Talent Spotting

As the logistics industry continues to experience a skills shortage, how do companies become more proactive in searching for talented employees?

  • E-Mail
By  Robeel Haq Published  October 1, 2006

|~|ABF_JUNE_Cover1_HR2.jpg|~||~|The logistics industry is currently suffering from a skills shortage throughout the Middle East, with companies often complaining about problems in attracting talented logisticians.

As such, most Middle East companies start the recruitment process by exploring their network of contacts. This includes existing employees looking to progress within the company, or individuals recommended by industry contacts.

“The search normally begins closer to home,” says Nigel Moore, managing director for Logistics Recruitment in the Middle East and Africa. “Can somebody working in the organisation be promoted to fill the vacancy? Or can somebody working in the logistics industry recommend a suitable candidate? These are fast and cost-effective recruitment methods, which should be utilised before a company decides to broaden its search.”

Whilst this approach is popular in the Middle East, it is still possible to exhaust your contact list without finding the right person. In such circumstances, a number of alternatives can be considered, such as hiring a recruitment agency or advertising the vacancy through trade magazines and other media outlets.

“A recruitment agency with knowledge of the logistics industry could be very effective in sourcing people,” says John Halpin, general manager for recruitment services at Hy-Tech Logistics. “There is no substitute for personal contact, particularly in such an important exercise as recruiting new staff, and this should never be undervalued. Potential candidates are more likely to speak with a recruitment agency to gage information about the job on offer and the companies offering it.”

The online revolution has also created massive opportunities for companies looking to increase their workforce. Instead of limiting themselves to internal candidates or local media, employees can place details of job vacancies online and reach a potential audience of millions throughout the world.

Some of the biggest logistics players in the Middle East have experienced success online, using both internal and external websites. DHL, for instance, has created an Internet recruitment tool to attract candidates throughout the region. “Our recruitment website allows people to obtain specific information about the position and company before submitting online applications,” says Matt Daniels, DHL’s head of human resources in the Middle East. “At the moment, we have around 2200 employees in the region and the website is helping DHL attract talented individuals to join the team.”

The specific requirements in terms of educational standards and previous experience will vary, depending on the company and job vacancy on offer. However, employers usually deem diplomas in logistics management sufficient as a starting point.

Depending on the requirements of the role, an average of three years experience in a supervisory role is the normal benchmark for a management position – the more sustainability the individual offers, the better. “The candidate should have experience in managing and motivating teams,” says Halpin. “Their commercial acumen in terms of cost management is always important.”

Attracting suitable candidates has become increasingly difficult, because the logistics industry is currently experiencing a skills shortage throughout the Middle East. This has raised the importance of using efficient recruitment methods to find the right people.

“The main problem is recruiting for the junior and middle management logistics professionals, as very few universities offer degrees in supply chain management, which means the number of graduated coming into the marketplace is limited,” says Halpin. “Logistics is not perceived to be very glamorous or well-paid. It is up to the industry as a whole to promote the benefits of pursuing a career in supply chain management.”

Whilst the logistics industry has traditionally relied on overseas applicants, the rising cost of living in the Middle East has resulted in people reconsidering the possibility of settling in the region. “Previously, everyone recruited in the logistics industry received a generous expatriate package,” says Moore. “Everything was provided, including the house, the car, the travel allowance. People could reasonably save 80% of their salary. However, things have drastically changed. Today, people are probably saving 20% of their salary, which means the region is less attractive.”

The skills shortage could be rectified, in part, by the concept of Emiratisation, which is expected to become more prominent in the logistics industry.

Logistics Recruitment, for example, recently placed a UAE national in a senior logistics role with an international company in the Middle East. The candidate had previous experiencing in supply chain management, together with knowledge of the region, Arabic language skills and a network of contacts, which made him an attractive proposition for his employers.

“There is a growing workforce of Emiratis who are highly educated and motivated to work in the logistics industry. It makes business sense for companies to employ them,” says Moore.

TNT is working closely with Dubai’s Higher Colleges of Technology and providing work experience, internships and training for UAE nationals. The logistics heavyweight has also designated some of its jobs as ‘national only positions’, including roles such as account assistants, customs clearance agents and human resource personnel.

TNT’s remuneration package for nationals includes basic salary, car allowance, payment in lieu of annual air tickets, private medical insurance and sponsored training opportunities.

“Having experienced giant strides in the work culture during the last five years, we believe the UAE is moving towards an effective strategy for the development of its national workforce,” says Bryan Moulds, UAE general manager for TNT.

Whilst the concept of Emiratisation could relieve some strain from the skills shortage, companies should still make efforts to retain their workforce. Replacing staff is expensive and an increasing number of studies demonstrate how staff retention can impact a company’s bottom line. “Good people are always motivated, but companies can still de-motivate them,” says DHL’s Daniels. “We always talk about career development, performance, management and communication, which are obviously important. However, unless you develop a culture where people feel engaged to the organisation, and are willing to give a little more, you will struggle to build that employer brand which keeps people in their seats.”

Retaining talented employees begins in the recruitment phase. Spending time on hiring the best candidate will benefit your company over the long-term. “Employee retention is a big issue in the West and it should become a big issue in the Middle East too,” says Moore. “This starts with selling the right story to the candidates. They need to have a clear idea about the company, with no surprises. Companies should pay attention to the driving factors of each employee, which could be opportunities to progress in the company, being provided with training, or receiving appraisals on a regular basis.”

The Dubai-based company HBG Holdings, which represents brands such as Kellogg’s and Kraft Foods, is actively working to retain its Middle East employees. “It is increasingly difficult to keep hold of logistics staff in the region,” says Zulficaar Hydari, the company’s managing director. “These days, a huge number of businesses are employing people and it’s become easier for employees to switch between companies, due to changes in the labour laws. In response, HBG nurtures
a culture where employees are valued, which hopefully gives us an edge in retaining the best people.”

As the logistics industry becomes increasingly competitive, the ability to recruit and retain the right talent could make a difference between success and failure. Companies now understand the importance of implementing the right procedures to ensure a successful recruitment process, from start to finish.

“The best advice I can give is to have a forward plan and look at developing internal successors or identify external candidates early,” says DHL’s Daniels. “We expect our commercial people to have a pipeline of prospective customers, we should apply the same rational to departments dealing with the recruitment process, which is not limited to the human resource department, but also the respective line managers.” ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code