In this brand-new section, we bring to you dedicated industry-specific interviews to solve the talent challenges that you're facing in your sector, as well as cross-pollinate ideas across sectors. Check out this week's interview:

Industry insider: Andrew Sim, CEO, J&T Express Singapore
Sector spotlight: E-commerce logistics
Based in: Singapore

For a company placed in the niche e-commerce logistics industry, the ability to find and hire talent with the relevant skill sets is the biggest challenge. See how automation is among the ways being used to tackle this.

The number one talent challenge this sector is facing

The pressing challenge facing the e-commerce logistics industry today is the ability to find and hire talent with the relevant skillsets. While we are part of the logistics industry, we need people who also understand e-commerce. This encompasses the need for knowledge across different areas, such as automation, software development and consumer behaviour. With the convergence of the different job functions in the company, we are faced with the difficult challenge of attracting talent who are more than just specialists in their own roles.

Developments that are intensifying this challenge

With the exponential growth of the e-commerce industry, power has been transferred from brands to the hands of consumers, and consumers today are demanding better experiences. This means that third-party service providers like us need to ensure we satisfy consumers, or risk being displaced.

To do so, we need talent who have holistic knowledge of the industry – for instance, a software developer today should have a basic understanding of consumer behaviour and even social media marketing in order to develop the right software. Having such talent enables the company to be nimble, and be able to quickly adapt to the ever-changing consumer landscape.

"Organisational leaders need to be selfless in terms of sharing their knowledge and ensure that their employees are well-equipped with the relevant knowledge."

Best practices: Strategies that have worked in tackling this challenge

There has never been a better time to be in the business of e-commerce logistics. At J&T Express, we understand that manpower can be empowered through new technologies – which is why we are now focused on using automation as a springboard for growth. By introducing an automated sorting machine in the warehouse earlier this year, we found that we can reduce menial tasks and ensure that manpower can be deployed to areas that require it.

We also believe in hiring people with the right skillsets and training them for the role instead of fit-for-the-role hires. What we are seeing is that many of the talent understand either the logistics industry or e-commerce industry – not necessarily both. Therefore it is important that we provide adequate training to ensure the crossover that is essential for our business, and that our employees stay ahead of the curve.

The next big priority for HR professionals in this sector

Moving forward, it is essential for HR professionals to invest in talent development rather than be caught up in finding the perfect candidate, which is what I’ve been noticing. For instance, a new employee who has had experience in the logistics sector should undergo training and mentorship to ensure they are well-versed in the business of e-commerce as well. Investing in talent is a great way for the companies to reinforce their commitment to their employees, and this would in the long run help to reduce the rate of turnover.

How CEOs are proactively preparing for the future workplace

The rapid growth of e-commerce often brings new learnings and challenges to the industry – and some employees may struggle to keep up. As such, I believe that organisational leaders need to believe in knowledge-sharing. This is especially pertinent to our sector as we inherently face a manpower crunch.

Organisational leaders need to be selfless in terms of sharing their knowledge and ensure that their employees are well-equipped with the relevant knowledge – from understanding the customer buying process to having the technical know-hows – to better serve the needs of the e-commerce customer of today.

Photo / Provided

This feature has been published exclusively in the Jan-Mar Q1 issue of Human Resources. Read this edition of Human Resources, Malaysia:

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