Thinking outside the box

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Most companies will tell you that recruiting graduates whom they can later train in logistics, is an important part of their recruitment strategies. But there is one company that has chosen to follow a different route. Experience has shown TDG that to get what it wants out of its business it needs people who have already developed a taste for logistics.

Annette Capper, TDG’s human resources director of development, says that with logistics being such a low margin sector, companies are rather limited in what training they can offer.

The government’s Train to Gain scheme has made around £720 million available to help companies fund training and raise the industry’s professional standards.

TDG works alongside the National Consortium of Colleges (NCC), which focuses on encouraging widespread workforce development through distance learning. Capper says the NCC provides the company with a wider scope of options (than it finds through Skills for Logistics) and helps it establish which government initiatives it can align with and which are the most relevant to the company.

Some of its sites can work within the government’s framework, and provide NVQs which cover subjects such as Team Leading (level 2), Distribution (level 2), Warehouse & Storage Operations (level 2), and Management (level 3).

The big news for TDG employees this year is the launch of the TDG Academy, which will take place in April, and offers a complete suite of management training courses. To create it, TDG has worked alongside Learning Resource International to help it restructure its traditional, more standard form of training, to a more blended and flexible approach, mixing e-learning with practical workshops.

Its first training programme, which was launched in 2005, spanned five levels – from first line to senior management courses. This ran for two cycles, but last year the company decided to refresh it.

Capper says the programme was too time-consuming with the result that many of its sites felt restricted by the number of employees taking time out to attend the courses, and were becoming reluctant to spare half their management teams at a time.

Capper says the new system has been designed to be more focused and specific, running for one day rather than two, and involving more theoretical work and e-learning methods, that trainees can access from home, so as to help free up time.

What is perhaps most original about TDG’s training strategy is its approach to recruiting graduates. Most companies tend to welcome graduates fresh out of university with open arms. But this is not the case for TDG.

“Experience has shown us that when we have brought in raw graduates, they find the logistics industry difficult to crack into, and often couldn’t stick it out. Whereas those who have already had experience in logistics jobs are more likely to stay on.”

This points to the lack of awareness young people have of logistics. Those who are already tapped into the industry will know that there is a wide range of careers available – it’s not in every industry that a lorry driver can scale the career ladder to become a logistics director, without some form of rigorous training. In this regard, it’s rather special.

But it is still overlooked as a viable career option. “It is often the case that young people discover logistics accidentally through temp roles after leaving university,” says Capper. For some, it is their first taste of what logistics is.

Even if a student studies logistics and the supply chain rather than a more general degree, it still doesn’t give them enough insight into what working in the industry is like. “Part of the problem with theoretical courses that universities provide, is that they don’t involve on-the-job training and the necessary life experience which employees will need for a job in logistics,” says Capper.


“The question is how do they expose the curriculum to real-life scenarios? Traditionally this is something universities have provided for with sandwich courses, but now, as a result of crippling student loans and fees, many can’t afford to do this anymore. Universities need to start looking ahead to try and find a system which can adapt to this change.”

As a result, TDG tends not to recruit graduates. Instead it has a management trainee scheme, which Capper describes as tough, and not appropriate for first timers. TDG expects its manager trainees to be able to tackle tasks straight away.

The programme is intensive and doesn’t involve familiar techniques such as shadowing, which many other companies adopt as a way of easing their new recruits into their new role.

Capper says the scheme is aimed at “second jobbers” – people who have had a taste of logistics at a previous job and have valuable and transferable experience.

The programme, which runs every other year (and lasts two years) takes on three to four placements each year, depending on the company’s business needs.

Capper also reckons the male to female ration is becoming more balanced, with a 50:50 intake on the last course, compared to a 50:25 intake in previous years. She says she is committed to widening the opportunities for future female employees.

“The shelf-life of a good candidate is short, especially when dealing with more senior roles,” says Capper. “Therefore it’s important to recruit fast and keep candidates warm by ensuring they are well informed of every step we take in the recruitment process”. As a result, TDG works hard to keep strong recruitment lead times and now boasts a lead time of 43 working days – 20 less than the national average.

Capper says that when it comes to recruitment, TDG doesn’t just look at the current potential of a recruit but at their long term capabilities. “It’s not so much a question of can they perform the task we need them to do today – it’s will they have the ability to respond to the business’ future changing needs and be able to adapt to them.”

Recruitment can throw up a few issues regarding hazy job descriptions. “The term general manager has been overused in the logistics industry, with the result that when it is used, it’s not always accurate.”

Because it can be used to describe various roles, some apply for jobs which they’re not actually qualified for, but which come under the same job title. She reckons it’s important for the industry to define separate management roles more clearly, rather than bundling them all under one definition.

Qualifications are important to TDG, but Capper says the company’s trying to move away from viewing them as the be-all and end-all. It focuses on finding people who have the ability to spot business growth opportunities. “In the past you wouldn’t expect this to be part of a general manager’s role, but the industry is changing and now it can mean the difference between gaining or losing a contract.”

Fact File

TDG provides logistics and supply chain solutions to domestic and international businesses. It has five divisions. The UK Contract Logistics, Ireland and the Netherlands divisions provide logistics from operations in those countries. The UK Contract Logistics division focuses on the consumer goods market. European Chemicals division provides logistics for hazardous and non-hazardous chemical goods both in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. Temperature Controlled Services operates temperature controlled storage facilities solely in the United Kingdom. Last February it bought Doman and its related company, Ferrer Logistica. The company is now known as TDG Doman. On February 28, 2006, it acquired Mond Group of companies (Mond et Cie, Jean Mond, Transmond S.A. and Jules Vanberg).

In addition, three small businesses were acquired in the United Kingdom. The businesses acquired are in transport and freight forwarding.

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