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Logistics firms need to invest in talent and training, says Hellmann

Matthew Marriott, commercial director of Hellmann Worldwide Logistics UK, looks at the current issues facing the logistics industry in terms of recruitment, skills, and investing in talent, and what methods can be employed to effectively attract and retain new recruits.

When asked what they want to do when they are older, children normally say things like ‘footballer’, ‘astronaut’, ‘actor’ or ‘ballerina’. They invariably aspire to professions that offer a glimpse of glamour, a frisson of danger or the opportunity to be widely recognised in a variety of professional and personal contexts.

Unfortunately, in the unforgiving realities of the real world, and particularly in an economic climate that has truly squeezed employment opportunities, there is more chance of Boris Johnson getting a skinhead than there is of finding that elusive position that offers all the glamour, glory, danger, repute and excitement anyone could ever want. In fact, that job exists only in films and perhaps in the minds of the most idealistic fantasists.

Indeed, such expectations, apart from predicating a sharp reality check, can actually make it extremely difficult for certain industries to attract the talent that they require. I write this from the perspective of an industry that has to face up to precisely this issue. When was the last time that you heard a child (or indeed anyone) say, ‘Mummy, when I grow up I want to co-ordinate freight forwarding operations’?

This might be a slightly glib way to illustrate the point, but the underlying fact remains: there is a serious gap in young people’s knowledge in regard to some of the UK’s major industries, and particularly logistics. Indeed, this is even more of an issue when you consider that, despite perceptions, logistics actually has a number of attributes that would almost certainly appeal to ambitious graduates; our industry simply needs to find a way to convey this message if it is to attract the top talent that it really needs.

In the words of Klaus-Dieter Ruske, PwC’s global Transportation and Logistics Leader, the reality is that there are ‘rewarding, multinational opportunities out there that need tapping into.’ Quite! These ‘multinational opportunities’ might well be one of the industry’s greatest attributes in terms of drawing in talent.

Logistics and freight forwarding, by its very nature, is a truly global enterprise. Even for small companies that transport primarily within a particular country, they will most likely have to develop international relations, while bigger companies will have offices across the world. From the perspective of a young graduate, or indeed anyone looking to forge a career, this is often a hugely attractive prospect, providing a glimpse of opportunity and possibility that can be as aspirational as it is exciting.

And yet, this in itself is not enough; companies need to invest in talent. They need to really assess recruiting processes, and perhaps even more importantly, the systems that they have in place in terms of developing employees. Graduate programmes and management schemes cost money to implement, but not only do they offer the company the chance to develop the skills that its personnel require, but they demonstrate the sort of commitment towards employee training and well-being  Those who come through company schemes and go on to have dynamic careers within the sector will be walking exponents and advocates of the logistics profession. It is an incredibly effective method, and one that benefits the sector at every level.

This is certainly not an issue that the logistics industry faces in isolation, but neither does that diminish the importance of taking action now and turning attitudes around. Children might not have to say that they want to grow up to be a freight forwarder, but graduates and young professionals really do – and it is up to those within the industry to make sure that is the case.

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