CAI Transportation Blog

How to retain talent in the supply chain


In the midst of a booming global economy, many companies may find themselves in need of additional smart supply chain talent to help manage growth. There’s just one major problem: the strong economy means low unemployment, making it more challenging than ever to attract enough qualified job candidates.

While several universities have started to offer degree programs tailored to a career in logistics or supply chain operations, the number of graduates isn’t keeping pace with the industry-wide need for strong candidates. To make matters worse, experienced Baby Boomers with deep knowledge of the industry are starting to retire.

This combination of factors has led to a burdensome reality: the demand for talented transportation and logistics professionals has started to outstrip the supply.  

The tough market for new logistics experts highlights the importance of thoughtful employee retention efforts. Once your company has managed to find and train the right people to keep its supply chain running smoothly, it’s crucial to take steps to protect these investments. That means keeping the workforce engaged and satisfied.

This can be a challenge in the age of millennials, whose employment preferences indicate their desire for breadth of experience and a tendency to change jobs every few years. But by understanding what your high-achieving employees are looking for in a workplace, and providing appropriate coaching and support, it’s possible to keep them happy and productive.

Here are some strategies that can make the difference between turnover and retention:


Your employees have the potential to be your company’s most valuable asset, but only with some meaningful investment in their long-term success. These resources don’t always have to come in the form of expensive training programs or other monetary obligations. In fact, investing time and intellectual capital in developing more junior employees can communicate your commitment to their growth just as well.

Establishing and maintaining a strong formalized mentorship program in the workplace is a great way to transfer knowledge between people at different levels in any organization. While the main beneficiaries of these arrangements are the less experienced parties, they’re not the only ones who grow from mentor-mentee relationships. More senior employees, tasked with passing on established best practices, may find that their mentees ask insightful questions or offer unique perspectives on entrenched problems.

The intangible benefits of mentorship programs go far beyond pure knowledge transfer, however. By facilitating meaningful connections between coworkers, employers can help individual employees feel more integral to the operation, and give them a sense of belonging in the organization. This can help employees put everyday work frustrations into perspective, and lessen the likelihood that they’ll move to another company over an easily-solvable problem.


It’s as true in supply chain operations as in any other industry: high-performing employees don’t like to be micromanaged. Attempting to control every element of how someone does their job communicates a lack of trust in their abilities and talent. The whole experience is demoralizing and is a strong predictor of an employee leaving the company for greener pastures.

While this kind of widespread cultural change can be hard to initiate in larger companies, individual managers can start on their own by watching their interactions with people that report to them. Make it clear that employees will be held responsible for the results of their work—their output, not their input. As long as they’re meeting expectations and managing their responsibilities appropriately, let employees find their own preferred ways of working as much as possible.

Provide the right tools

Your company has likely invested considerable resources in existing technological solutions, and there may be internal stakeholders who are committed to their continued use. But the global supply chain is never static, and your company’s technology shouldn’t be either. In addition to helping you maintain a competitive edge, a commitment to continued growth and technological adoption is a great employee retention strategy.

High-performing employees will quickly grow frustrated at a workplace that seems more committed to the status quo than to successful outcomes. Working with buggy or outdated technology every day can slow down and frustrate your strongest talent, increasing their likelihood of looking at other opportunities. Ambitious and inventive people want to find the best ways of solving problems and prefer to work for companies who are aligned with these goals. Organizations that are willing to rise to the occasion and make changes as needed will be able to attract and retain a higher caliber of employee.

Avoiding the hassle of employee turnover

The reasons behind a talented employee’s decision to stay or leave their workplace can be varied and personal, but they often come down to how they feel about their place in the company. Smart, driven employees like to feel that their employers trust them, believe in their potential, and invest in their long-term success on the job.

The time and effort involved in hiring new employees can be onerous, but leaving holes in your supply chain operation isn’t an option. By intentionally investing resources into employee satisfaction and success, companies can certainly increase productivity. But just as importantly, they’ll be able to reduce their risk of employee turnover and minimize their exposure to the frustrations of a challenging hiring market.