How to Fill the Supply Chain Talent Gap

Line Art

Retailers and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) makers are spending huge sums to upgrade global supply chain talent, as well as logistics infrastructure and software. It’s no wonder then that these mega-employers are waging high-profile recruitment battles. They’re vying for top-shelf Supply Chain Management (SCM) talent. Couple of things going on here:

  • Skilled, supply-chain baby boomers are retiring, especially in the U.S. and other developed countries. In fact, 55 to 60 million boomers will exit the workforce by 2025, according to Scott Luton, managing partner at Atlanta’s TalentStream (and executive vice president at APICS Atlanta).
  • Meanwhile, consumer companies must synthesize increasingly immense, diverse, and complex data that spans consumer demographics, shopping habits, browsing behavior, operations data, and more.

In short, there’s a strong need for new talent. Upping the ante is the fact that as the population of specialized talent dwindles, demand for their knowledge and insight is blowing through the roof:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of logistics jobs to increase 26% from 2010 to 2020.
  • A wide range of estimates claim five to ten SCM job openings for every qualified applicant — a job seeker’s market.
  • Increasingly globalized manufacturing, sourcing, sales and marketing heightens the need for proven supply chain “know-how,” far beyond the Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model of plan, source, make, deliver, return.

What does this portend? The supply chain professional of the future will have a knack for strategic and big picture thinking (more like a C-suite exec); and be able use, interpret, and analyze data like never before. Question is, how can employers find, attract, and retain these Jedi while simultaneously addressing immediate challenges of equipment, technology, workflow, and communication?

Four-part checklist

1. Update recruitment strategy and keep an eye on the skills gap. “Classic” supply chain skills (plan, make, source, deliver) will remain essential. However, it will take a more concerted search to find unique supply chain skill sets, such as product development and launch, and supply chain scenario planning. Also, supply chain teams are competing for fresh talent with IT, finance, and other organizational functions. Be prepared to pay for the talent you want.

2. Keep an eye out for data and technology buffs. Skilled data analysts command a premium these days. That’s partly because effective use of Big Data has been proven to enhance value-chain coordination, , and customer experience. As such, basic data-driven decision making is now crucial. Companies need new team members to embrace innovation and continuous improvement. This is necessary to satisfy omnichannel sales and delivery trends, and extremely high customer (and consumer) expectations. In short, the supply chain needs technologists. “That’s a no brainer,” Luton says. “IoT, blockchain, autonomous vehicles, etc; each of these hot innovation spaces require the tech talent to develop, deploy, and execute, be it in supply chain or anywhere else. So it’d be a very safe bet that technologists will have great opportunities in supply chain.”

3. Provide training, in-house or from outside consultants. Ensure that your workforce is able to adapt to changing requirements, address immediate problems, and transfer knowledge. A recent DHL study showed that 86% of respondents from a pool of over 350 supply chain and operations professionals claimed that “changing job requirements” is a high or very high challenge to placing qualified talent.

In addition, find and recruit capable project managers who can take your firm far beyond implementing a new ERP system, or moving a manufacturing production line to another plant. Some project management offices (PMOs) serve as “air traffic control towers” for myriad projects that are underway simultaneously.

It may also prove useful to participate in benchmark surveys to get a bearing on your data and . Technology and management consultants can help with KPI goal setting, or update training on advanced analytics, big data, or how to better prepare for the monthly S&OP meeting.

4. Measure your results. With clean, accurate data and skilled analysis, you’ll be able to streamline processes and make overall metric improvements, thanks to process alignment. This leads to what supply chain guru Ann Grackin of ChainLink refers to as a cycle of continuous improvement that enables your supply chain professionals to think strategically, forecast more accurately, and reach goals, such as increased turns, while improving collaboration, integrated planning, and new product introductions.

The supply chain domain is no different than any other, especially when it comes to requirements around advanced higher education credentials. Companies must follow closely behind other industries that seek skilled and talented candidates and position them to grow into their roles, or they’ll need to do self-analysis to see where carefully placed strategic outsourcing of supply chain tasks makes sense.

Read more about how Vanguard Software helps our customers with improved knowledge and insights for better supply chain optimization.