Solving the global labour famine

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The supply chain is experiencing a rather severe labour deficit – and it doesn’t look like it’s about to recover any time soon. In fact, according to The World Bank, the global problem is going either to remain the same, or in the worst-case scenario, deteriorate even further over the next five years.

Alex Leonards, Assistant Editor.

Fixing the problem isn’t going to be simple, partly because it manifests itself in different ways based on industry or country. For example, there’s a big difference between developing and developed countries when it comes to the severity of the issue, and the reasons behind shortages of talent.

So how can the industry begin to solve the escalating problem? Well, a new study, authored by Prof Alan McKinnon, Christoph Flöthmann, Kai Hoberg, and Christina Busch, which combines a new survey and the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index Survey (2015/2016), calls for a major expansion of training and skills developments, particularly in developing countries.

That’s because, according to the survey, respondents in developing countries point to the supervisory level for the most severe perceived skills shortage, while in developed countries, skill shortages were present but on a much smaller scale. Developing countries are lagging behind in terms of training budgets, course content, and quality of the educational experience and sources of training. The survey found that shortages range from a lack of truck drivers to problems in filling senior supply chain management positions.

A recent report by DHL Supply Chain also highlights the pressing worldwide talent shortage crisis. It claims that the labour deficit has been prompted by the impact of digitalisation and status of the supply chain profession. According to the report, the supply chain talent pool is “not keeping up with the changing requirements as technology reshapes the industry”. Some of the other key prompters are changing skill requirements, ageing workforce, lack of development and the perception that supply chain jobs lack excitement.

DHL’s vice talent management/acquisition, learning & development, Louise Gennis has suggested that companies start by prioritising the development of their current talent pool to adapt to the changing job requirements through training programs, and then retaining staff through clear career paths. But whether or not this can translate to all industries and countries, as well as to those developing countries that are struggling the most, is another question.

The World Bank Study has proposed a short guide for policy makers and international organisations intervening to support logistics improvements. It consists of a logistics competence maturity matrix that classifies countries into three categories based on their LPI competence index (basic, intermediate or advanced). But will this guide be effective on a worldwide scale?

Instead of appropriating the problems faced in the West to the wider world, the industry must delve deep into the individual challenges faced by both developing and developed countries, to solve the problem globally. It won’t be easy, but to ensure the supply chain continues to connect the world smoothly and efficiently, it must be done. And it must be done quickly.


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