Supply Chain Talent: How to Bridge the Gap

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Supply chain talent gap

Supply chain organizations—overseeing the full span of activities from sourcing to production planning to delivery and service—are facing complex talent issues. 

By Kelly Marchese

Today, as a profession, supply chain management finds itself in something of a crisis: Just as it is gaining stature functionally in enterprises, many organizations are confronting critical shortfalls of talent.

This insight is one of many in the recently released Deloitte 2015 Supply Chain Survey. Each year, Deloitte surveys supply chain leaders to discover their most relevant issues and the actions being taken to address them. 

This year’s survey, taken in November 2014, confirmed the extent of the growing talent gap facing the profession. Supply chain organizations—overseeing the full span of activities from sourcing to production planning to delivery and service—find themselves with increasingly complex talent issues. 

Rapid changes in supply chain activities, tools and goals call for new skills in management and leadership—skills that aren’t readily available in the talent pool. Furthermore, fundamental intrinsic and extrinsic generational needs create issues about how to motivate workers.

As Linda Topping, vice president and chief procurement officer with consumer packaged goods manufacturer Colgate-Palmolive, recently told IndustryWeek: “Supply chain management is getting exponentially more complex, so supply chain talent is the price of admission for the next decade.” 

Deloitte’s survey focused on two primary groups: supply chain leaders and followers. To identify leaders, the company polled a population of senior executives, who were asked how their company’s supply chain performance compared with that of other companies in its industry on two metrics: inventory turnover and the percentage of on-time, in-full deliveries.

If the executives believed their performance was significantly above average for both metrics, their organization was designated a supply chain leader (8 percent). Conversely, if they thought their performance was less than that, their organization was designated a supply chain follower (92 percent).

Few of the polled executives expressed high levels of confidence in the talent in their field and in their organizations. Only 38 percent said they were extremely or very confident that their supply chain organization has the competencies it needs today.

However, the same executives were also hopeful about their supply chain talent recruitment, with 44 percent believing their organization can put the required knowledge, skills and abilities in place in the future. Supply chain leaders, in particular, maintain this hope, partly because they anticipate using nontraditional recruiting methods.

Using Nontraditional Recruitment Methods

The survey found that leaders are making extensive use of nontraditional methods to recruit (47 percent versus 12 percent of followers). They also drew on new or nontraditional talent pools (40 percent versus 11 percent of followers).

What does “nontraditional recruiting” mean? Here’s what Cisco did more than a decade ago. Lacking enough applicants for its high-skilled positions, it targeted “passive job seekers”—that is, people who were happy where they were but could potentially be persuaded to take a more attractive position. 

Cisco hosted focus groups of desirable talent and discovered patterns in how they spent their time outside of work—at art fairs, home-and-garden shows, and microbreweries. Then, it started sending recruiters to those places to strike up informal acquaintances with potential recruits.

Today, many organizations are realizing it takes this kind of out-of-the-box thinking to recruit the talent needed for the supply chain.

This article was originally published on 2015-08-04
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