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January 2015

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

How to win the war for talent (guest comment)

By John Hubach, a partner, and Bachul Koul, a consultant with global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney

Several external forces are having a material impact on the transportation industry workforce. Yet we find that most companies do not invest the commensurate time or resources in their strategic workforce planning efforts to respond to these industry dynamics. Instead, most companies have a “just-in-time” workforce planning horizon, as opposed to defining their talent needs beyond the next quarter or year.

While some just-in-time hiring will always be required, we believe the companies that execute an ongoing and proactive strategic workforce planning process will win the war for talent. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have you identified the critical forces that will impact your workforce?
  • Do you understand the impact of these forces on the competencies, numbers, deployment, development and expectations of your future workforce?
  • Are you attracting and winning the war for top talent?

External Forces At Play

Aging workers. The transportation industry’s workforce will continue to experience attrition levels of at least 30 percent or higher over the next five years (including non-retirement attrition). Retirement at the higher ranks will create opportunities for the next generation. Proactive succession planning will become increasingly important to provide the younger workers with a clear view of their career path, and to capture institutional knowledge that will be walking out the door.

Millennials. Millennials will increasingly become a larger percentage of the workforce. These workers have different expectations about workplace norms, promotion timelines and performance incentives. At the same time, they are more tech- and network-savvy and bring a unique perspective to processes and systems that challenge and improve established company practices. Leading companies are rethinking their financial incentives, mentorship and training programs, and recruiting practices to create a more attractive workplace for top talent of all ages.

Regulations and technology changes. Regulations are accelerating the implementation of new technology. For example, federal mandates to improve operational safety are driving the need to rapidly upgrade vast infrastructure asset bases into IP-based communications networks. Additional regulatory changes around certification requirements and increased safety regulations will pose further workforce changes. Leading companies are getting in front of these regulatory and technology changes to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Supply of skilled workers. The supply pool of qualified workers is too small to accommodate the industry’s demand. For example, qualified vocational or technical school graduates are in short supply — and not always in the right place to align with your business locations. Leading companies are expanding their recruiting channels and redefining their recruiting relationships to ensure a long-term, skilled talent pipeline.

The Path Forward

A comprehensive strategic workforce planning process has never been more important to a company’s sustained success. Here are the four areas organizations can focus on when developing their strategic workforce planning road map:

Recruiting. Know the workforce needs for today and tomorrow — to understand who to recruit. Where are my skill and competency gaps today? How will they change for tomorrow? Rethink where to recruit. As workforce demographics change, so too will recruiting sources for top talent. Developing new recruiting channels will provide access to untapped resources.

Value proposition. Expectations on compensation, benefits, work environment, and career path differ across the multigenerational workforce. Ensuring a company offers competitive packages requires an understanding of what attributes make a company attractive to each group.

Training and development. Employees look for organizations that offer training and development opportunities in sync with state-of-the-art processes and technologies. With the right training and development program, the workers of today could be the leaders of tomorrow.

Continuous improvement. A strategic workforce planning road map is only as good as it is relevant. A company should reassess and update the road map every few years to ensure it remains attractive to top talent.

Is your organization thinking ahead to the workforce of tomorrow?


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