When it comes to improving sourcing, procurement and general logistics, companies today have a number of high-tech solutions to choose from. Concepts such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics have become powerful forces for efficiency and enabled employees to get more done that ever before. However, the best way to improve a supply chain may involve training, education and new skills instead of purely technological concepts. While IT may be a great enabler, the direction of the department will be determined by individual abilities.
The skills that define supply chain professionals aren't limited to hard technical knowledge, either. The so-called soft skills that involve interpersonal communication and collaboration are helpful within any enterprise department and supply chain operations are no different. Finding workers who can create connections across teams and departments - or better yet, instilling these skills - may represent a breakthrough.
The hard value of soft skills
Contributing to Supply Chain Management Review, James Baehr recently suggested that instructing employees in collaboration is a useful practice for supply leaders. However, he added that most organizations fail to follow this path. He noted that established workers already in the supply chain field are typically not instructed in true teamwork, working on their own even when they are part of a group.
Teaching these employees new ways to operate - and making them more collaborative - could become part of a company's strategic sourcing operations. Baehr recommended creating a group of workers from across different operational functions who could strive toward a common goal and help them with communication and accountability. Not only will the organization reap the immediate efficiency benefits of the team's operations, its workers will be better equipped to handle more projects together in the future.
The beginning of a new group's formation is the most important moment. At this time, the employees either get off on the right foot - learning to work together and achieving results that are better than what they could deliver alone - or they fail to. The early stages are so critical that Baehr suggested employers have a coach on hand at these stages to guide the professionals and impart the knowledge they'll need to become better allies and teammates.
Supply Chain Dive recently reported on a learning initiative within Campbell Soup designed to make employees better at collaborating with one another. The strategy is based on breaking down departmental silos within the organization and ensuring there is easy communication and teamwork between individuals with unique skill sets. Executives are interested in projects that bring together workers of many backgrounds, ages, departments and job functions.
According to the news provider, efforts to make workers better at collaboration and teamwork are part of ongoing attempts to close the supply chain skill gap. Companies are constantly hiring professionals for logistics roles, but the number of candidates with the required abilities is never sufficient to fill all vacancies. Internal education is a tool to ensure there are enough supply chain experts within a given organization - and soft skills are some of the important abilities these professionals will gain.