Manifest 2023 Recap: Attracting & Retaining Workers, Humans vs. Robots, Power of Diversity

Evelyn Cools
February 7, 2023
Manifest 2023 Recap: Attracting & Retaining Workers, Humans vs. Robots, Power of Diversity

The second annual Manifest: The Future of Logistics conference was held last week, bringing together some of the brightest minds in the supply chain space to discuss the latest innovations and trends in the industry. Here's a recap of what we learned at this year's event.

Attracting & Retaining Talent During the Supply Chain Labor Shortage

The current labor shortage is one of the greatest challenges facing the supply chain industry today. From truckers and shippers to manufacturers, companies are struggling to find the workers they need to keep their operations running smoothly and meet rising customer demands. In this highly competitive environment, companies are vying for workers in 3 key areas: compensation, purpose, and culture.

While compensation is still a major factor in attracting new talent, it is increasingly important for supply chain companies to zoom out and focus on their overarching employee value proposition. This means ensuring that company values and culture are aligned throughout the organization, understanding what workers are looking for in the current market, and taking a holistic approach to employee engagement (5 Ways to Engage Employees). Other steps in the right direction include upskilling workers in people management and technology, and developing effective strategies around recruitment and retention.

One company that is leading the way in addressing the labor shortage challenge is the toy manufacturer Mattel. When asked about their approach, the company stated that they “want to be the employer of choice” (Gregory Javor, SVP Global Supply Chain Operations at Mattel, Inc.). This means focusing on people and culture, employee engagement, finding out where the opportunities are throughout the different areas of their organization, and working closely with HR.

When organizations are looking to improve their employee engagement, one of the key areas to focus on is giving their employees a voice. By keeping a finger on the pulse of how workers are feeling and elevating their ideas, companies are in a position to stand above their peers and attract & retain the best talent. As Eric Rempel, Chief Innovation Officer at Redwood Logistics so aptly put it,

“The question is not ‘will people speak up?’ - the real question is ‘are you ready to listen and do something about it?’”

Harnessing the Social Side of ESG

In recent years, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) has become a hot topic among investors, companies, and consumers alike. While the Environmental and Governance aspects of ESG are well understood, the Social aspect is arguably the most complex, encompassing a wide range of issues from employee relations and diversity to working conditions, conflict, and health and safety. It is also an untapped area for a lot of supply chain companies as a way they can stand out to potential partners and new hires.

As younger generations are increasingly choosing to work for companies that align with their own values, the social side of ESG is becoming paramount for organizations to set themselves apart. This means building a strong company culture and being vocal about company values, both externally and within the workplace. 

Businesses that prioritize the social aspect create an environment where employees feel valued and supported, which in turn leads to higher productivity and job satisfaction. In the words of Jagdish Repaswal, CTO at Point Pickup,

"People have needs, they have emotions, and they need motivation. At Point Pickup, we address this by building community and creating meaningful work." 

Diversity Creates Competitive Advantage

Closely related to the topic of ESG, diversity was also a major talking point at Manifest this year. The degree to which companies combine the 3 elements - environmental, social and governance - will determine the breadth of the talent pool they can tap into. And having a diverse workforce is more critical than ever, especially in the face of digital transformation and rising labor competition. 

While new technologies are improving supply chain operations, the opposite is also true. With heaps of great talent joining the industry, the supply chain industry itself is also driving the development of new tools and automation technologies.

For companies to secure competitive advantage moving forward, having “more diversity and differing opinions will be key to innovation and attracting the best talent” (Patrick Kelleher, Global Chief Development Officer at DHL Supply Chain).

That being said, it is important to note that diversity should not come at the expense of a company’s moral and ethical beliefs. "You want diversity in background, experience, and skills, but not diversity in values," as Oren Zaslansky, CEO & Founder at Flock Freight noted. By maintaining a clear sense of purpose and a strong set of values, companies can create a culture that is both inclusive and aligned.

The Human Side of Robotics

And as anticipated, Manifest was teeming with the latest tech - from robotic solutions to self-driving trucks and remotely operated machinery. Yet, amidst these incredible technologies there was space for conversation around the role humans play in our digitized workplaces.

On the topic of robots taking over people’s jobs, several speakers at Manifest made it clear that new supply chain technologies are designed to be human-enabling, not human-replacing. Rather, they focus on getting the most out of people and empowering workers to be more productive and efficient. By implementing human-centric technology, companies can also expand their talent pool and attract a more diverse workforce. 

One company on the cutting edge of human-enabling technology is Phantom Auto, which provides a software that operates machinery remotely. This technology not only makes operations much safer but also creates new opportunities for remote work, opening up jobs to veterans and people with disabilities. Other companies are seeing new tech implementations, such as training and engagement platforms, increase employee retention.

Closing Thoughts

With any new technology, the key to successful integration will always be the people who are implementing it. Listening to workers’ feedback, understanding their concerns, and empowering them to give their brightest ideas will ultimately lead to a company that is resilient and ready for the future - the Future of Logistics.

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