The Supply Chain Matters blog highlights a recent supply chain focused employee sentiment study and shares a conversation on the importance of constantly assessing such important information for proactive employee retention.



Mass media is now relentless in daily headlines depicting how supply chain disruptions will impact this holiday season and the overall availability of needed or desired products. Among different attributed causes and challenges have been a shortage of workers across many areas of the economy and especially in areas of supply chain management execution operations and customer fulfilment.

Anthony Katz, Associate Professor of Management at Texas A&M University has coined the term: “The Great Resignation” which is attributed to large numbers of workers quitting their jobs to pursue other careers, additional education, child care, or work-life balance needs. In August, upwards of 4.3 million workers voluntarily resigned, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was the highest number since the agency began tracking this specific metric in 2000.

The Duke University Fuqua School of Business continuous survey of Chief Financial Officers (CFO’s) recently indicated that quality and availability of labor has risen to become the top concern of business financial leaders.

Last week, the American Trucking Association (ATA) pegged the current truck driver shortages across the U.S. as 80,000 needed drivers, an all-time high. The ATA further noted that in order to keep up with demand and expected worker exits, the trucking industry will need to recruit nearly one million new workers over the next decade. This association further indicated that employers are raising truck driver pay rates at five times the historic average, but compensation is, nor the primary issue related to retention.

Availability of needed truck drivers in the U.S. is being impacted by the high average age of drivers in the exiting workforce that will be retiring. The pandemic caused many other drivers to leave the industry while infrastructure and other issues such as limited availability of truck parking areas in many areas compounded by longer times away from home or excessive wait times in loading and unloading have added to worker frustrations.

In specific cases that include truck drivers servicing the U.S. West coast Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, drivers are categorized as independent contractors. These drivers have the added need to have to lease their own tractors which must meet strict emissions standard by the State of California and tend to maintenance and operating costs of the vehicle. Industry tendencies to pay drivers by the load vs. wait times has especially added friction and driver frustrations since excess idle times sitting in port is a cause for lost income. These drivers, for the most part, do not receive added benefits that includes health insurance or paid time off.

Truck driver shortages are not just in the United States but across Europe and the United Kingdom. Research suggests there could be a shortfall of 400,000 truck drivers across Europe.

Supply Chain Matters will did want to share perspectives relative to recent supply chain operational worker sentiment among supply chain operational positions.


WorkStep Employee Sentiment Survey

WorkStep is a software company focused on helping Human Resource, Supply Chain, and Operations teams hire qualified candidates and retain their frontline workforce. The tech provider recently conducted an anonymous worker sentiment study utilizing the company’s RETAIN application to examine turnover trends among 164 companies by gathering feedback from over 16,000 new hires.

According to an infographic produced by WorkStep, a polling of drivers relative to tendencies toward retention, out of a total of 14 posed criteria, pay and compensation levels actually ranked 7th.  The top five categories of expressed concern, in ranked order were:

  1. Career growth
  2. Job expectations
  3. Personal safety
  4. Orientation
  5. Peer Coaching

Concerns related to tools, manager availability, expectations, and relationship ranked eight thru eleven in weight.

This Editor had the opportunity to speak with Dan Johnston, Founder and CEO of the company about the survey findings.

I asked him why are existing approaches addressing supply chain focused worker hirings and retention measures falling short?

Johnston indicated that indeed, high turnover is not so much a direct result of compensation but rather experiences among workers and their supervisors relative to the job, the working environment, worker expectations or other criteria. Much has to do with an employee’s determination of job satisfaction as well as personal and career growth. An operational employee sensing that he or she is being treated like a machine is a hot button.

A Work Step published blog indicates that some companies tend to view operational roles as clock in, clock out, cash a paycheck, and go home, vs. a long-term career path. With the constant volume ebbs and spikes that can be presented in any work week or seasonal demand period, labor needs are often predicated as a numbers exercise, requiring a lot of inherent flexibility. That would include means for sourcing and recruiting daily, weekly or monthly worker needs. It’s this dual stereotyping, a need to always be in recruiting mode that has given some workers a negative perception of jobs within the supply chain, which perpetuates the struggle to hire and retain employees in the industry.

Some responses tended to indicate that skilled, tenured employees did not feel valued. The effects of the pandemic with many supply chain operational workers being declared essential to the economy resulted in elongated work hours, work-life balance and personal safety factors becoming prime concern as was burnout.

Johnston indicated that employers that continually sense worker sentiments and concerns have the opportunity to make remedial efforts before they become a detriment or a resignation event.

In the recruiting and retention of manufacturing jobs, having a skills-based talent pipeline has become essential along with employers having a timely understanding of what experienced manufacturing workers seek in their employers as well as in market competitive compensation

On the question of introduction of automation into the work environment, Johnston indicated that workers can be receptive to automation if they determine that the technology can make their jobs less strenuous, stressful or physically demanding.

Our interview finally touched upon added means to assist employers in focusing added efforts in skills-based recruiting rather than a specific job. A skills-based approach seeks to recruit workers that can take on a variety of operational, planning or supervisory roles based on a complement of hard and soft skills including employee growth potential. The latter would be supported by opportunities for added internal or external training and career development.

Supply Chain Matters will be featuring future perspectives and insights regarding the critical area of supply chain workforce recruitment, reskilling and retention, including the collaborative team and analytical interrelationships of supply chain and human resource management areas.


Bob Ferrari

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