Where (and how) to find top supply SCM talent

Robotic automation processing and other technological innovations have rapidly transformed the way businesses today operate. This digitalization has provided companies with devices, systems and platforms to streamline workflow, enhance visibility and reduce costs. The smart machines are able to take over the menial tasks traditionally handled by humans, and they are able to complete jobs quicker and more accurately then workers would be able to.

Although the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence has provided supply chain management with many benefits, it has also presented some challenges. For example, with the industry advancing and evolving at an unprecedented rate, today's workforce is experiencing a lack of employees equipped with the skill sets need to keep pace with it.

The importance and value of experienced and knowledgeable supply chain leaders were recently highlighted when Amazon sued its former employee and Target's new chief officer of supply chain and logistics, Arthur Valdez, for allegedly violating a non-compete agreement designed to shield confidential insight and information pertaining to the e-commerce giant's operational strategies.

In an article for Supply Chain Brain, Robert Bowman reported that faculty at the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville published a white paper indicating that just about every level of supply chains is seeing a talent gap, one that isn't showing signs of narrowing any time soon. Most executives are aware of the problem, more than 90 percent in fact, and acknowledge the need to improve their ability to attract better supply chain professionals. The big question, though, is how can they do this?

Educating and training from the get-go
One of the paper's co-authors, Shay Scott, told the source that he "believe[s] we're entering into an era where the development of talent strategy is going to be required to go hand in hand with business strategy."

Furthermore, companies should not fall victim to the assumption that onboarding skilled workers is solely a human resources burden or that their respective budgets limit the ability to invest in recruitment and development strategies or the necessity of doing so. Bowman noted that a Deloitte study indicated a disconnect in how various levels of an organization perceive HR department's ability to attract top talent, with more than half of top executives and senior level positions saying they think they are doing a great job and just 28 percent of logistics and supply chain workers sharing the same sentiment.

The UT researchers suggested that one way to fill the gap is for companies to recruit students at the high school level and up. Businesses can offer apprenticeships and internship programs that allow graduates to immerse themselves in the supply chain atmosphere and jump-start their training.

Redefining supply chain and procurement roles
In a separate article, APICS Chief Executive Officer Abe Eshkenazi pointed out to Bowman that there are plenty of academic programs and degrees that emphasize professional development. There are also certifications and higher education classes centered on supply chain management, logistics and procurement practices. However, among those knowledgeable in SCM and operations, there is a lack of understanding regarding how these roles can be lead to executive-level positions.

Spend Matters recently revealed that one way to bridge this gap is, instead of focusing on hiring workers who are skilled in a specific category, restructuring roles to attract talented leaders who can exercise a dynamic range of capabilities, such as "increased business and leadership skills, technological prowess, knowledge of foreign policy and regulations and the ability to handle cross-functional complexity."

Certainly, there is a significant opportunity for business executives to target potential hires at the start of their careers and to promote more education in the field. Similarly, by creating a more cohesive and comprehensive relationship between business goals and supply chain objectives, companies will make it easier for both potential and existing employees to understand the corporate strategy and how their specific roles and responsibilities play a pivotal role in achieving success.

But, there are also more immediate solutions that can be utilized to fill the talent gap.

Workforce strategy experts
Businesses that are hesitant about investing in recruitment and training programs likely fear that they will be ineffective, or that their focus is of better used elsewhere. It can be all too easy for supply chain managers to get so caught up in day-to-day operations that the long-term strategy development falls to the way side.

However, in an increasingly competitive market, organizations simply can't afford to not onboard and retain top talent. This is why, to ensure the efforts are well worth the investment and minimize the chances of losing production by shifting current workers away from primary responsibilities, supply chain executives should leverage third-party partners that can provide them with staffing and recruiting solutions, as well as consulting services for strategic sourcing and training programs.

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