Canadian Shipper


Leadership Roundtable

Being able to attract and keep staff—whether truck drivers, DC workers or increasingly, the skilled IT and analytics experts to manage back end data operations—has become a competitive advantage. No matter which part of the supply chain you’re operating in, the last five years have been challenging, with the rise of e-commerce and shifting worker demographics.

To get some answers Canadian Shipper and Inside Logistics magazines put together a panel of experts to share their insights, tips and strategies to help transportation and logistics companies better manage the human resources challenges.

This is Part One of a two-part series, which will conclude in the March 2019 issue of Canadian Shipper.

THE PANEL: (clockwise, from top left) Ross Reimer, President, Reimer Associates; Pina Melchionna, President & CEO, CITT; Doug Harrison, former President & CEO, VersaCold Logistics Services; Paul Kurrat, Director of Operations, Global Warehousing & Distribution; Pat Campbell, Vice-president, Strategic Initiatives, SCMA

What are some of the great HR challenges facing the industry as we begin a new year?

Doug Harrison: Finding the right talent that fits your company culture is critical to a company’s success. There is certainly, in the western world, a global shortage of talent and capable talent, and I think that we’ll see that will constrain the economy and growth inside organizations. We’ll have to really think of innovative ways of using technologies or automation, and how do we find those employees as the [population] ages, and we’re looking for people to backfill those critical roles.

Paul Kurrat: Our greatest challenge is quite simple:  recruitment and then retention. As soon as we do find someone, keeping them has become a different type of challenge than what we’re used to in years past.

Pat Campbell: From our members, we hear that their biggest challenge is finding the duality of skills that they require. They can find someone who has got some management skills, but then they’re missing some of the technology skills that we see becoming more and more relevant in today’s work environments.

Pina Melchionna: The shortage for talent is the biggest challenge. Whether it’s because of the demographic shift we’re seeing and people are aging out, or whether it’s because of the technological disruption, and skills are not keeping pace.

Ross Reimer: No question what we see from our vantage point, as a recruiter, is a shortage of top talent. I think the supply chain world has to go outside of supply chain. I think we have to be very aggressive on marketing our industry outside of the current borders we work within, and most of the folks I work with are resistant to that for obvious reasons. It takes time to train, it takes more of a start-up, ramp up time, but ultimately we’ve got to bring more people to this huge industry, but we need more top talent.

How have the challenges facing the industry changed over the past five years?

Paul Kurrat: Personally, I think the push over the past 20 years for post secondary education has given us now a workforce that doesn’t want entry-level, or expects more than entry-level. Additionally, 40- to 60-hour work weeks, we’re finding for sure are out for many potential employees.

Pina Melchionna: From a learning and educational perspective, one of the things that I’ve definitely seen is the explosion of supply chain type courses and training that are now available from universities and colleges. I think supply chain used to be an industry that people sort of stumbled on by accident, and now there is targeted recruitment. So, as a learning organization ourselves, our challenge is to make sure we’re working with those colleges and at universities, and making sure that the graduates are coming out to the industry have the appropriate combination of both theoretical as well as practical skills that the industry requires.

Pat Campbell: As we have more and more academic institutions picking up supply-chain management programs, I’m not sure that they can keep pace with evolving digital technologies It has to be a partnership between educational institutions and employers, so that there’s more opportunities to engage students, perhaps, earlier in internships, or work placements, so that they get the balance of skills, and get introduced to new technology.

Ross Reimer: I think e-commerce is having a massive impact on the driver shortage, not just tractor-trailer, but right down to the final mile in a small car or van, and there’s tremendous pressure to find enough drivers, to compensate them appropriately, and delivering whatever it is that someone orders individually to every single home puts a lot of traffic on the road. It’s going to have to be addressed, obviously with compensation, because there’s just a huge driver shortage.

Doug Harrison: We think about how unemployment is relatively low, but the reality is there’s a big group of unemployment that isn’t measured, and it’s people who are trapped. They don’t have the skills for today’s economy, and so there’s a big portion of people out there that really are looking for a role, but can’t find a role because of the requirement in the role has changed. I think what we’re seeing is, that we’re looking for a different type of employee today.

This new world is going to force us to think about the employment market differently, and we have be able to look at transferable skills, and then look at how we as employers or through educational bodies, teach the technical skills that are required. What’s exciting is that a lot of post-secondary education organizations are stepping up to provide more education in supply chain.


In terms of things such as talent development, recruiting and compensation, what are some solutions the industry can use to combat the labour shortage?

Pina Melchionna: From an employer perspective, an interesting difference is maybe develop for fit rather than hire for a specific skill set that you’re looking for. Hire a person with the right attitude, the right cultural fit for an organization, and then reach out to organizations that can train the skill set that they need. I think that would help expand the talent pool.

[CITT] just completed a three-year project with industry in which we discussed what the competencies are for the talent of the future. We’re working with employers to make sure that we are training according to those competencies, rather than just theoretical.

Doug Harrison: You know, I think as people think about their careers, the employer has an obligation, and the employee has an obligation to their development. As we start to see shorter and shorter tenures of an employee in a company, the reality is a lot of that investment in learning continuous improvement and development really has to be undertaken by the employee. You’ve got to commit to your career. You’ve got to spend time. You’ve got to continue to learn, continue to grow, continue to evolve, and the company’s role, as a new generation of workforce evolves is: How do I give you basic training to allow you to be successful in the role, in the time period that I have with you?

Paul Kurrat: We as employers have to change our mindset of looking for somebody five days a week, from eight to four. There’s a whole group of people out there that have different needs and desires of what they want to get out of a job in terms of time. I think when you do that, you open yourself up to a whole different group of potential employees.


With the industry’s workforce ageing, is there a role to be played by older workers mentoring their younger colleagues?

Pina Melchionna: Prior to joining the supply chain industry, I was in the banking and finance sector, where they had the same problem: How do you retain, in some fashion, those retiring employees to make sure that the information is kept internally? One of the things they tried was a reverse mentorship, where the retiring employees are paired with a new millennial employee. Interestingly, both learned skills from each other. In terms of mentorship, the millennials learned things like conflict resolution, one of those transferable business skills that you learn on the job and not necessarily from training. It seemed to be working with some success.

Ross Reimer: When I was on the board of governors of a college, what we heard from employers was, “You’re teaching technical skills, but you are not teaching management leadership communication skills.” It was a very consistent message. So, I think mentorship programs are phenomenal, and I think there’s a great opportunity for all generations to learn from each other.

Paul Kurrat: At Global, we’ve had to change our mentorship program. We do many more checks on how it’s going, and have begun to formalize how we measure development. Just because somebody has worked somewhere for 20 years doesn’t mean he’s going to A, share, or B, know to say what you need him to say. We’ve always assumed that the person you place in the mentor role with has the skills, the ability and the desire to mentor.

Ross Reimer: The transfer of knowledge is really important, too for an employee’s career development path. The more you can take an employee and move them between roles, the more knowledgeable they become and the more you can give them a really great career of continuous learning and being challenged.

Doug Harrison: It takes a lot of work to get people to come to work for you. Retaining employees becomes incredibly important, but as the saying goes, “You don’t quit your company, you quit your boss.” What we see as recruiters or people who come to us looking for new opportunity, is invariably they’ve worked for someone that has been so uninspiring, or even worse, difficult to work for, and the bosses aren’t getting any training. There’s very little leadership training of value, unless they’re investing in it on their own, and I think companies have to look at that and say, “If we really want to retain, our leadership team has to have the know-how to lead, so we don’t lose this new talent that we’ve spent so much money to attract.” I see it after the catastrophe, and if I look back up the chain it’s like, “Wow, if you just sort of treated that person decently or listened to them, they’d still be there.”

Pat Campbell: I have to give a plug to organizations like CITT and SCMA. As employers are looking to develop from within, don’t forget about your associations. Because we can definitely partner with you to supply some of those technical skills that perhaps an employee might be missing, to be able to move into a different area within the company. So, we’re definitely here to help support employers as they’re developing talent from within.

Print this page

Related Posts

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *