This week, we interviewed a senior executive at a multinational electronics manufacturer about skill gaps, pain points, and other issues executives face when hiring in supply chain today. Is there a talent deficit in supply chain? Read on to find out.
Our client has almost 30 years progressive experience as a supply chain leader in some of the top global brands. His early career growth was in consumer goods, specifically food production, and in the past several years he has made the move to electronics manufacturing. He’s now in the C-suite, overseeing the Canadian global supply chain for one of the hard goods electronics industry’s largest and most prestigious companies. He offered lots of great insight about the state of supply chain talent in Canada and what challenges companies—specifically those operating on a multinational scale—are facing when hiring for this vital strategic business function.
“In the last fourteen months,” he says, “I’ve brought in five Senior Demand Planners. My biggest experience is, we go to the market and look for individuals with 5-7 years of experience. What we’re seeing is lots of individuals with 5 one year job experiences, not 5 years of continuous experience.”
To him, the issue isn’t inherently that individuals are hopping from job to job, which can be a common complaint from hiring managers. It’s that the jobs held by individuals with this level of experience don’t demonstrate enough progression. “They’ve done the same thing at each of those jobs instead of product introductions, changing supply chains, adding complexity to KPIs. Their experience isn’t progressive so they’re having trouble scaling.” Our takeaway is that they aren’t developing and bringing better skills to a new employer and that’s a problem.
“The second issue we’re experiencing,” he emphasizes, “is cultural fit. And the third one is a lack of ability to apply supply chain theories in a global market.”
Here’s an example. Say we bring in hard goods from Asia. Let’s say I keep 10,000 in my warehouse but I have 40,000 on the ocean in a container. Why don’t we look at factory to warehouse as a floating warehouse? That’s an integrated approach to supply chain. How do I apply planning in an integrated fashion? The warehouse isn’t a static location, it’s really everything that’s moving throughout the supply chain. It’s not a huge leap conceptually, but many candidates coming in haven’t looked at it that way.”
He has found that in hiring, when it gets to the interview stage, many candidates in the field are able to speak to their experience but not how that experience affects the integrated supply chain as a whole. “They aren’t able to answer what they’ve done for the business, just what they’ve done in a vacuum. There are many things along the integrated supply chain that one delivers to a company and candidates have a hard time articulating that. It’s still a very provincial way of thinking – this idea that inventory’s in the building, not in the pipeline.”
“I’ve experienced this both from candidates who have gone to school [for post secondary supply chain programs] and those who haven’t,” he comments. “They’ll say, ‘we increased our customer service levels from 75% to 99%, but when I ask them how that has affected inventory levels, the conversation gets heavy. They’re good at delivering the task, but most folks miss the link to the integrated supply chain and its effect on the business.”
We asked this particular client about the supply chain talent deficit—a growing issue that has leaders in the field taking notice. We’ve written about it more than once, and have had some top executives in the field chime in about it on the Argentus blog. To boil it down: as the global economy matures, the number of supply chain jobs is only increasing. The baby boomer generation is beginning to retire, and schools aren’t doing nearly enough to educate young people about the immense amount of opportunity that supply chain offers as a discipline. It’s no longer blue collar. It’s about as white collar as you can get.
The difficulty of finding supply chain talent is an issue that’s important to us at Argentus, where we specialize in finding the best individuals in the field for companies looking to hire. So we asked him: what’s his experience? And is there a real deficit of supply chain talent?
“From my experience, the talent pool has drastically decreased in the last 24 months. If we’re looking for a Demand Planner, or a Warehouse Manager, or a Transportation Manager, the skill levels between now and 3 years ago are night and day. People are harder to retain and harder to find. The level of thinking required is getting difficult to procure.”
So where is the top talent coming from these days? In this executive’s eyes, consumer goods and the food and beverage industries are developing some of the most sophisticated, holistic supply chains in the world. “There are things that have happened in the food and beverage industry that have made people sit up and take notice,” he says. Because of the many considerations and complexities involved in getting fresh goods to market on a global scale, everything from spoilage issues to bioterrorism, food and beverage supply chains have engineered their personnel to understand the fundamentals of the market.”
We hope you found this interview as insightful and interesting as we did—and we’re thrilled to bring you this high level market intelligence from a true leader in Canada’s supply chain field. Finally, we should add that we’d love to hear from you! If you’re an executive or a senior individual who’s looking to bring on supply chain talent, what pain points are you experiencing? Let us know in the comments, or give us a call at 416-364-9919.