Management must change to secure next generation of lift truck operators, Talent in Logistics research shows


A recent survey by Talent in Logistics, sponsored by UKMHA (UK Material Handling Association), found that more than half (51%) of male lift truck operators aged 30 and over do not find their management to be trustworthy and honest.  52% would also not recommend their job to family and friends.

These insights, and others, are revealed in a new report titled “What lift truck operators really think of their job”.  The research report also reveals that 47% of the 30-plus male demographic surveyed don’t agree that they are recognised for the job they do and just 42% feel that their opinion matters when a company is looking to change things.

“We are in the midst of a national warehousing skills shortage, so employers must take action now to retain skilled lift truck operators,” says Ruth Edwards, Operations Director for Talent in Logistics. “It is clear that some changes are needed at management level to improve communications, build trust, and make operators feel valued.”

“Lift truck operators are an ageing, and predominantly male, workforce – 48% of those taking our survey were aged 51 or over. So, as well as fixing these inherent issues, recruiting new talent is key,” she continues. 

Female operators (60%) and employees aged 18-21 (100%) said they'd rather have a good manager than a 5% pay-rise, highlighting the importance of management on employee satisfaction and engagement.

“Positively, our research showed that these younger workers and female operators are incredibly loyal – 88% of the female operators and 100% of the 18–21-year-olds said they could see themselves working for the same company in two years.” says Ruth. “Their responses in the survey provide a good insight into what employers need to do in order to attract more people from these groups into the workforce.”

Young people are particularly interested in career development, with 94% of respondents aged 18-30 saying they want to progress in their career. 

Work/life balance is also a high priority for young people, with 100% of the 18–21-year-olds saying they would prefer a better work/life balance than a 5% pay rise, and 65% of 18–30-year-olds saying the same.

Some of the factors contributing to job satisfaction for younger employees include flexible working options, feeling heard and respected, and having the training they need to do their job effectively.  Wellbeing is another important area and, encouragingly, 86% of female operators said they feel the company cares about their mental wellbeing. The same percentage (86%) of female operators also said they find their company leaders easy to talk to. 

The report also includes suggestions from lift truck operators as to how to attract workers into the profession, including the question of pay. The survey found that more than 50% of all lift truck operators surveyed agreed that they are not well paid for the job they do. All groups put equal or more importance on a 5% pay rise than on a comprehensive healthcare package. 

Tim Waples, Chief Executive of UKMHA, who sponsored the survey and report added: “This report highlights some real issues within our industry that must be addressed. Lift truck operators play a vital role in the supply chain and logistics and, to ensure the welfare and retention of staff, employers must do more to ensure the safety of operators (and bystanders), whilst looking at what reward and recognition they have in place to ensure these experienced people feel valued in the vital role that they fulfil.” 

Ruth from Talent in Logistics adds: “Much of the news about skills and labour shortages has been focused on LGV drivers but it should not be forgotten that a shortage also exists in lift truck operator and warehouse roles. I urge employers to read the report to gain valuable insights on how to better retain operators, and create a talent pipeline for the future.”

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