Tackling the Talent Gap From the Inside Out

To address the logistics talent gap, we need to put far more emphasis—and money—on sourcing future leaders from inside our companies.

Let’s look first at why we have hiring challenges and a growing talent gap.

For hourly associates, historically low unemployment in the United States means less competition for more jobs. Also, the existing workforce is aging out.

For salaried positions, you need talented people who thrive in a fast-paced, sometimes pressure-filled environment. When recruiting for corporate logistics roles, it’s not that easy to find people who combine good logistics operating skills with qualities such as leadership, analytical skills, and creative thinking.

Historically, the reflex reaction to filling a key role has been to recruit outside talent. But the assumption that an outside candidate is smarter or better in some way is a mirage.

External hires are 61 percent more likely to be fired from the new position than internal hires and, for the first two years on the job, receive significantly lower marks on performance reviews, according to a Wharton School of Business study.

While more companies are promoting their commitment to training and developing internal talent, for many it’s just lip service.

A survey by Futurestep, now part of Korn Ferry, finds that 87 percent of employers agree on the importance of an internal mobility program, but only 33 percent say they actually have such a program.

Another survey by HR compliance firm BLR finds that 92 percent of employers agree that identifying high performers is important, but only 44 percent say they have a program to identify and develop these key assets.

We need to invest in our most promising talent and prioritize hiring from within for every salaried position.

What’s the upside of that investment?

It improves retention. Managers who don’t see a clear growth path will look elsewhere.

It lowers costs. You’ll spend at least 20 percent of a new hire’s yearly salary to find and train that person.

It creates a fortuitous cycle. Retention and morale improve throughout the organization as associates see colleagues acquiring new skills and advancing within the company. They begin to recognize that, as the company grows, their responsibilities and earnings can grow, too.

Do all associates seek higher levels of responsibility? Frankly, no. Some like what they do and aren’t anxious for change. Others don’t want the pressure of more responsibility. But we must be constantly on the lookout for associates who want to grow and have the talent to succeed in more demanding roles.

An internal talent pipeline opportunity exists in all organizations. If you’re not paying attention, these "leaders in waiting" may decide to create their own opportunity outside your company—perhaps at a competitor.

In today’s candidate-driven hiring environment, growing companies need both a strong external recruiting capability and a robust program to identify and train high potentials for more demanding roles. Sadly, in corporate logistics, talent development has been more talk than action. To solve our talent shortage, we need to prepare our company’s future leaders. They’re closer than we think.

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