Employer optimism

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Survey shows employers see growth for their organisations in near future.

We have enjoyed a memorable summer. While many will look back at the glorious weather, others will recall it as a time of growing economic optimism – something that was reflected by the findings of a logistics employers survey, conducted during August 2013 by Skills for Logistics.

It found optimism among employers to be riding high and that many employers see the industry and their organisation growing in the near future. Employers also feel they will remain competitive and attract a diverse workforce.

Encouraging news indeed for the logistics sector, which had been operating in a difficult economic environment for some time. Furthermore, the survey found that the sector is reporting improvements in profitability, productivity and turnover.

The workforce is seen as being proficient at their jobs with the majority of employers reporting this. However, there are skills that could be improved and they include communication, organising and planning, job specific skills, management and leadership, teamwork and interpersonal skills.

It is important to fill any such skills gaps because they will lead to higher operating costs and a blunter competitive edge.

Along with the optimism comes the good news that recruitment has been taking place across the logistics sector and 75 per cent of employers have recruited in the last 12 months.

A large proportion of this is the recruitment of operational staff. The survey suggests that where the sector has difficulties attracting a workforce – it was mostly down to a low number of applicants with the required skills (47 per cent) followed by a lack of work experience and lack of qualifications (both 20 per cent).

11 per cent saw a low number of applicants with the required attitude, motivation or personality.

Where employers are having difficulties filling roles, the main issue by far is the increased workload for others, followed by increasing costs; difficulties in meeting customer service objectives and quality standards.

Importantly, we do not seem to a have problems in terms of keeping the staff it attracts. The survey shows that the sector is demonstrating good staff retention within its workforce, with 83 per cent of employers stating that staff turnover is low, very low or non-existent.

Given that over 70 per cent of employers have arranged or funded off-the-job training or informal training, operating within tighter margins does not seem to have had an impact on workforce development and training. Training has been offered in a range of areas, such as job specific training, health and safety, supervisory and management training.

Looking ahead, although employers are positive about the next 12 months, a significant proportion (69 per cent) does not plan to move into new areas of work.

These employers do, however, anticipate changes taking place, such as changes to government regulation and governance and addressing the green agenda and anticipate this will require new ways of working.

A number of skills have been identified as important over the next 12 months – such as job specific skills, teamwork, interpersonal skills, communication, organising and planning.

These are interesting responses and surveying the views of nearly 300 logistics employers across the UK in this way will help Skills for Logistics to gain a better understanding of the sector.

It is part of a research programme into the skills needs of the Logistics Sector, which also consists of case studies, analysis of national datasets and a literature review.

The research team is currently hard at work processing a series of research reports examining a number of occupational craft skill areas such as driving, fleet management, international trade, logistics operations, mail and courier, supply chain operations management, port operations, warehousing and wholesaling.

The steer provided by the occupational craft skills groups, which were established by Skills for Logistics in association with the sector’s key trade organisations, is critical in ensuring that the right training and skills products are in place for this industry.

The groups’ commitment to support Skills for Logistics in developing and analysing labour market research will ensure that we are basing skills decisions on the most up-to-date evidence and best practice.

Watch this space.

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