that guidance accordingly.

This should not just be a tick box exercise, but to include measures that are of benefit to their staff and will promote a positive working environment and hopefully reduce staff turnover and build business repute.

A wealth of opportunities for new talent

While the pandemic has led to thousands of job losses, logistics looks set to become a major driver of employment going forward. In April 2020, the British Chamber of Commerce revealed that logistics was seeing the biggest demand for staff; Amazon alone stated its intention to hire an additional 100,000 warehouse staff at the height of lockdown. Now, as the country teeters on the brink of a second wave and Christmas rapidly approaches, a well-staffed logistics industry is set to be more important than ever. With the government currently pushing its ‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.’ drive, there is greater potential than ever before to attract talent from other industries, with transferrable skills that could help drive positive change.

Speaking as I do regularly to educational establishments, I seek to encourage people into the sector by explaining the diverse range of opportunities available and the imposition of supply chain working. The industry is well regulated and requires a high degree of professionalism at all levels.

In these times it is the perfect time to reach out to younger generations to teach them just how rewarding a career in logistics can be. Just last year, a Talent in Logistics report revealed that only 8% of young people consider the sector to be an attractive career option, while 42% do not have a clue what logistics means. The pandemic has made the logistics industry more visible as we receive more goods and deliveries to our homes, and this has led to a new found appreciation of the vital role of the logistics sector. Now could be the perfect moment to appeal to younger generations, many of whom have seen their career prospects damaged by the pandemic and may now be more receptive to a wider variety of employment opportunities.

What’s more, the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, which directly pays employers who create jobs for 16 to 25-year-olds on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, provides a massive incentive for logistics firms to start taking on younger staff. It also rewards employers who take on trainees and apprentices under the age of 25. With just 9% of the current logistics workforce under the age of 25, there is no better opportunity to rectify the historic lack of new talent entering the field.

A new era

The industry is currently standing on a precipice between the old world and the new. Ahead lies a wealth of opportunities for logistics firms to thrive in a post-COVID world. Much is still uncertain, but ensuring you look after the people you have and being proactive in attracting new talent is an excellent way to start planning for a prosperous future. In the words of Walt Disney himself: “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world… but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”