Special feature

Recruiting for the future

Andrew Bennett gets the views of younger movers on what the industry needs to do to tackle its current staffing challenges – and the role of FIDI in addressing these

With the Baby Boomer generation of moving company executives heading into retirement, the industry’s future is increasingly in the hands of a younger generation.

And there’s never been a more challenging time to run an international moving business, with some major issues for the industry’s brightest to solve. These include: a shortage of skilled talent to make up the workforce; clients moving smaller shipments of household goods; lower profit margins; and working within the green agenda to adopt more sustainable ways of doing business.

These were highlighted as among the main industry headaches by young moving executives based in seven countries across three continents when FIDI Focus sought their opinions.

Our group of young movers had creative solutions to address some of the current industry woes. You can read their opinions on some of the hot moving topics below. What is certain is that there seems to be no shortage of drive, ambition and ideas from the new millennial generation moving executives in terms of how they want to shape the industry.

Andrew Bennett (AB): What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry right now?

Andrea Gärtner, Marketing and Public Relations Sub-Manager at Intramar Shipping, Colombia: ‘It’s the demographic change in the workforce and the difficulty in attracting and retaining young talent. There is a shortage of skilled professionals entering the industry, resulting in a skills gap and limited knowledge transfer.’

Diana Da Costa, Sales and Agent Relations, Global International Relocation, Portugal: ‘We need to attract and retain qualified and dedicated professionals. Interest in the area can be a challenge, as not everyone has an affinity or passion for the sector. The industry also requires ongoing and often time-consuming work to achieve significant results, which can be difficult to manage for a younger generation that tends to prefer quick and immediate solutions.’

According to Lennert de Jong, Manager for European Services, Gosselin Moving, the Netherlands, the major challenge concerns finding skilled staff, ‘most importantly on the trucks, but certainly also for the office’. He says: ‘Moving is an undervalued skill that is being sourced as a commodity. Unfortunately, in most markets, the cost level does not allow an additional salary component compared with a normal truck driver, even though the two roles are incomparable.’

Max Neumann, a member of the management board at Streff, Luxembourg: ‘The next 10 years will show who is able to successfully tackle this challenge as the Baby Boomer generation slowly fades into retirement. Consequently, there will be fewer available people in the workforce and, ultimately, we will still need humans to execute a move.

AB: Does the moving industry suffer from an image problem? How can we improve it?

Nicolette Meyers, Partner Relation Manager, Hasenkamp Relocation, Germany: ‘The moving industry is sometimes still viewed as old-fashioned and mainly dominated by men, trucks and heavy lifting, which does not portray reality at all. It is unfortunate that (our image) is reduced this way, because the industry is an incredibly multi-dimensional and international work environment, with many diverse and exciting prospects and opportunities all over the world.’

Daniela Krumdiek, Business Development Manager, Express Transports, Peru, and President of the LACMANext section for young movers: ‘Yes, it does. Not many people know about the industry, and the ones who do think of something stressful. At Express, we try to give our staff benefits that they will appreciate, so the day-by-day work is much easier and more attractive. For example, we have stayed as a hybrid working company after COVID: three days working from the office and three days from home. We cherish quality of life, that’s why we allow our staff to have a flexible schedule. We also give them a free day on their birthdays.’

De Jong: ‘I wouldn’t describe it as an “image problem”, but, as movers, we can absolutely be better at translating the great things about this industry into our job offers. Opportunities to travel and work with so many cultures abroad. Working in an industry where we combine emotions and logistics is a speciality in itself, and allows us to stand out from other transport-based businesses.’

AB: How difficult is it to recruit staff to work at a moving company?

Phuong Lien, Sales and Operations Manager, Asian Tigers, Vietnam: ‘It is not difficult to recruit staff into moving… but it is hard to keep them for the long term, especially younger generations. Our working environment is busy with tasks and paperwork. Young generations can handle multitasking very well, but they get bored fast with stable work.’

Da Costa: ‘Younger generations may have different expectations when it comes to work, seeking purpose, professional growth and a stimulating environment. Investing in people is crucial for attracting and retaining talent. Implementation of an employer branding department, as we have done at Global International, demonstrates a focus on their wellbeing and development.’

Krumdiek: ‘It’s not the moving industry specifically, but corporate work in general. Almost every member of “Gen-Z” wants to become an “influencer” (on digital platforms/social media) or an independent worker. We need to think about why younger people want to work independently, even though they may not receive a paycheck for long periods, and don’t have automatic benefits like insurance, a credit record for banks, and so on.

‘I think this is the work-life balance that companies didn’t care about for many years. We try to give them that balance and those benefits, so they can be happy in their work.’

Myers: ‘It is sometimes quite difficult to resolve those stereotypes and recruit new staff. We see that many younger people are more inclined to study or seek a less-demanding job, which is not as challenging and stressful as the international moving industry, and pursue careers with supposedly more “prestige”.’

AB: Is the international moving industry adopting technology fast enough to keep up with the needs of clients and consumers?

Neumann: ‘There are three areas we can differentiate for technology: internal processes, transportation, and the moving work itself.

‘For internal processes, I think all of us have implemented, are in the process of implementing, or have at least devised a plan to digitalise our processes. This is a topic that has been around for some years and is now part of FAIM accreditation.

‘In general, we are heading in the right direction, but probably a bit slower than other industries in transportation. It is now on the younger generation to drive innovative projects and to explain where the benefits are.’

Krumdiek: ‘When I first started work in the industry, in 2015, I was really shocked at how behind the industry was in technology matters. Nonetheless, I think we have taken a big step ahead because of COVID-19. Having a paperless company is on almost every moving firm’s agenda. Young movers should be the spokespeople and project leaders in their companies to improve technology.’

Lien: ‘We are adapting fast and well enough with technology… to keep up with the needs of clients. Technology can help us reduce operational expenses and inefficiency, and save more time. If we can unify technology with our business, it is easier to achieve our future ambitions.’

AB: Is the industry doing enough to become greener?

De Jong: ‘There are a lot of good initiatives. Real change will speed up once legislation is forced from the government side – or if the industry sets its own standard. I see a vital role for FIDI in the latter, by becoming this platform where we can learn from each other and avoid duplication when accrediting/ validating our efforts.’

Gärtner: ‘Sustainability is a critical concern for the moving industry, and there is a need for continuous improvement.

‘At Intramar, the younger generation is helping develop sustainability initiatives by promoting eco-friendly practices, optimising supply chain logistics, and implementing recycling and waste-reduction programmes. Collaborating with industry partners and educating clients about the industry’s commitment to sustainability are also crucial steps in creating a greener future.’

Myers: ‘Our industry recognises sustainability as a clear objective, which is underlined by the building and setting up of new sustainable warehouses. However, I do think we are currently occupied with other challenges.

‘For example, we are still struggling to find alternatives for packing material such as bubble wrap that don’t entail a rise in costs; and we are still looking for solutions to reduce packing material overall with service quality suffering.

‘We are facing similar issues in the area of transportation, where we aim to reduce our carbon footprint but, simultaneously, need to be able to afford the solutions.’

Lien: ‘I do not think we are going fast enough. It’s important to discuss our use of packaging… how to not only use less packing material, but also to make sure the goods are still protected during transport and shipping. Dealing with waste is a big challenge too, for all moving companies.

‘We should offer more eco-friendly options to clients… and invest in solar roof panels or eco-friendly solutions to generate electricity to charge up or use at storage facilities or the office – and promote ethical practices in our company. All staff and managers in organisations need to be unified in a common sustainability purpose.’

AB: How can the industry get younger people who are starting their careers interested in moving?

Krumdiek: ‘There are great options that moving associations offer to retain young talent. In LACMANext, for example, we have an exchange programme. Two companies from the same association participate, with one sending, and the other receiving, a trainee for one week. This instantly motivates the staff in your office and allows companies to learn from another one. We should use these programmes more; and we should offer more workshops and opportunities to learn.

‘Of course, we need to think about work-life balance, too. We have to start using KPIs [key performance indicators] that measure our staff effectiveness and give them more “freedom” – time to spend with their families, exercising, reading, or whatever makes them happy.’

Da Costa: ‘It is important to align with what this younger generation seeks. Strategies such as employer branding and flexible benefits are crucial, but there are other approaches to consider as well, such as growth and development opportunities, flexibility, and work-life balance. These approaches are essential to ensure a prosperous future for the industry.’

Gärtner: ‘We must focus on engaging and promoting the industry’s positive aspects. Young movers can leverage social media platforms to showcase career success stories, highlight the industry’s global impact, and foster a sense of community and belonging by not only emphasising their companies, but also the international agents.

‘In the end, they are our team everywhere else in the world. Additionally, mentorship programmes (such as the FIDI 39 Club Mentorship programme), internships, and educational partnerships can provide hands-on experience and attract younger talent to pursue careers in the moving industry.’

Neumann: ‘This is a tricky question, as the job itself will not change in the short to medium term. It starts with the tools and training provided for your employees, continues with the overall working conditions you create, and ends with the feedback clients give you at the end of the day. This working atmosphere was different in the past, and it is on us young movers to create a more modern atmosphere that not only suits experienced colleagues, but also the next generation.’

AB: As a young mover, what other issues about moving do you feel strongly about?

Lien: ‘For me, the issues are how to integrate sustainability in our daily operations and how to accomplish our operational goals causing the lowest impact on the environment.’

Gärtner: ‘I feel strongly about improving customer experience and streamlining processes through digitalisation. Implementing user-friendly online platforms for quoting, scheduling, and tracking shipments can significantly enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. Prioritising employee wellbeing, promoting diversity and inclusion, and supporting continuous professional development are key areas for improvement within the industry.’

Da Costa: ‘The industry faces significant challenges. One of the main ones is dealing with the stress and responsibility of taking care of other people’s goods during the moving process. We often emphasise that we don’t just transport goods, but rather people’s feelings and emotions.’

AB: How can FIDI or other international moving associations help?

Myers: ‘FIDI could bring all the IT companies together to collaborate and discuss a unified “language” for tech solutions, such as job transfers between FIDI Affiliates or links between systems for inventories, and so on.’

Krumdiek: ‘By providing more tools for moving companies: ideas to retain talent, and workshops to discuss topics such as technology, sustainability and HR in our industry. For me, sharing knowledge is the main benefit associations can give to their members, besides the networking opportunities.’

Neumann: ‘FIDI has always brought topics to the table and provided a chance to discuss them openly. Not every solution for one company will work for a second company, but it is at least food for thought.

‘I am very much looking forward to participating in future working groups on industry-related topics and to exchanging ideas with colleagues at online meet-ups, and during conferences or on-site training sessions.’

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