There is an unheard voice in the last mile: the voice of the worker. The millions of postal and parcel workers who make the last mile happen. Now, in an industry first, Parcel and Postal Technology International and the Last Mile Prophets are pleased to present a new, regular column, ‘The Voice of the Worker’. A leading postal union activist, operating under strict anonymity, will lift the veil on how the delivery world is seen from the other side of the bargaining table.
Our inside source will be brutally honest – that’s part of the deal – to help us all better understand the delivery workers’ world: their views on the business, its customers, its place in society and its impact on the environment.
The Last Mile Prophets is proud to help make this happen, and we urge all postal and delivery leaders and indeed workers to read, digest and comment on this new column. Our sector has much to gain from hearing from the unsung heroes of the last mile. (Send your comments to the editor, Hazel King, email@example.com.)
Next-generation posts and carriers must learn to respect their people or risk failure
Hardly a day goes by without headlines about how the ‘gig economy’ brings flexibility and cost advantages to the last mile. Some companies have built their delivery capacity on the back of this model.
The Covid pandemic has challenged conventional wisdom and the understanding of what is ‘normal’ in almost every sphere of life, and none more so than the world of post and parcel.
The importance of the relationship on the doorstep has always been underestimated but now it can no longer be ignored – it is a strategic imperative. Businesses have always understood the need to maintain and enhance strategic relationships, especially with other businesses and partners, but now they need to focus on those who represent them on the doorstep.
The key worker status of postal (and parcel) workers has raised the profile of the role, and their increased interaction with people in the home and those working from home has highlighted the fact that a vocational sense of purpose and the relationship on the doorstep reflects well not just on the company delivering the item but also on the company that produces it.
Against that backdrop, a strong employee/employer relationship and culture, combined with the green agenda, will be the next competitive edge in the last mile.
Employers will be forced to concentrate on getting the best out of their doorstep ‘ambassadors’ or lose their competitive standing.
This sea change in focus on the employee will build on the many court cases now being concluded regarding worker status and appropriate benefits in respect of holiday pay, sick pay, etc. In essence, these highly technical, innovative, disruptor companies, many of which achieved their perceived success at the expense of their workers, will now have to reconsider their approach.
Decent terms and conditions of employment, standard of living and retirement security, employee engagement, trust, pride, respect, creating a work environment you would be happy for your child to work in, will all be factors in creating the unifying force that will truly open up the field of possibilities for organizations.
Let’s be honest here: if you speak to many of the people working on the last-mile ‘frontline’ at the moment, the people turning up on your doorstep in their cars and at all hours of the day or evening are not happy people; they do not feel respected. In fact, many in the organizations that have their own branded fleets and uniformed employees also have the problem of highly pressured, poorly rewarded, demotivated employees. They may all recoil at these statements, but if they do they are in denial. Such failings will be exposed if the organizations that offer an excellent employee experience, a great culture and a vocational sense of purpose surge ahead.
There will be a new normal of more home working, a re-evaluation of the expensive but terrible experience of the commuter, be it by public transport or road, and an acceleration of the green agenda which, in turn, will change the concept of shopping and create a need for innovation in and around doorstep interaction. This can change everything in the world of post and parcel and can also be a renaissance for the next generation of postal operators, at least for the ones ready to embrace change.
The traditional concept of post, its contribution to social inclusion and the connectivity of all citizens, along with the services they require/demand, will become the game-changer in a post-pandemic world. To be the best, you will need the best as the shop window of your organization. I predict that the postal services with the best employee and green agenda experience will win. It is time to focus on frontline employees as your company’s greatest asset. Ignore this advice at your peril because there will be no second chances in the new last mile.