DHL releases “Future of Work in Logistics” trend report

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In its latest trend report, the Future of Work in Logistics, DHL examines how the roles, responsibilities and tools of logistics workers will change over the coming decade – finding that 50% of logistics workers still view technology as a potential threat.

As the industry grapples with a growing labor shortage and an aging workforce, organizations will need to deploy strategies to attract, retain, develop and motivate workers in a digital era in order to succeed. Over 7,000 professionals from the logistics and supply chain industry contributed to the report about the opportunities and challenges they face. The report found that though 9 in 10 logistics workers believe technology has been beneficial to their role in the past five years and will remain so in the next 10 years, over 50% still feel that technology will threaten their jobs.

The report found that, for the first time in history, digital natives will begin to outnumber those who began their careers before the internet and this continued influx of younger people in the workforce is accelerating a shift of values in the workplace. Specifically, millennials and generation Z appear to be seeking jobs with more purpose, less repetitive tasks and more flexible work environments. It was also observed that this generation is pushing the logistics industry to meet new expectations around sustainability, diversity, inclusion, employee well-being and tech-forward environments. Combined with improvements in the realms of digitalization, automation and artificial intelligence, there has already been a significant impact on jobs, workplaces and entire sectors around the world.

While these researchers do not foresee the logistics industry introducing an instant and dramatic “flip of the switch” from human labor to full automation, respondents do see a gradual period of change over 30 years in which more roles will collaborate with technology instead of competing with it – despite some workers’ fears. Furthermore, the report’s authors anticipate an uneven application of technologies around the world, with some regions and teams along supply chains experiencing slower or smaller changes than others.

The report highlighted the importance of not just understanding the driving forces of the trend, but also addressing the concerns of the workforce, to create this new future of work. For example, most survey respondents said they want to work in the office anywhere from part-time to full-time, with 6 in 10 operations workers wanting to work remotely at least once a week, compared with 5 in 10 office workers. Supply chain organizations must consider ways to make flexible work more accessible through new human resource policies and technologies like teleoperation.

In its write-up, DHL refers to the impact of the pandemic to argue that knowing the order, magnitude and speed of digital disruption is key to implementing the right collaborative response between humans and machines. Specifically, it highlights how the Covid-19 virus managed to initiate in a matter of weeks changes that would normally take years or even decades for organizations to adopt. The growth in e-commerce throughout varying lockdowns has led to a massive surge in demand for logistics labor to help fulfill, transport and deliver the billions of orders placed annually. To meet the growing demand for logistics, alleviate labor shortages and build more resiliency into supply chains, Covid-19 has greatly accelerated the digital transformation of logistics.

Matthias Heutger, senior vice president and global head of innovation at DHL, said, “While 9 in 10 survey respondents felt technology has been helpful to their career, still over 50% admitted viewing AI and automation as a potential threat. This represents a huge opportunity and responsibility for corporations and governments to act swiftly and collaboratively to alleviate concerns by providing transparent strategies forward and demonstrating success with human-machine co-working environments to lead people into the next era of work with confidence.”

Thomas Ogilvie, chief human resources officer at Deutsche Post DHL Group, said, “Digitalization is already fundamentally changing the way we live and do business. The pandemic only accelerated the execution of plans that companies had envisaged. We assume that 30-35% of all activities could be automated by 2030. Nevertheless, we firmly believe the majority of our value creation will still be provided by people. There is no doubt that certain jobs will change, but the work will remain. What this tells us is that lifelong learning is, more than ever before, the key to success in the digital age.”

Sabine Mueller, CEO of DHL Consulting, said, “It’s important to ask employees how they feel and what they want. We rely heavily on this feedback to introduce more flexible schedules and environments and develop new, technology-enabled ways of working. We also focus on people practices, like moments that matter [DHL’s employee events program], so employees feel cared for both functionally and emotionally. DHL Consulting is proud to have contributed to this report and trusts the industry will benefit from the insights we can share as a global player in logistics with deep expertise in keeping the world moving.”

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