Johnston Logistics UK: Practice with Management Mentoring
Leading UK third-party logistics provider, Johnston Logistics UK have launched an in-house Management Mentoring programme to help recently upskilled supervisors get the best from formal training.
As members of their team recently completed ILM qualifications in Leadership and Management, the Norfolk-based logistics experts have sought to embed their new skills in day-to-day operations with the support of their experienced colleagues.
“The mentoring programme is designed to support our team leaders. Our aim is to build strong foundations and impart key management skills so we continue to lead our team to deliver the very best for our colleagues and clients” says Jane Bull, Head of Business Support at Johnston Logistics UK.
“We know the importance of a great working relationship between every colleague and their line manager. It’s a powerful influence on morale and our overall company culture”.
Available to all those in a supervisory role, the mentoring programme includes coaching from senior managers on a variety of management techniques, including identifying the best solutions for many situations.
Amongst the first-line managers to benefit from the programme is Rob Sweet who has subsequently been promoted from Supervisor to Manager of the Operational Support Team.
Rob said “Jane’s mentoring has really helped me understand the importance in treating everyone equally but respecting the different ways they are motivated. It helps me get the best from others and myself. I really feel supported to become the best manager I can and build a strong team around me”
As well as one-on-one time working through real-life scenarios together, Jane also observed Rob leading team meetings including the induction and coordination of agency workers.
With some supervisors recently completing Institute of Leadership and Management qualifications supported by the firm, the programme has also been designed to help apply what they have learnt. The qualification aims to deliver effective and confident first-line managers, able to build better relationships and communication in teams.
The mentoring is intended to complement other company policies by ensuring a consistent approach throughout the business. It also includes practical guidance on areas such as managing individual development plans on the recently upgraded HR system.
As part of the initiative, the logistics firm have also revised their Employee Handbook and updated Employee Contracts to support their new Good Work Plan. This was introduced following their 2019 staff survey and includes enhanced employee benefits to reward the team for their hard work.
The 2020 staff survey reported that 83% of the team felt that the business supported them well in training, support and leadership; as well as their overall well-being.
Jane concludes “We are really encouraged by the positive response to the programme. There has been a noticeable change in the team, generating even more positivity. A company is only as good as its employees, so we will continue to identify valuable ways to invest in our great team”.
From their 700,000 square-feet operation, Johnston Logistics UK delivers warehousing, logistics and fulfilment services for businesses throughout the UK, including major retailers, leading brands and manufacturers.
The management mentoring plan is one of the various investments being made by the company in their team as they continue to report positive growth.
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector