I interviewed Neal Click who discussed Talent Challenges for Logistics Service Providers.
Dustin: Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?
Neal: Yes, I come out of the industry. I started back in the day with a large LTL carrier here in the States, Roadway Express. Later worked in the truckload industry with Schneider and followed work with several small- and midsize companies, investor groups. All in all, I’ve spent twenty-five years in the industry in executive positions up to a president’s positions. I then got into the headhunting world in 2000, joined this firm, which, at that time, was branded the Snelling Transportation Group, actually a franchise of Snelling Personnel Services. One of the other recruiters and I bought out the owner in 2003, formed High Road Partners. There are six of us actively recruiting in the firm—the two owners and four other recruiters, plus a couple full-time research people. We work primarily with service providers, be they trucking, rail, intermodal, freight forwarders, contract warehousing, and so forth principally in North America. We do work in the Continental United States, occasionally in Canada and also in Mexico. Probably the sweet spot for us is in the hundred to hundred and fifty thousand-dollar compensation range, but we’ve filled positions up in the four hundred thousand-dollar range. I would say we’re probably more in that mid-management-director level, and then with some VP and C-level type search work.
Dustin: What are some of the talent challenges faced by logistics service providers?
Neal: I think the biggest challenge right now is a lack of experienced talent. The industry, for a long time, was sort of fed by the pool of talent that was created back in the days prior to deregulation of the transportation industry in the United States. A lot of the people that have been in leadership roles over the last ten, fifteen years, even twenty years, came up from the old legacy carriers, be it trucking companies, the rails, and so forth. What’s really happened in the competitive environment post deregulation is that companies have had a hard time investing in people. There’s been a lot of turmoil, a lot of consolidation, companies have gone out of business, new companies have sprung up, and it’s become a very difficult place to attract talent, especially if you’re talking about positions that are involved in actually managing people. Starting out as people did years ago—you know, even with a college degree like I had, and I later on got an M.B.A.—but starting out, people would come out of college and go to work for a company, and they might be working second shift, nights, weekends, things of that nature. That’s just not very appealing to folks nowadays, and the money was much better then, relative to other opportunities. Now, for a lot of service providers, they don’t offer very attractive pay and benefits, the working conditions aren’t that great, and a young person’s coming out of college with a degree in business or transportation logistics, it’s much more attractive to go to work for a big consumer-products company or a technology company or some manufacturing company as a supply chain logistics manager as opposed to running an operation for a trucking company or a freight forwarder or a contract warehouse company. It’s just not been a place that draws much talent.
Dustin: Who are the types of people that are in short supply?
Neal: It’s really across the board. If you’re talking about operations people, somebody that’s qualified to run a large operation, either a big-box warehouse or a significant trucking operation or intermodal operation or port terminal operation, those people, because that’s such a nitty-gritty position, not a lot of people with that background, if you get into a lot of the asset-based areas where you have safety, key safety positions, equivalent maintenance people are certainly in short supply, even high-quality salespeople, business-development executives can be tough to come by. I would say, generally speaking, people who get into the industry, they may work in operations a little while, and they’ll migrate to sales, so there probably is a little more sales business-development talent out there as opposed to operations maintenance, safety. There is a short supply of high-quality logistics engineers, and that’s kind of an umbrella that, in some cases, covers pricing, the design of solutions, and so forth. Those folks are in short supply on the service-provider side because, again, most of those logistics analysts and engineers tend to migrate to the shipper side, if you will.
Dustin: Hw can this problem be addressed?
Neal: I think it’s obviously going to be one of those supply-and-demand situations, and eventually, companies will make the positions attractive enough that it will start to draw talent. We’re starting to see a little bit of that now, but companies are understanding that they’re going to have to make the investment and make the jobs more attractive. I think the culture in a lot of service-provider organizations is starting to change. There’s a little bit of an old-school mentality, I think, in transportation and distribution companies that maybe they’re not as progressive in the way they deal with employees. We’re starting to see some companies be a little more thoughtful in terms of some of the extras that they provide—just working conditions, maybe a little more flex time. The old days of just saying, “Hey, you’re gonna work here twelve hours a day and sometimes seven days a week and you’re just gonna take it,” those days are over, and I think companies are coming around and offering a better workplace. I think that’s really gonna be the key to it; it’s gotta be a more attractive place for young folks to work.
About Neal Click
Logistics and Supply Chain