5 ways to embrace a culture of diversity and inclusion in the logistics workplace

A recent skills shortage report from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) found that the logistics sector continues to be dominated by people who describe themselves as ethnically white (91%), along with male workers representing 86% of the logistics vocations workforce.

The demand for talent in the supply chain has never been so high, whereas today’s youth feel that logistics isn’t an attractive career option. At Talent in Logistics, we’ve previously spoken about the importance of recruitment from underrepresented groups due to the skills shortage our sector is currently facing.

If you’re an employer in the logistics sector who has taken steps towards implementing a new culture within the workplace, how can you go about embracing a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion? And why is it important?

Here’s five ways to help implement a culture of equality, diversity and inclusion in your operation:

1. Increase disability confidence

Did you know that over 8 million people of working age in the UK have a disability? Only about 50% of disabled people in the UK are in work, compared to 80% of non-disabled people of working age.

This means that there are potentially more than 4 million people currently looking for the opportunity to work, whilst employers are missing out this talent pool.

Whether this comes down to uncertainties about ability or day-to-day logistics, the government has backed an employer campaign called Disability Confident which offers guidance and resources to employers on how employing those with disabilities or health conditions can help your business.

Over 17,000 organisations have already signed up to the scheme, which encourages a change in attitudes, behaviour and cultures throughout businesses, networks and communities alike. The scheme enables employers to draw from the widest possible pool of talent, along with secure high-quality, loyal and hardworking staff.

This will not only show other employees in the workplace that as a business, you treat all employees fairly but also improve morale, employee engagement and commitment.

2. Embrace advantages of neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is a relatively new term that many people may not yet know much about. However, by learning more about neurodiversity (and taking steps to better support it), both employers and employees in the workplace will benefit hugely.

It’s only natural that people think about things differently. We all have different interests and motivations, and what one person might excel at, another might struggle with.

Most people are neurotypical, which means that their brain functions and processes information in the way society expects it to. However, around 15% of the UK population is estimated to be neurodivergent. This means that their brain functions, learns and processes information differently. This includes the likes of Attention Deficit Disorders (ADHD), Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.

Far from being a hindrance in your workforce, neurodivergent people can often bring different ways of thinking, challenge process norms, display a high level of attention to detail and become loyal, committed employees. That’s why it’s essential for workplaces to embrace a culture of EDI by making accommodations and being flexible.

Simple considerations such as how to communicate with your employees, as well as ensuring that managers are properly trained to support them, will ensure that staff feel safe and looked after. It will also lead to a higher level of staff retention, along with reduced recruitment costs.

3. Help staff to be themselves

A recent report by LGBT campaigning charity Stonewall found that many workers in the UK continue to feel discriminated against for their sexuality or gender identity, with some having been the target of negative comments or worse still, physical violence.

35% of LGBT staff have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT within the workplace, and many said they would not feel confident reporting homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying to their employer. It’s vital that managers are approachable and available to hear any concerns that employees might have.

That’s why it’s crucial for employers to create a culture that not only breeds respect, but one that doesn’t tolerate certain language and behaviours. Remember, everyone is unique. That should be embraced!

Consider ways to allow people to be themselves in the workplace, such as enabling non-binary or trans people to wear work attire that reflects their gender expression.

4. Reducing the gender gap in logistics

We’re fortunate in the UK that there is not such the societal gender gap that is present in various other countries – in theory, women have access to any role and can be whoever they wish to be.

However, the previously mentioned FTA Skills Shortage Report showed that women are underrepresented in the logistics sector. Did you know that less than a quarter of employees in this industry are female?

“Only 36% of logistics companies which previously made a submission to the government on the gender pay gap have done this year, so there’s little point in looking at the fine detail and making year on year comparisons”, says Kirsten Tisdale, Logistics Consultant and Director at Aricia Ltd who has conducted extensive research into women in logistics for organisations including the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT UK).

“However, I’ve become more and more convinced that the area logistics needs to focus on is increasing the proportion of female leaders. We are a low margin sector and have low numbers of female executives – is it possible that the two go together?” she adds. Read more of Kirsten’s thoughts here in the update posted on 6 April.

As it currently stands in some organisations, logistics can seem like an ‘all boys club’, which can be quite intimidating. This can be easily avoided by creating a culture made up with both male and female leadership, where positive role models of both genders can influence the company culture. Also, by ensuring that there is no gender pay gap, more women would be encouraged into roles in logistics.

5. Eliminate unconscious bias

We all occasionally have the tendency to be bias in favour of a specific situation or person, but employers need to be aware of unconscious bias at all times and how it can affect how you interact with, and set examples for, the rest of your team. An unconscious bias is a learned stereotype that is automatic and unintentional, significantly affecting your behaviour and decisions.

By being unconsciously biased in the recruitment process, employers are missing out on a large proportion of talent. Unbiased recruitment is essential as it allows employers to see the potential in people, without any judgement. As an employer, you should always strive to create an inclusive and fair experience for potential employees. You can read more about this in our recent article here.

Increasing diversity in the workplace has the benefit that it can help improve cultural competence and lead to a better understanding of others, reducing bias.

You should not only encourage team members to speak up about bias, but also hold employees accountable when you see potential bias to demonstrate to all that this isn’t part of your company culture and encourage them to think differently.

Implementing a diverse culture in the workplace

By embracing (and implementing) equality, diversity and inclusion within the workplace, employers and businesses are also embracing opportunities to attract, engage and retain talent within the logistics sector.

This is crucial at a time when the existence of a nationwide skills shortage for the logistics sector is now undeniable and the demand for services is going only in one direction.

To help increase diversity in the logistics workplace, Talent in Logistics is supporting The Big Logistics Diversity Challenge, which takes place on 8th September 2020. The event will consist of a series of fun physical, practical and mental team challenges, set to demonstrate the importance of diversity within the logistics sector, and the business benefits attained when companies improve diversity.

For more information or to enter your organisation visit www.biglogisticsdiversity.co.uk.