Chain of Thought

Diversity Helps Bridge the Talent and Generation Gaps

Most of the managers in the material handling and logistics field are a part of what I call Generation O (for old), based on the responses to our recent 2011 Salary Survey. Well over half in fact, 61% of the respondents are at least 50 years old. And not too surprisingly, when asked what is the biggest challenge facing the industry today, a frequently heard response was: developing Generation X and Generation Y employees into managers.

The oldest baby boomers are retiring now, and the industry's near-future U.S.-born talent pool is shrinking at an alarming rate, says Dan Boos, principal of Boos Consulting Services, who led a half-day seminar on The People Side of the Supply Chain at this week's ProMat show in Chicago. As a result, the talent pool will by necessity have to become more diverse.

One of the issues is that the best talent among the Gen X's and Gen Y's are proving to be highly selective of where they want to be employed. As U.S. manufacturing companies have learned in recent years it's no longer enough to simply hang a Help Wanted sign out in front of your building, even during a recession. Companies today are looking more and more toward employing a multi-cultural and multi-national workforce to keep their operations going. And that's led to the rise in diversity programs.

These diversity programs, Boos says, enhance a company's position for hiring top talent as an employer of choice. It also provides additional opportunities to develop strategic partnership with customers and suppliers.

Boos lays out a basic outline for material handling and logistics managers to establish an engage workforce diversity within their operations:

● recognize the value of diversity

● dedicate trained management resources

● create a workforce diversity plan

● align the plan with performance management

● implement the plan with effective sponsorship

● measure the plan's effectiveness

● continuous annual improvement

● determine the plan's return on investment.

Not only will such a plan help you recruit talent, but it will help you keep them, too. Boos cites research that indicates nearly 70% of all those currently employed expect to change employers within the next two years. When you calculate the cost to train your employees, and then factor in the possibility that seven out of every 10 of your new hires may be leaving you shortly after they've become productive and potentially promotable, you can see why it's absolutely vital to ensure you have access to a diverse workforce.

In my next post, we'll look at some forward-looking educational programs aiming to develop top material handling and logistics talent at a remarkably young age.

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