The supply chain and logistics industry faces the same issues as many businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Day-to-day work has been upended since the spring, and workers have been forced to adapt to a new reality. Everyone in the industry, including third-party logistics providers, freight agents, shippers and truck drivers, has seen a change in their work as a result of the pandemic.
As in other sectors, those involved in supply-chain operations were already under increased pressure to keep critical goods moving in a complex environment. When the pandemic hit, companies throughout the supply chain had to contend with increased shipping volume and capacity constraints, triggered by a wave in panic buying of essential household goods.
As people settled into homebound lifestyles, e-commerce demand surged, accelerating investments and shifts within the supply chain to meet the residential delivery boom. While major supply-chain networks and parcel carriers had already invested in a future dominated by e-commerce, not all businesses were ready for the unprecedented peak in demand. A GlobalTranz industry pulse survey indicated that 35% of business decision makers didn’t feel they had an omnichannel strategy in place to adjust to changing trends in consumer buying behavior, while 41% reported they weren’t prepared to shift retail stores to become fulfillment hubs in major markets. These trends continue to apply immense pressure to companies’ supply chains and the people who support them.
In the midst of this crisis and the drastic shift in buying behavior, experienced supply-chain workers play a critical role in keeping the world connected, and global commerce moving. It has become apparent that the impacts of the pandemic will not be short-lived. Eighty-eight percent of survey respondents indicated that the strategies they have adopted to meet pandemic conditions will be long-lasting. It is therefore essential that logistics providers, shippers and carriers continue to invest in the right technology and support systems to remain connected in this new business environment.
Prioritizing Employee Connections
In March, most companies prioritized setting up employees to work from home and enable them to continue to be productive as quickly as possible. Now that we’ve had months to settle into new routines, there’s an opportunity to take a closer look at the employee experience.
It’s crucial to offer employees access to resources that support physical and emotional health, including telemedicine, healthcare benefits, mobile applications, and employee assistance programs, and to raise awareness for these services.
With many employees across our industry continuing to feel isolated due to the pandemic, I recommend establishing connection points, such as monthly town halls with leadership, weekly virtual events to boost company culture, the use of technology to create ad-hoc teams, non-work meetings, and a switch to virtual philanthropy projects open to all employees.
In times of stress, employees also often value one-to-one connections with management, facilitated by web conferencing. In order to keep a pulse on employee morale, leaders can make a point of connecting with multiple employees across the business each week for 15-minute sessions. These sessions can focus on how employees are navigating this difficult time and the resources they need from the company.
Another tactic for soliciting feedback from team members is to launch a company-wide survey. This provides an anonymous forum for assessing employee wellbeing, productivity, and technology needs, as well as sharing input on how the company can make the work-from-home experience as engaging and rewarding as possible.
Providing Tools for Connectivity
One of the main priorities of a chief technology officer is to ensure that each employee has the technology they need to do their best work and support customers. However, all managers should be looking for ways to incorporate technology into the employee experience, in a way that facilitates connections and productivity.
There are several steps that business leaders can take to ensure their employees have the technology they need to stay productive and positive. Intranet platforms facilitate the easy exchange of company news and information, and virtual onboarding processes ensure that new employees get off to a positive start.
When provided with the right technology, employees can continue to deliver top-notch work for customers. This can lead to enhanced productivity, as well as increased customer-facing efficiencies such as digital invoice processing, collaboration across sales teams through a customer relationship management app, and the ability to proactively deliver up-to-the-minute market trend data and visualizations.
While we find that many employees enjoy the flexibility of the work-from-home setup, others in our industry don’t have the ability to work remotely, or prefer the environment of the office. It’s essential for leaders is to solicit employee feedback through multiple touchpoints, and continue to find innovative ways to foster company culture via technology.
As we transition from pandemic-related demand to peak shipping season, workers in the shipping and logistics industry will need additional support in order to continue operating at a high volume and rapid pace. The combination of tech tools, regular communication and an unwavering commitment to maintaining employee wellbeing and company culture is the winning formula for a smooth and productive peak season and beyond.
Russ Felker is chief technology officer at GlobalTranz.
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