Rapid digitalization.

Fast-tracked innovation. Massive adoption of IoT. And as a backdrop to it all: customer expectations that fundamentally changed with COVID-19 — and are unlikely to change back. For logistics pros and leaders alike, two tech-heavy trends should be top of mind.

  • with digital transformation going warp speed…

At a moment when 50 percent of trucks today continue to travel empty on their return journeys, is it any surprise that so much of the focus remains on driving digital transformation? From agile supply chain monitoring to real-time demand signaling, there’s simply no shortage of ways in which digital transformation can unlock value — and unleash productivity — in this five-trillion-dollar sector. This was certainly true before the global pandemic, to be sure, but look for digital transformation efforts to intensify after.

  • …expect still more bullishness on IoT and automation

While the conversation around digital transformation continues to evolve, two key focus areas have clearly emerged: IoT and automation. Yet, with logistics and transportation companies pumping $40 billion into IoT alone in 2020 — a fourfold increase from 2015 — it’s reasonable to wonder if such meteoric growth can continue.

The simple answer is that it can. In fact, we expect to see an even greater outpouring of investment in these technology areas — investments that the majority of logistics professionals have said will be linchpins of their post-COVID-19 business strategies. And those that get ahead on their IoT journeys, while more effectively leveraging advanced automation, might just leapfrog the rest, too.

workforce trends

As new technologies continue to reshape the world of work, what’s the outlook for the logistics workforce?

  • compensation counts (now more than ever)

Despite the global pandemic, competition for key hires across most industries never really slowed from its pre-COVID-19 pace — and there’s no reason to expect that to change in the logistics space. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where many employers are struggling even to find the right candidates let alone attract them. Between competitors vying for the same talent, the implications of stimulus checks and current work life balance needs, this is a widespread challenge that employers are facing. When you are successful in securing a candidate for an interview, in person or virtually, you’d better be prepared to make them a competitive offer. If not, chances are high that they will walk away.

  • upskill, reskill, redeploy

Landscape-scale transformation, like the adoption of advanced tech that’s underway in the logistics space, isn’t possible without workers equipped with new skills. This is true of every role and function within logistics right now, varying only by degrees. So the key question is: How will cash-strapped, talent-hungry employers respond today?

For one, they should recognize that hiring at that scale, from an increasingly well-educated and globalized talent pool, isn’t a viable workaround, at least not from a cost perspective, and instead double down on training, reskilling and upskilling programs. This is the only alternative, and there’s demonstrated talent-side appetite as well: 65 percent of logistics workers were planning to pursue some form of continuing education even before the pandemic. It’s time to give it to them.

  • workforce demographics in flux

The cumulative impact of COVID-19 on workforce participation is difficult to overstate. Alongside severe declines in the overall representation of women, the numbers among members of the baby boomer generation are stunning: Roughly 1.1 million have retired since the start of the pandemic. This alone should be one of the key talent acquisition takeaways for logistics employers. After all, with boomers exiting the workforce en masse, who’s going to take their place?

The answer, needless to say, is millennial and Gen Z talent. But logistics companies will face an uphill climb on the attraction and hiring front. Simply put, they’ll need to do more (a lot more) in terms of outreach and messaging if they hope to position themselves as employers of choice. Otherwise, as much as $2.5 trillion in U.S. gross domestic product will be at risk.

looking ahead

For logistics companies gearing up to brave a fastmoving future, next steps like the following should be priorities on the agenda.

  • evaluate your workforce

End-to-end workforce assessments, with the goal of identifying existing gaps as well as gaps that might emerge in the future, are an essential part of any successful talent acquisition strategy. To be sure, relying on contingent talent is often the best nearterm solution, but the costs can quickly add up when that’s your long-term strategy.

Where to get started? For one, take a moment to think critically about the areas where you’re currently deploying temp talent. If the goal is to shore up gaps in your workforce, do you foresee a significant decrease in future demand related to these roles? If not, it might make sense — financially, strategically and operationally — to convert these employees from temp to full-time hires down the road.

  • adopt the new customer-centric paradigm

COVID-19 brought into focus all of the things logistics companies can’t fully control, from weather patterns to resource availability, government health policy and more. But perhaps lost in that conversation, however, is one thing they can: customer experience.

Here, logistics companies need to take a cue from the tech sector, placing “customer-centricity” as an organizing principle guiding everything they do. Even relatively modest improvements, say, investing in technology and touchpoints to enhance customer communication, could go a long way toward differentiating them from competitors — and help improve their employer brand, too. That could make the talent acquisition piece a little bit easier in turn.

next steps

As the world’s largest provider of staffing services, Randstad has unrivaled insights into the logistics hiring market. What’s next — and what should your organization do to prepare? We’ve got your gameplan ready. Find out when you reach out to the talent experts at Randstad today.