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8 Talent Trends in Material Handling for 2016

Jan. 15, 2016
Workforce flexibility is just one of the skills that will be in high demand this year.

What will be the top talent trends in the material handling and logistics industry for 2016?

As the president of Direct Recruiters, Inc. (DRI) and devoting much of my time to material handling executive searches, I see a number of talent trends already taking shape and continuing over the next year and beyond, including new technology, another generation entering the workforce, the need for new skill sets, the demand for hybrid talent, and high industry growth. Here are the top eight trends to follow in the coming year:

1. Internet of Things (IOT): IOT is emerging as the next technology mega-trend across the entire business spectrum, including the material handling industry. The IoT is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. While IoT has been in the industry for several years, we'll witness more things being connected to the Internet every day and in turn, experience improved efficiencies, productivity and job growth.

The IoT revolution means workers need to develop new skills to keep up, especially if you're an IT professional. The IoT means a job boom for developers, coders and hardware professionals who have Big Data knowledge, excellent communication skills and security knowledge.

2. The Boomerang Employee: An employee who leaves your organization and then returns to work for you later in time is referred to as a boomerang employee. Reasons why they left may have been to further their career, to try something new, or because they had a life-changing event that forced them to resign. But no matter what the reason, a recent survey found that 76% of employers say they are more accepting of hiring them. This trend is happening because professionals are switching jobs more often and honing their skill sets to keep up with industry demands.

Rehiring a former employee makes sense since they are familiar with the company culture, may not require much training, and may bring new perspectives.

3. Gen Z Entering Workforce in Significant Numbers by May 2016. Generation Z, aka Gen Z—those born between 1994 and 2004 (although there's been no general agreement on exact years)—will be entering the workforce in greater numbers this spring. They are the most digitally connected generation yet. They have no concept about life before the Internet, mobile devices, digital games, or iTunes. Therefore, they are very tech-savvy and even more entrepreneurial than Millennials.

However, Gen Z employees tend to be more loyal and flexible in their approach to careers. They will choose career opportunities that provide quick advancement and work/life balance over salary, and want mentors to help them achieve their goals.

4. Hybrid Talent In-Demand. Hybrid jobs are the future of jobs. That's why the hybrid employee is on the rise. Whether it's in IT, manufacturing, engineering, finance, sales, marketing, or human resources, hybrid jobs are growing each year. A hybrid employee is considered both a generalist and a specialist. A generalist tends to be someone who knows quite a few technologies but only at an average level. A specialist knows only one or two but at an expert level. A hybrid knows about a great many things at an advanced level and can adapt to any type of project.

With a hybrid employee, employers are basically getting two people for the price of one.

5. Industry Growth Creating Need for Flexible Skills Development. According to Global Industry Analysts, the global market for material handling equipment is projected to reach $134.8 billion by 2020, driven by the growing emphasis on production automation.

Automation of manufacturing processes, along with a growing pressure to optimize raw materials, resources and energy consumption, are key factors in fueling adoption of material handling equipment in mass production. High growth is causing a need for workers to be flexible when it comes to their skills development and training.

Since the demand for routine manual skills will continue to decrease, workers should be focusing on new skills or finding occupations with new complementarities.

6. Longer Hiring Process Continues. According to The Wall Street Journal, in the U.S. the time it takes to fill a job is lengthening. In April 2015, the average job was vacant for 27.3 days before being filled. This nearly doubles the 15.3 days it took prior to 2009.

The long hiring process can be attributed to having fewer qualified candidates for job openings as well as the increased number of background screening and drug tests ordered.

WSJ also notes that the many portals and databases used to source and find candidates have become more entailed and therefore, take more time. While better hires are coming out of the process, it's moving slowly.

7. Office Design Is Being Used to Attract Talent. Studies have shown that by transforming the look of the workplace, companies can create a more effective and productive space for their workers. In addition, it demonstrates a commitment to innovation and shows that they highly value and appreciate their employees. For that reason, many organizations are focusing on redesigning their office environment as a key aspect of attracting and retaining the best talent.

In fact, at our own company, we recently commissioned design specialists to optimize our physical environment and change it to reflect the new ways that we like to work.

8. More Workforce Flexibility. With the rise of telecommuting, globalization and new technology, workers are demanding more flexibility. However, with this demand comes high expectations. Hiring managers expect their employees to be reachable outside the office and on their personal time. That means longer work weeks.

But where should employers and employees draw the line? It's not yet been determined and for that reason, we expect that out of necessity, nearly every company will have a policy about workforce flexibility in the next few years.  

Dan Charney is president & CEO of Direct Recruiters Inc. (DRI), based near Cleveland, Ohio. As a seasoned search professional with 15 years of experience, his specialty areas include material handling and logistics, packaging, capital equipment, and automation systems.