Supply Chain Management Review, one of the more respected trade publications in the field, recently published a column by guest contributor Naseem Malik about the state of the Supply Chain talent market.
The main takeaway? It’s a candidate’s market, and companies are finding it tough to find individuals with the right mix of analytics, presentation, and communications skills to succeed in the field at a number of seniority levels. In his words: “the most common frustration among companies on the hunt for talent is a lack of A-players, or A-players who can’t be found fast enough. Just as real estate has seller’s markets, where the seller is running the show, in Supply Chain Management today, it is a candidate-driven market, especially when it comes to the most valuable and sought after candidates.”
This closely matches our own recent experience as a recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain and Procurement. More than ever, we’re hearing from companies with hiring difficulties in the field. You’d expect that at certain times of year — the middle of summer, for example — people at companies might be thinking more about backyard barbecues and vacations than hiring. And many years at Argentus, summer assumes a natural slower pace in terms of companies looking to hire. But this year? We’re hearing from companies left, right and centre, with hiring challenges for roles as diverse as Supply Planning Managers, Strategic Sourcing Managers, Warehouse Supervisors and others.
These companies we’re hearing from aren’t B-players; they’re almost always producers of universally-recognizable brands, with huge name recognition, positive consumer image, and solid employment branding. In an employer-driven market (like the post-recession world of 2009-2010), these employers would have no problem attracting multiple candidates for open positions, no matter how specialized.
In 2016, the supply of talent in the field just can’t meet up with the demand, and that means that companies need to make certain considerations when looking to upgrade or fill out their Supply Chain teams. Malik goes into details about some approaches companies can take to navigate this difficult hiring market:
- Reduce lead times. In our experience, when companies realize that A-player candidates are often juggling multiple interviews and job offers, they’re much more likely to pick up the pace – in hiring, in booking interviews, negotiating salaries, etc.
- Be more competitive in terms of salaries (and other compensation factors like bonuses, benefits, work/life balance, vacation, continuing education opportunities, etc.). In Supply Chain, where A-player candidates save money (and reduce risk) on a much, much larger scale than what they’re paid, higher salaries are an easier sell to management than you might think.
- Perhaps most important: be flexible in terms of specific experience requirements. More and more hiring managers are asking for very specific experience requirements: the exact category expertise in Procurement, or exact commodity buying requirements, for example. Of course, these requirements are often practical and highly relevant. But it’s worth being flexible and able to hire outside the box, and it’s worth evaluating whether you really need a candidate with that exact category experience, especially if there are star performers with transferrable skills waiting in the wings.
As always with these kind of reports, we should stipulate that just because the big picture trends point to large companies having difficulties securing top talent, doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone in Supply Chain to find a job. When it comes to individual industries, categories, and career histories, people out there are still having difficulty securing employment. But on a macro level, we couldn’t agree with Malik more that companies need to adopt the mindset of it being a candidate’s market, when thinking about hiring.