Recognising Your Blue-Collar Workforce

The logistics industry is in a state of flux. Disruptive forces, driven by the evolution of technology and social change, have upset the applecart. Issues with recruitment and retention and an ageing workforce have contributed to labour shortage. And as the recent FTA Logistics Skills Report points out, ‘Not enough young people are considering logistics, especially HGV driving, as a career option,’ with causes including ‘the cost of licence acquisition, lack of understanding of the sector, poor sector image, working hours and lack of quality driver facilities.’ With organisations feeling the crunch, what can be done internally to help?

Now more than ever, it is essential to develop, recognise, reward and retain workers. We need to show just how attractive and future-facing a career in our sector can be. That is especially true in the case of blue-collar positions such as forklift operator and HGV driver, which are suffering both due to obstacles to entry and perceived threat from automation. But in order to do that, we need to understand the needs and goals of those we seek to employ.

Naturally, a competitive wage is a big draw. Offering a pay package that at least keeps pace with competitors is an obvious way to make employees feel valued—or at the very least, stop them feeling underappreciated. But it would be wrong to think pay was the be-all and end-all for contemporary workers. As the FTA report demonstrates, working conditions, facilities, and general quality of life factor into the decisions of people entering the workforce. Opportunities for personal development, rewards or benefits that make life easier, and a sense of community may also be valued very highly by some employees.

From the business point of view, good professional development provides an antidote to skill gaps. Beyond this, it increases competence; skilled workers share good practice with others, so the effects are felt around your organisation, particularly when PD is solidly embedded and not just a luxury. From the employee’s point of view, the benefits of development are even more far-reaching. Employees can expect greater opportunities in future, a new challenge, and a sense of personal growth. What’s more, developing your workers shows you are willing to invest in them for your collective future. That is an important message when traditional roles and skillsets are under threat from technological change.

In an increasingly hectic society, people put a premium on ease, comfort and convenience. The rise of industry shakers such as Amazon, ASOS, Uber and Deliveroo is a testament to this. If it is true of customers, it’s also true of employees. That means benefits can outperform pure remuneration pound-for-pound in terms of perceived value. Gym membership, cycle to work, childcare vouchers, discounted shopping, life insurance, pension. Using the power of your organisation to help make life more manageable for employees is a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ deal. The benefits you elect to offer will affect your employee proposition differently for different demographics. An organisation looking to hire returnee mothers might build its portfolio of benefits in order to specifically target them.

In comparison to PD and benefits, the idea of ‘community’ can be more nebulous. For that reason, some dismiss talk of employee experience as woolly, or ‘touchy-feely’. But can employers afford to overlook the feelings of a mobile workforce that, like customers, can vote with its feet? What is clear is that paying lip service to community without putting solid team initiatives in place is not enough. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and savvy employees can recognise the difference between guff and genuine team culture. And as Philip Martin, of the Department for Transport, has pointed out, ‘PWC have found that 80% of millennials believe a diversity and inclusion policy is important when deciding to work for a company.’ Young people care about an organisation’s inclusivity, and social values.

Real teams recognise the value of contributions from individual members. One way to do that is through employee recognition programmes—personal thank you’s from a leadership invested in each member of the workforce. Perhaps the best way to make your employees feel valued is to value what they have to say. If possible, involve workers or representatives in decision making processes. Run ideas by them, especially top-down initiatives that come from management. Workers on ‘the ground floor’ have an advantage in accumulated frontline experience, and may spot potential pitfalls or ways to optimise procedure. They can also be a useful barometer when something isn’t going as planned.

What all these initiatives have in common is that they put people and relationships first. Your workforce is the most significant factor in success, so it makes sense to recognise their value and invest. In the spirit of this, Talent in Logistics offers its own Forklift Operator and LGV Driver competitions, which celebrate professionalism and ability while encouraging employees to ‘upskill’, and aim for the highest standards in their daily practice. Get in touch today to discuss this, or any of the issues raised in this post, further. We are eager to hear from you.

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