Burnout in Logistics: Is It the Great Resignation or the Evolution of Tech?

Like every business and industry struggling to recover right now, burnout has become a significant concern for managers and business owners. Staff burnout in logistics can be especially problematic as much of the modern supply chain and infrastructure society relies upon reacts significantly to disruptions and errors caused by burnout. A lack of insight, actionable analytics, clear directions, and industry guidance often paves the way to employee burnout.

The point was driven home in a 2022 post by Financial Post, highlighting the stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the supply chain and how it has contributed to employee burnout. The pandemic brought to light the inherent problems with the "lean manufacturing" approach that had become so popular in the years leading up to 2020 and set the stage for the unprecedented level of burnout and staff shortages impacting supply chains across multiple industries today. So what is burnout in the modern supply chain? To answer that question, supply chain professionals must understand why addressing employee burnout matters and how it impacts short and long-term logistics operations.

What Is Burnout and How Bad Is It?

Burnout refers to work-related stress that results in physical and emotional exhaustion, contributing to a reduced sense of productivity and loss of personal identity in the workplace. It's not necessarily a medical diagnosis, but it often accompanies depression and anxiety. Given the state of the post-COVID world, burnout seems to be growing worse. Further, May was Mental Health Awareness Month. With that in mind, supply chain professionals need to realize that burnout is a very real year-round threat, contributing to more resignations and a generalized decline in the workforce's well-being.

The Great Resignation and Shifting Focus on Supply Chain Personnel and Staff Burnout in Logistics

The driving force of the Great Resignation within the supply chain network is the demand from drivers and other workers for better pay, shortened freight payment processes, and improved work conditions. They know their worth and what they can achieve; therefore, they search for companies that will pay them what they are worth. Bloomberg, recently explored staff burnout in a recent article: "Supply-chain managers quit their jobs last year at the highest rate since at least 2016 due to a mix of burnout and a desire for fatter paychecks…For supply-chain managers, the average separation rate increased by 28% from 2020 to 2021." When answering this question of what is burnout in the supply chain, it is essential to remember what drivers, managers, workers, and personnel have already given over the last few years during the peak of shutdowns and supply chain shortages.

Employees in every industry might undergo seasons of workplace fatigue. Still, the supply chain stands out among other industries and jobs that see this as the rule rather than the exception. Entire consumer sectors awaiting the arrival of out-of-stock essentials breathe down the backs of logistics managers who are frantically hoping the MIA freight load is still en route. The Russia–Ukraine war and rocketing diesel prices of 2022 likely felt like the last straw for many teams already experiencing employee burnout.

Problems Employee Burnout Causes for Logistics, Management, and Productivity

While many societal changes are often associated with COVID's arrival, supply chain employee burnout cannot be entirely blamed on the pandemic. Today's staff burnout in logistics results, in part, from supply chain growing pains that trace back ten years or more. Poor planning and lagging adaptation of available technology have drastically impeded the optimization of the domestic and international modern supply chain network. The inactivity of supply chain professionals in the past has left 2022 shippers, freight forwarders, and other logistics providers with so little control they learn only to accept the chaos until it is too much. Some of the primary problems that have instigated the current staff burnout in logistics include:

  • Absence of Backup Plans – Without a backup plan to deal with shortages and missed deliveries from one provider, logistics providers are left scrambling or somberly contacting customers to communicate the loss of time or product.
  • Minimal Market Forecasting – While past customer trends hinted at the last significant shift toward e-commerce and other upcoming changes, the lack of market insight stunts companies from properly amending operations to modern needs.
  • Product Sourcing Rigidity – The inability to shift and scale productions and sourcing of products quickly creates room for customers to withdraw network loyalty, overstretch current employee capabilities and promote employee burnout.
  • Inadequate Oversight – While some companies may have internal checks and balances in place, many subtle profit and efficiency losses can occur without adequate freight auditing and unbiased systems checking to detect errors.
  • Outdated Manual Processes – After so many major supply chain disruptions, even the daily mundane processes can be too much, further complicating and slowing exception recovery efforts.
  • Inefficient Communication – Increased need for reverse logistics is just one way that the quality of network communication and collaboration efforts has been proven mediocre among staff burnout in logistics.
  • External Disruptions Easily Impact Local Efforts – By not focusing on long-term company resilience, logistics companies have remained at high risk for trickle-down disruptions from anywhere in the entire supply chain network.

While these factors may not have marked every company before March 2020, these and more were seen firsthand in the early months following the first COVID-19 shutdown. And as such, logistics resignation letters are coming in by the droves filled with these staff burnout in logistics factors and more. Work fatigue of this magnitude profoundly impacts the personal quality of life as logistics managers are expected to keep a sinking ship afloat. Truly, the COVID-19 pandemic added fuel to an already active flame of industry-wide staff burnout in logistics. So what can be done to aid the supply chain today?

Benefits of Managing Staff Burnout in Logistics With Industry Experts

Overcoming staff burnout in logistics will come down to how managers and team leaders embrace innovative services and their partnerships with industry experts. Shippers and freight forwarders must leverage the expertise of industry masters to bring about business continuity and reduce staff burnout in logistics. Having proven experts on your side and insights into current supply chain trends make it possible for supply chains to recover faster and more efficiently.

A team like Intelligent Audit on hand can provide varied benefits and tremendously impact short- and long-term operations. Integrating business intelligence software and experts can positively affect employee burnout rates in the following four areas: accounting, automation, communication, and back-office processes.

Accounting Agility

So, what is burnout in relation to accounting? While it may be surprising to some, others understand the significant impact accounting can have on employee burnout rates. Today much of the accounting process is done manually, tracking down billing documents across multiple platforms, email addresses, and accounts. Changing carrier standards and parcel shipping's international complexities create room for mistakes and oversight in every corner. While a bird's eye view of the supply chain may see mass invoice errors across the board, individual companies understand that there is little allowance for error in today's tight market with plummeting profit margins. Supply chain professionals can minimize recurring errors and staff burnout in logistics by contracting freight bill auditing services from masters in the trade.

Corrected Communication

A 2021 article from The Washington Post reported that "the United States is ‘decades behind' foreign ports in getting carriers, terminals and shippers to provide each other access to commercial data for planning purposes [...] Concerns over data privacy, business secrets and security have resulted in a fragmented approach. Individual ports operate as separate fiefdoms rather than as part of a national system." While a digitized unified communication system may seem abnormal to the American eye, the globalization of today's supply chain has been mandating this change for years.

Shippers and freight forwarders who prioritize a connected way of communicating are better equipped to communicate from team member to team member, as well as from company to customer. Real-time communication options and opportunities create mutually beneficial connections without creating employee burnout from overtaxed logistics team members. Meanwhile, fast and reliable tracking and monitoring of shipments that feature data security enable more efficient communication at every level.

Automation Assimilation

While actionable analytics and AI-enabled tools may have been buzzwords for some time, many supply chain companies have been slow to incorporate them to their full potential. According to Financial Post, analytics employees spend 60–70% of their time simply gathering data, leaving only 30–40% to analyze and provide insights. By capitalizing on the automation recommendations from a business intelligence partner, shippers can gain:

  • Data-backed Insights Into Current Market Trends
  • Predictive Analysis and Planning Services for Management
  • Actionable Insights and Advanced Freight Data Collection
  • Ability to Run ‘What If' Scenarios to Plan for Peaks and Valleys
  • Digitized Documents and Data Available Across Multiple Platforms

By embracing machine learning and other robotic process automation-enabled tools, supply chain professionals can remove hundreds of hours from their logistics team spent on tedious work that can now be done in moments. While some might consider the introduction of automation as a significant igniter of staff burnout in logistics, the opposite is true as employees actually often gain motivation and morale with more meaningful tasks.

Back-Office Backup

When an employee burnout ends in a resignation, it tends to light the flame for a companywide staff burnout in logistics due to the increased workload that comes from an experienced employee leaving the team. Even when a replacement is hired immediately,building up historical knowledge of company processes and promoting team harmony takes time. By partnering with a business intelligence powerhouse, supply chain management gains back-office access to services and tools that attract high-end drivers, dedicated services, and the ability to meet customer demands. These qualities alleviate team pressure and staff burnout in logistics as on-demand access to freight analytics and insights provides company members at every level with the information they need to make informed decisions. Faster, easier, and more efficient processes ensure continued recovery for the supply chain today.

The Evolution of Tech Requires an Evolution of Management

When addressing the issue of staff burnout in logistics, a partner like Intelligent Audit can help augment the current workforce by supplying them with the tools and support they need. According to TransportTopics, 65% to 70% of supply chain professionals are interesting in learning about new opportunities to better themselves, even if that means leaving their current company.

They don't want to be as stressed out as they have been over the past few years. Supply chain management can respond to these critical factors by utilizing business logistics to process transportation invoices that are GL coded to normalize data across all carriers/modes. Incorporating accrual reporting means that if half of the customer's team has to be replaced, operations can continue without snowballing employee burnout.

The evolution of supply chain management in this style allows for consistency regardless of customer team members joining, exiting, or transferring to differing roles. Irrespective of the current thoughts on management changes, staff burnout in logistics has become a significant issue that supply chain management must address with better transportation strategies and industry partnerships.

Solve the Dilemma of What is Burnout in Logistics by Partnering With Industry Experts Today

The most unfortunate aspect of the rise in staff burnout in logistics is it could have been avoided with proper planning, insights, analytics, and data-backed decision-making. So many professionals worked diligently throughout COVID and dealt with long hours, unsafe work conditions, low pay, and extreme pressure.

While a resignation may be expected from one individual tired of the stress, another's Google search for "What is burnout?" may have resulted in them realizing it's time to pursue better opportunities. With every employee burnout departure, companies lose insights and professional experiences and must retrain and rework entire chains of command, which only adds to the disruption and upheaval.Whether still reeling from COVID disruptions or suffering from staff burnout in logistics, building on established data and strengthening business logistics and insights will make recovery efforts easier from start to finish. Partnering with Intelligent Audit can provide a clear path forward, supported by automation, insights, analytics, and driver-focused initiatives. Contact Intelligent Audit today to learn more and take steps to prevent employee burnout in your supply chain.

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