The ongoing COVID-19 global crisis has caused a spike in demand for online shopping due to the stay-at-home orders that have been instituted by many countries all across the world. Most of the hauling necessary to get these ecommerce products to their intended recipients is being done by truck drivers. This means there’s more work than ever for the logistics industry but more tired workers too.
Keeping fleets properly organized and scheduling the right number of employees to manage all the necessary deliveries is the top workforce management challenge in a logistics company during such a period of high demand. It can be both difficult and stressful to match employees’ availability to demand.
Managers have to be able to track employees’ stress profiles for effective scheduling and also have to be ready to deal with unplanned changes to schedules as drivers could need to swap a shift with a colleague or fall sick (not just from coronavirus, but other ailments too). Companies should have the right tools in place to keep up with unforeseen shifts in demand and update their schedules accordingly.
Communication is important
Efficient, effective communication is absolutely vital to any workforce, but it is particularly crucial for teams that are as remote as those in the logistics industry, especially during this time. It’s important for managers to prioritize communication during this crisis because if communication falters, work progress not only suffers, but truck drivers are also extremely vulnerable to feeling both overwhelmed by the news and isolated from the team and company. This can have adverse effects on employee morale.
Work on employee morale
Speaking of employee morale, that’s another pressing workforce management challenge for logistics companies during this time. If we who are at home are struggling with motivation and mental health, you can imagine how heavy it must be for truck drivers who are out there all alone on the roads driving through deserted cities, staying away from their families as the world goes through such a scary time.
Keep in mind that they are scared to go home because they might accidentally infect their families and have to eat alone due to strict social distancing rules at restaurants. Maintaining high morale in the face of such extreme loneliness can’t be easy, both for the truckers and for their managers. Companies should leverage instant messaging apps to keep in touch with staff and use video sharing/conferencing tools more than ever to make both team updates and employee appreciation more personal.
We have all come to realize just how important truck drivers are to our way of life; that they have always been providing a service that is absolutely crucial to our supply chains and are continuing to do so even with their well-being at high risk. They are driving into places that others are fleeing from to deliver consumer goods to retailers and medical supplies to hospitals. Companies should make sure they are being compensated like the essential employees they are with significant salary raises and bonuses.
Keep your employees safe
Furthermore, employee morale during such a time is greatly tied to a sense of personal safety. Most truck drivers are middle-aged and/or older men who are more likely to suffer immunodeficiency from chronic illnesses such as pneumonia that make them more vulnerable to succumbing to the coronavirus.
Logistics companies should, therefore, make sure their drivers are sufficiently supplied with the necessary protection at all times – from face masks to gloves to hand sanitizer. Trucks should also be thoroughly disinfected as frequently as possible. When it comes to morale during such a time, it’s extremely crucial for employees to feel that their employers are doing their absolute best to keep them protect them.
Managing employees and hiring new ones to help
Managing the multiple locations and mobile employees that characterize the logistics industry was already challenging enough before the pandemic hit and even more now, in this time of high demand. There’s high potential for confusion around tracking hours accurately for payroll. Managers should be able to track employee hours from any location and capture accurate timesheets using geo-location.
Lastly, with the increased demand, many logistics companies are facing a higher need to acquire and onboard fresh talent but unfortunately, even before COVID-19, hiring and retention was already a major issue for the logistics industry according to recent PwC research. The survey found that transportation and logistics companies are lagging behind other sectors in terms of recruiting and hiring. SMEs in particular are not regarded as the preferred employers of the future.
Job seekers still don’t see transportation and logistics as a desirable industry. Logistics is one of those industries that most people looking for jobs, especially for fresh graduates, simply don’t find very appealing. This has to change if the industry is to keep up with this recent spike in demand. Companies have to make it appealing for fresh graduates, as well as people who have been laid off by other industries, by highlighting the potential for career growth.
Derek Jones (VP Enterprise Strategy, Americas)
Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication. With a focus on Healthcare, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.