Recent disruptions have made it clear that the nature of employment is changing. Labor shortages have proved persistent across industries, and employers are realizing that traditional workspaces, trends and workflows may not be ideal.
Perhaps the most notable shift coming from these trends is a broad movement toward remote work. As Nicole Sahin, CEO and founder of Globalization Partners, emphasizes, “companies who can build successful international teams will be ideally placed to succeed in the post-pandemic economy.”
These changes are coming to more than just office workspaces, too. The future of supply chain employment hinges on this shift.
Changing Workforces Today
This shift is already visible across workforces and industries today. While some companies have announced a return to in-person work, many plan to enable remote or hybrid options long term.
According to a Gartner survey, more than 80% of companies plan on enabling remote work at least part-time after the pandemic. Many of these businesses likely didn’t anticipate embracing these policies long-term but changed their minds after witnessing the effects. About 82% of executives reported similar or higher productivity after shifting to remote work.
Another trend impacting the future of supply chain workforces is the growing labor shortage. In a recent survey, 47% of third-party logistics companies cited finding, training and retaining qualified labor as a top challenge.
Amid these shifts, supply chain employment won’t remain the same for long. Here’s a closer look at what’s ahead for the industry.
Why Future Supply Chains Need Remote Work
The most significant change coming for supply chain employment is the same as other industries: remote work. Over the next few years, leading supply chain organizations will embrace off-site and hybrid jobs. Those that don’t will fall behind.
Remote work will be a necessity for future supply chains. Here’s why.
One of the biggest reasons supply chains will need remote work is because of its productivity benefits. Sahin emphasizes the benefits of remote work on productivity in a recent blog post. “Those who spend at least 60%-80% of their time working remotely were more likely to be engaged.”
Engaged workers tend to meet higher productivity standards, which supply chains need. Widespread disruptions will likely continue into the future, and logistics organizations must adapt to mitigate them and prevent future delays. Higher productivity is a crucial step in that direction.
If supply chains can boost employee productivity through remote work, they can meet growing logistics needs.
Acquiring Top Talent
Another critical advantage of flexible work environments is how they give companies access to global talent leaders. As Sahin explains in a LinkedIn post, “by spreading the net wide, you can tap into highly qualified talent pools, many of which are found in emerging economies … remote work can bring the best companies and the brightest people together.”
As the supply chain space grows more competitive, acquiring top talent will be increasingly valuable. Companies that can gain the expertise of worldwide leaders in management and technology can speed ahead of the competition. Since these people will come from all regions of the globe, working with them requires remote collaboration.
Mitigating Labor Shortages
Remote work will also help supply chains overcome the ongoing labor shortage. In the face of unfilled positions, logistics companies must look outside their immediate area, and traditional avenues in that area are declining.
Sahin explains: “While some companies depend on immigration programs to relocate talent, those avenues are facing increasing restriction. All the while, the skills gap widens.” The solution is to enable remote work to pull talent from around the globe.
If supply chains can access distant talent pools, local labor shortages won’t be as impactful. As the current “Great Resignation” continues, that will become all the more central to ongoing success.
How Remote Work Could Grow in Supply Chains
While it’s clear that supply chain workforces must go remote, the path to that goal is less evident. Unlike in office jobs, where much of the work-from-home revolution is happening, logistics involves a lot of hands-on, physical labor.
Despite these challenges, the supply chain industry can still capitalize on remote work. However, doing so will require significant change over the next few years. Here’s what that could look like.
The first step the industry will take toward remote work is on the management side of operations. While truck drivers and many warehouse workers must be in-person to perform their duties, that’s not true of office employees. These jobs also potentially have the most to gain from remote work.
In an interview with Tealfeed, Sahin touched on how traditional office jobs are becoming a thing of the past: “it seems likely that the office-based environment that has remained a foundation of modern business could see permanent change.” When modern technologies make these jobs easily accessible remotely and working from home improves productivity, there’s little reason to keep them in a physical office.
Supply chain management is ideal for remote collaboration given its distributed, often international nature. If management teams need to collaborate across multiple countries anyway, it’s only natural that they should fully embrace work-from-home tools.
Industry 4.0 Technologies
The next step in the shifting future of supply chain employment is to bring hybrid work to the warehouse. Traditionally, these jobs were impossible to translate into the work-from-home model. Industry 4.0 technologies like 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) offer a solutions.
Some companies have already started testing remote-controlled forklifts, enabling off-site employees to accomplish in-warehouse tasks. As faster, more reliable networks become widespread through 5G, similar technologies could apply to multiple workflows. Companies that invest in these methods earlier could drive the workforce shifts of the future.
This transition will take time, largely due to limited infrastructure. As Sahin points out, “As of October 2020, only 59% of the world’s population had internet access … [and] many communities with internet infrastructure don’t have the resources to access it.” Internet access will have to become more widely available and reliable for this shift to take full effect.
Employment Is Changing, Even for Supply Chains
After the disruptions of the past few years, it’s clear that supply chains must adapt. Part of that evolution is a shifting workforce, especially in embracing remote work.
The road to remote work for supply chain organizations is long, but the benefits are too promising to ignore. As current trends continue, logistics employment will shift to become more flexible, unlocking new possibilities.
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