If you’re in the world of Supply Chain, either as an employer or professional, there’s an issue that you’ve probably heard about in the past 18 months: the so-called talent deficit. Companies are reporting more difficulty in bringing in top talent, especially for entry-level and mid-career roles. Why? The baby boomer generation is beginning to retire out of the industry, schools need to be doing more to attract young people to the field, and the prominence – and complexity – of Supply Chains within organizations is increasing at a rapid clip.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about another dynamic at play: despite the deficit of talent, many Supply Chain professionals still have problems securing employment. It seems like a bit of a paradox, but there are actually complex issues working against each-other: Supply Chain is a rapidly changing field. Niches are proliferating, and job requirements are evolving and becoming stricter. So even people who have experience might find it difficult to secure a good job with growth potential. Our suggestions for how to mitigate this issue are twofold:
- Candidates need to work to make themselves as employable as possible in a field that’s changing quickly: pursuing certifications and learning new skills, joining industry groups, and considering high-bill contract roles.
- Companies need to become more flexible in their hiring practices. They should hire based on overall Supply Chain and business acumen and recognize transferable skills.
The article took off. We’ve fielded a large number of responses from across the industry (and the globe) about the topic – clearly it’s hitting close to home for Supply Chain professionals.
So we wanted to follow-up and share some of our favourite responses:
M. Sean Whittle – Global Supply Chain Manager:
“Often the industries experiencing the most growth in Supply Chain opportunities are ones which also require very specific backgrounds and skillsets (biotech and healthcare come to mind). There may be a shortage of candidates coming from those industries. Meanwhile, there may be more available candidates than open positions in other industries. As baby boomers retire, there will continue to be a disconnect until more candidates work to transition to new industries, and until employers in high-growth companies become more open to hiring from outside of their specific industry.”
Dana Senik – Supply Chain and Purchasing Manager:
“Supply Chain is very interesting in that there are differences among industry, but also which part of the chain you may specialize in. The end-to-end Supply Chain is very broad. From the time the sales order is placed through order being delivered to the customer, many different activities and business functions occur. I may be in Procurement, but understanding for sales order processes, forecasting, production planning, inventory management, supplier delivery, production capacity and flow, and end customer delivery is all intimate knowledge.
Those activities affect my ability to perform, so you better believe I am paying attention and getting to know the players and actions above and below my process. The challenge is that I could be viewed as a buyer, but with training and further education, I become so much more. Recently, at the Scope Supply Chain Conference in Chicago, one of the speakers discusses the value of getting experience in other areas such as Operations, Finance, and Customer Service to better inform decision-making at the higher level. For Supply Chain specifically, we can be viewed as specialists in one role, but can broadly be applied to additional roles such as Logistics, Transportation and Forecasting with little investment.”
Michael Lucas – Logistics Manager, U.S. Army:
“I would say flexibility in the hiring process is key here. In the Supply Chain business, you have to keep an ‘out of the box’ mindset to remain successful. The same thing should be thought of for the hiring process for Supply Chain professionals. Supply Chain professionals should also be flexible to adapt and learn new skills within the industry. Being open to moving into a new job and experiencing other aspects of the field will help to give the industry a better vision of the overall process of Supply Chain.”
Reid Curry – BNSF Railway:
“Is it always a good idea to fill those “niche” Supply Chain jobs with people that come from that same industry all the time? Is there something to be said for bringing in someone with different industrial experience to, possibly, alter the way Procurement/movement of goods is done overall?
It’s all moving stuff. That’s what Supply Chain is, at its base, and all industries do it differently. Are these industries more closely related than we might think?”
Richard Caserta – Mechanical Engineer:
“How does the company looking for such job specifics sustain itself while the ‘hunt’ for the perfect person goes on? If a company has a need for a specific person, what do they do in the meantime that they wouldn’t be better off training a competent person with slightly less specific competency? Other than whine, it doesn’t appear that the companies complaining about a ‘shortage’ are taking much action to correct the situation.”
Thanks to all our readers for providing such great comments! And we’re looking forward to continuing this vital conversation about talent in our industry in the days to come.