Why EDI matters NOW in warehousing, transport, and logistics
The warehousing, transport, and logistics industry is facing skills shortages. Many are putting recruitment and reskilling initiatives in place to try and fill roles, yet are still left asking ‘Where are we going to get our people from?’.
One issue with bridging these skills gaps is the perceived talent pool. Typically, the workforce in is dominated by people who identify as ethnically white (91% – Logistics UK) and male (anywhere from 85% to 94% in different studies). Some roles are also predominantly carried out by an ageing workforce.
It’s easy to assume therefore that these are the people that must be recruited. So, that’s who wants the job, and likes the job, and this approach always worked before. Right? Yet replacing ‘like with like’ is not working, and not solving the skills crisis.
This is exactly why equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) matters in our industry now more than ever. EDI opens doors to a wider talent pool, makes you a more attractive employer, and provides a positive working culture that retains valuable people.
We’ve established that we need to widen the talent pool and recruit from a more diverse group of people. So, who are they? And how does this translate into a more inclusive workplace?
Closing the gender gap
Women are underrepresented in the logistics industry. According to Logistics UK, less than 14% of employees are female, and there is a low proportion of female leaders. This is an opportunity for employers. Firstly, it’s an untapped well of potential talent. Secondly, it’s a chance to create a more diverse and welcoming workforce that is more profitable too. Research by PwC showed that there is a link between a more gender-balanced workforce and higher financial returns.
What’s more, research showed that women in leadership roles in logistics are rated higher in the majority of core competencies than their male colleagues. They are excelling in areas such as empathy, clear direction, constructive feedback, trust, and teamwork. We can surely agree that talented leaders result in better teams, and in turn a better culture.
In addition, creating a culture made up with both male and female leadership, where positive role models of all genders can influence the company culture will be far more appealing than the perceived logistics ‘boys club’. Ensuring pay equality, could also encourage more women into roles in logistics.
It is great to see that some organisations are putting specific measures in place to address gender inequality. For example, FedEx launched the UK’s Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN). The network enables women in the business to share their experiences and learn from one another. PD Ports also recently announced a company-wide diversity pledge that includes addressing gender imbalance.
Enabling disability recruitment
One important potential talent pool that is left largely untapped is working-age people with a disability. More than 4 million people with a disability in the UK are currently looking for work. These are potentially skilled, loyal, and hardworking employees in the making.
Employers may have different reasons why they historically haven’t considered actively recruiting from this group, whether that is due to uncertainties about ability or the day-to-day requirements of those with disabilities or health conditions.
However, the government offers guidance and resources to support with this. . By helping businesses to encourage a shift in attitudes, behaviours, and cultures, they can then draw from the widest pool of talent. At the same time, this inclusive approach also shows existing employees that you have a culture of equality and fairness. In turn, this can help improve morale and employee engagement, supporting greater retention in the existing workforce.
Think differently about thinking differently
Employers are perhaps not embracing the advantages of neurodiversity in the workforce as much as they could.
Around 15% of the UK population is estimated to be neurodivergent. This means that their brains function, learn, and process information differently. This includes people with Attention Deficit Disorders (ADHD), Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. 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.
By learning more about neurodiversity (and taking steps to better support it), both employers and employees in the workplace will benefit hugely. Making accommodations and being flexible helps support a culture of EDI that neurodivergent employees can thrive in. It can be as simple as finding ways to communicate that employees are comfortable with, and considering this during the recruitment phase as well. Everybody is different, so what one person might be comfortable with, another might find difficult. Treating people as individuals is key.
Act on LGBTQ+ equality
Research by campaigning charity Stonewall found that many workers in the UK continue to feel discriminated against for their sexuality or gender identity. Creating a culture of EDI creates a workplace where this doesn’t have to be an issue, making you an attractive employer to a range of people that would be uncomfortable in a workplace with inaccurate binary divisions.
In the Stonewall study, 35% of LGBT staff say they have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT within the workplace. Many said they would not feel confident reporting homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying to their employer. So, it’s vital that we address this with managers who are approachable, and workplaces based on a culture of respect, with zero tolerance for certain language and behaviours.
Beyond that, a truly inclusive workplace should celebrate diversity. For instance, enabling non-binary or trans people to wear work attire that reflects their gender expression can help ensure every employee can truly feel themselves in the workplace.
Attracting a fresh generation of talent
According to Logistics UK, ‘80% of millennials believe a diversity and inclusion policy is important when deciding to work for a company’. Therefore, the measures above will not only help make a business more attractive to underrepresented groups, but to a whole a new generation of young talent.
An important consideration at this point is also unconscious bias. It is easy to deliberately look for employees that are, on the surface, similar to those you already have. However, by doing this, employers can be ruling out people with the right attributes for roles. As well as this ‘conscious’ bias, unconscious bias can also be problematic. Unconscious bias is a learned stereotype that is automatic and unintentional, significantly affecting your behaviour and decisions.
To tackle this, unbiased recruitment is essential. Employers could consider reviewing applications ‘blind’ for example. So as not to be influenced by a person’s name, age, gender, or where they live. This allows employers to see the potential in people, without any judgement. It makes recruitment fair, and potentially widens the talent pool.
In turn, with a more diverse workplace, cultural competence improves across the business. And with a better understanding of others, bias is reduced. Team members will feel empowered to speak up about bias, and it will be clear when potential bias is a problem so that is can be addressed. The result? A more inclusive, happy team.
For further support and advice, including details of conferences that focus on talent attraction and employee engagement, sign up to the Talent in Logistics mailing list.
We support the Big Logistics Diversity Challenge
The Big Logistics Diversity Challenge is an event that Talent in Logistics supports, because it shines a light on EDI. It is a fun team building event, but at its core, has been developed to show how people in our industry work better and excel when they are in diverse teams.
Entering a team in the event is a great way to demonstrate your business’s commitment to EDI, both to your existing team and potential new recruits. Get involved with the Big Logistics Diversity Challenge 2023 here.