Talent Management in Logistics: Why It’s More Important than Ever

We often talk about the importance of people, process, and technology in Supply Chain Management, but many times the people dimension gets the short end of the stick, especially when most of the headlines today are about cool technology trends like blockchain, artificial intelligence and driverless trucks. Talent management is more important than ever, however. Why is that? What are some of the key factors companies need to consider in talent management? Is talent management becoming a competitive differentiator?

Those are some of the questions I discussed with Angie Freeman, Chief Human Resources Officer at C.H. Robinson, in a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

Talent Management Comes to the Forefront

Angie points out that there are two main jobs for human resources: delivering business results and developing talent within the organization.She notes that there are several business factors that have raised the importance of talent strategy. One is that the CEO of investment firm BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has made human capital management practices one of the top focuses in 2018 for the businesses they manage because they believe how companies manage talent is now an investor issue.

Angie says, “That makes a lot of sense. If you think about the most successful companies of our time, the ones that have created real, sustained value, they are laser-focused on having great talent and a high-performing culture.”

Another factor is a new book out by three industry heavyweights called Talent Wins that says talent, more than strategy, is what creates value today, and that CEOs must manage human capital as well as they manage financial capital. Angie says, “It is a knowledge and innovation economy and those who get their talent management right will be the winners in the long run. It truly is the competitive advantage today.”

The Great Talent Competition

While talent has become a competitive advantage, the competition for talent has become a major issue across many industries, no more so than for logistics. Angie notes the changing demographics of the industry, with baby boomers retiring, millennials entering management ranks, and Generation Z entering the workforce as key factors. “Each group has different preferences,” she says. “They are asking for different things and their expectations for their careers are different than previous generations. With the talent shortage, the competition for talent and the changing preferences of today’s employees, companies that listen to what employees want will win. It used to be companies picked talent, but now talent picks companies. That’s the reality today.”

Does Logistics Have an Image Problem?

With the increased competition for new talent, it can be hard to compete with companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple that are perceived as more innovative and hip places to work compared to logistics companies that may be perceived as more old-school. Fortunately, Angie says that image is changing. “We’ve seen a change over the past couple of years where businesses have an increased focus on supply chain issues and understand that logistics is becoming critical to competitive advantage. There is also an increased focus on technology and innovation in logistics, which makes it a cool place to be, and it’s a growth industry, as well. Together with the industry’s impact on global economic success, these factors make it a great place for young people to work and grow.”

The Talent Ecosystem

It used to be the norm for companies to hire young people out of college or technical schools, train them, and then nurture them over long careers with the company. That scenario is much less common today, especially with the high competition for talent. Companies must create new talent ecosystems that focus equally on hiring the best people, continually developing them, and creating an environment and workspace that will aid in retention.

What skills should companies look for to get the best people? Which “power skills” are most important for success? Are social media skills a help or a hindrance in communication? What do innovative work spaces look like? What opportunities are out there to improve the talent level? And what questions should companies ask themselves to align their business strategies with talent practices?

These are some of the questions I discussed with Angie that I don’t have room to cover here. But you can get the answers to these questions and more by viewing the full video episode.

Angie says the talent shortage is a math problem that won’t go away anytime soon, so learning how to more effectively compete for and retain talent is something all companies must master quickly.