Anyone who closely follows the Supply Chain field knows that an emerging issue among the field’s top leaders is that of the Supply Chain talent deficit. We’ve covered it extensively here on the Argentus blog. We’ve spoken about it with senior executives and some of the brightest lights in the field. And as a recruitment firm specializing in this area, we consider it tremendously relevant to the future of our business and our industry.
To summarize the issue: experts predict that the Supply Chain and its related functions (Procurement, Vendor Management, Logistics, Operations, Planning) are facing a steep shortage of talent in the coming years, making the search for top individuals more competitive for companies looking to hire. Depending on who you talk to, there are a few different causes of this burgeoning lack of skilled Supply Chain professionals:
- The looming retirement of the baby boomer generation,
- A lack of extensive training options and efforts by industries to get young people involved at the junior end,
- Supply Chain’s increasing sophistication and relevance to business leadership raising demand for skilled Supply Chain talent, compounding the problem of diminished supply.
An analysis of these factors makes one thing abundantly clear: in the coming years, if the Supply Chain discipline is lacking talent, that deficit will be most strongly felt at the senior end. It’s the most strategic, most innovative, forward-looking Supply Chain professionals who will be in highest demand to help lead the function within organizations. As this great article in Industry Week points out, a recent Deloitte survey found that 71% of multinational executives already report difficulty in finding senior leadership for their Supply Chain functions.
So the issue isn’t just one of getting young people involved in the field; it’s also of giving them the skills and strategic business exposure that will propel them up the career ladder and into leadership positions where they’ll be able to make impactful change and increase their organizations’ competitiveness.
So how does that happen?
One strategy, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal’s excellent Logistics Report, is to hire individuals with strong business sense (often out of university) and introduce them to a diversity of experience within an organization’s Supply Chain. That means giving them experience within Procurement, within Logistics, within the Planning function. It means having them understand relationships with suppliers, as well as how contracts are managed, as well as how an organization’s distribution and operations functions. The idea is that a diversity of experience is the best way to train junior employees not just to be seat fillers, but to be leaders.
Traditionally, Supply Chain executives would come from one discreet area, be it on the side of Procurement or Logistics. But the function has become more integrated – touching on almost every corner of a given business — and almost every one of today’s Supply Chain leaders agree that the discipline offers the most value when its leaders have a wide understanding of the business as a whole. So the best way to develop Supply Chain talent that makes an impact in organizations is to show new hires a range of experiences within that organization, and let them see a holistic picture of what it is they’re impacting.
This approach pays dividends for candidates and junior employees, too. It offers the potential to thrive in an interesting career with real impact, and faster than another recent MBA graduate might. In our opinion, if companies invest in hiring young people with strong business sense and exposing them to a diversity of Supply Chain experience, the field becomes much more attractive for those young people who might see the function as transactional, siloed-off, and unexciting today (if they’ve even heard of it).
In our interview earlier this year, Strategic Sourcing VP Steve Forth offered an insight about hiring that squares nicely with Mattel’s strategy. He mentioned that his priority in hiring is to bring on individuals with business acumen (possibly bolstered by MBA degrees) over individuals with experience in any one specific Supply Chain discipline. This is right in line with Mattel’s strategy for developing the next generation of Supply Chain talent, and is something we’ve heard echoed all over the place: if you want to develop the next generation of your organization’s Supply Chain leadership, if you want the function to deliver cost savings and strategic growth, allowing junior employees to gain a diversity of experience within the organization’s Supply Chain is a strong bet. It’s a possible panacea to the talent deficit on two fronts: by bringing in more young people, and giving them the opportunity to fast-track their careers into leadership positions.
Further reading: This post on LinkedIn publisher by Supply Chain recruiter Jennifer Donoghue is another solid take on the issue.
Disclaimer: Discussion of the Supply Chain talent deficit, and proposed solutions to the issue, are big-picture discussions. We’re speaking across the labour market, and a wide-ranging talent deficit doesn’t mean that it’ll always be easy for Supply Chain professionals to find work in every industry or geographical area. We know that there are high-achieving, high-performing Supply Chain professionals who currently aren’t employed, and are having trouble finding work. (By the way, if you fall into this category, we want to hear from you!)
Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that Argentus Supply Chain recruiting has access to lots of great candidates ready to make the move into a Chief Supply Chain Officer role.