The logistics industry has been grappling with labor constraints in the form of a truck driver shortage for ages. As pandemic-fueled labor shortages — dubbed the Great Resignation — have rocked the job market as a whole, recruiting and retention concerns have widened to include employees of all ranks and stations.
In fact, 60% of companies working in the supply chain field have identified addressing labor shortages as a top priority in 2023, according to Gartner for Supply Chain. Despite this, the research organization found that only about one-third of companies in the space offer benefits packages that effectively engage workers on a holistic scale.
“It seems like whatever supply chain publication I read or podcast I listen to, attracting and retaining supply chain talent is high on everyone’s priority list,” said David Dobrzykowski, associate professor of supply chain management at the University of Arkansas and internationally renowned supply chain scholar. “In a market where the demand for talent exceeds the supply, I think it makes perfect sense to offer incentives, especially those that develop your talent and, in turn, increase their contribution to your company.”
Companies have long offered various incentives to attract and retain talent. Often, these perks center around salary, financial bonuses and time off. While employees value these types of rewards, standing apart from the crowd in a tough market requires employers to hone in on what their recruits value and get creative.
For the past several years, millennials have dominated the workforce. This generation — composed of those born between 1981 and 1996 — became the largest single group of workers in 2016, according to Pew Research Center. Their numbers have been growing ever since.
Millennials value many of the same benefits as their baby boomer and Gen X predecessors, including affordable health insurance, paid time off and work-life balance. Where they differ, however, is in their strong desire for ongoing career development.
A 2016 Gallup report, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” explained that 59% of millennials consider growth opportunities when applying for jobs. Additionally, 87% of millennials said “professional or career growth and development opportunities” were important to them when considering whether to take or keep a job. These numbers far outweighed those reported by their working peers from other generations.
Ongoing education — from short training to complete degree programs — is one of the best ways to keep employees from feeling stagnant. Companies that offer access to those opportunities will have an edge when recruiting and retaining today’s future-minded workers. These companies will also naturally benefit from having more informed employees.
“We know from listening to our people that education and development is important to them,” J.B. Hunt Senior Vice President of People Jessica Brooks said. “When we invest in that development, we are able to contribute to a more engaged employee base. We view this as a win/win, where we are empowering innovation and career development while influencing retention as well. We know all of these factors make us a much stronger company.”
Within the logistics industry, organizations can consider offering tuition assistance benefits for advanced education programs — like the University of Arkansas’ master’s degree in supply chain management — to keep employees engaged and growing.
“Our program is so affordable that the ROI is a no-brainer in most cases,” Dobrzykowski said. “The price and flexibility of our programs are designed for learners to complete their coursework while working. This accelerates learning and the immediate contributions that your employees make to your company.“
Dobrzykowski emphasized that supply chain management students leave each class session with new knowledge they can apply at work, making employees more effective in both the short term and the long term. As technology continues to evolve and the supply chain becomes more complex, having workers armed with these up-to-date skills will be more important than ever.
“Our mission is to create the most efficient transportation network in North America,” Brooks said. “To do that, we need innovative thinkers that can leverage knowledge in the supply chain and all of the areas that support it.”
J.B. Hunt offers its employees tuition reimbursement for business-related education expenses. Additionally, the company has partnered with specific institutions – including the University of Arkansas – to directly offer debt-free degree programs to its workers.
In August 2022, J.B. Hunt and the University of Arkansas announced the naming of the Sam M. Walton College of Business’ supply chain program to the J.B. Hunt Transport Department of Supply Chain Management.
“J.B. Hunt and the Walton College have jumpstarted numerous initiatives to study factors such as inclusion, sustainability, thought leadership, education, and innovation,” Brooks said. “With a long-term vision of investing in the future of integrated supply chain management, these efforts focus on ensuring the industry has a modern workforce with professionals that can grow with the industry to meet evolving supply chain challenges, blending logistics expertise with advancing technology.”
The University of Arkansas is home to the No. 2-ranked graduate supply chain management program in North America (Gartner, 2022). The institution offers a wealth of competitive advantages for organizations and individuals, including:
- Multifaceted cohorts with learners from different industries within the greater supply chain field, creating a valuable alumni network.
- Northwest Arkansas location puts learners in proximity to the Fortune One company, 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and over 1,800 CPG firms — all focused on innovation in their supply chains.
- Flexible learning options like a blended weekend program and 100% online option bring opportunities to students across the world.
J.B. Hunt employee Kasey Grovey completed the University of Arkansas MS SCM in 2022 with the help of the company’s tuition assistance initiative.
“I think it gave me a depth of knowledge in the supply chain industry as a whole,” Grovey said. “I think it will open new doors for me… I think it will allow me, when the time is right, to take advantage of an opportunity because of the knowledge I obtained through this program.”
If you would like to learn more about the master’s in supply chain management program through an online information session or to schedule a talk, visit the website here. Or, if you’d like to set up an online information session for your company, reach out to KPatterson@walton.uark.edu.
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