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.