Insights

Companies Could Soon Face a Supply Chain Recruiting Crunch. Here’s How to Prepare.

April 16, 2020

Some companies have frozen their hiring during COVID-19 – even with unprecedented Supply Chain needs. When they unfreeze, there will be a rush to hire, which could overwhelm companies struggling to find the best candidates. But not if you take the right steps now.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented shift in Supply Chain priorities across Canada. Front-line Supply Chain employees have moved mountains to cope with increased consumer demand for certain products amid supply uncertainty. At the corporate level, most workplaces have switched to a remote work model to flatten the COVID-19 curve. These represent major challenges, with large organizational shifts to allocate human resources during a time of tremendous economic uncertainty. Supply Chain organizations everywhere are adapting to the new normal, at the same time as the wider world is finally taking notice of their crucial, often unsung, role in our daily lives.

It’s long been the case that Supply Chain professionals have to put out many daily operational fires. They don’t always have the institutional support to tackle bigger strategic realignment, without hiring additional resources. COVID-19 is raising many of those daily fires. For some, that’s meant temporary freezes on hiring. Even if additional Supply Chain employees – everyone from demand and supply planners to procurement managers to logistics specialists – would help weather the storm, certain companies have decided to hold off until offices reopen.

As we blogged about recently, some companies have rapidly shifted to remote video interviews to keep their hiring process moving. They’ve done this to avoid losing out on the precious momentum they’ve built in existing searches, gain a competitive advantage over companies whose hiring is frozen, and become more flexible and innovative in their process, which will pay dividends after social distancing.

But some companies have kept their hiring frozen. It’s creating an emerging situation that we wanted to blog about today.

While we could be facing various COVID-19-related restrictions until a vaccine is developed, many countries begin to announce plans to slowly wind down physical distancing measures, which means companies need to be planning their talent management for post-physical distancing as well.

Sooner or later, the reopening will come. And when it does, companies will face a Supply Chain hiring crunch.

Just prior to COVID-19, Supply Chain Canada, the industry’s leading association, said in a sweeping survey that there are an estimated 6 relevant job openings for every new Supply Chain grad in Canada. After the COVID-19 crisis began, Supply Chain Canada’s President and CEO, Christian Buhagiar, recently estimated that 70% of Canadian businesses are facing some level of Supply Chain disruption.

It’s an unprecedented time for Canadian Supply Chains, and because of that, we expect demand for Supply Chain people to remain high. Companies who have temporarily frozen their hiring need to prepare for another new normal in the coming weeks: as hiring begins to unfreeze, expect to walk into a crowded marketplace.

Across the industry, companies who unfreeze their hiring will find their competitors doing the same. This will compound a market that was already difficult for hiring managers. You can’t expect that hiring will be easy. That’s why it makes sense to prepare.

COVID-19 has brought about a rapid economic downturn, but that doesn’t mean that massive numbers of great Supply Chain candidates will all of a sudden be unemployed and on the market when you unfreeze your hiring. During the last recession, we found in our recruitment practice at Argentus that, while there were a few more professionals on the marketplace, companies’ demand for Supply Chain people increased: in a time of economic contraction, the ability to control costs and improve efficiency is paramount. That’s Supply Chain’s bread and butter. And companies who assumed that it would be easy to find great candidates struggled.

The fact is, even if there are more Supply Chain professionals on the market in a few months – which isn’t a sure thing, given the extraordinary demands being placed on Supply Chains the world over – you can’t guarantee that they’ll match your particular skills needs. Candidates newly on the marketplace aren’t likely to have the highly specialized skills needed for many of today’s Supply Chain roles.

So with that point made, here’s our perspective on the biggest things that companies can do to prepare:

  • Interview by video if you can for existing searches. It goes without saying that the sooner you unfreeze your hiring process, the sooner you can get ahead of competitors who are still frozen. Keep in mind that you’re competing not only against direct competitors in your industry, but also companies in like industries who need the same kinds of skills. (For example, Food Production companies are also competing for talent with Consumer Goods and Pharmaceutical companies).
  • Formulate a plan for immediate hiring needs. Evaluate your immediate and medium-term needs for Supply Chain people in front-line roles so that you can hit the ground running when you unfreeze. This means identifying compensation, skills competencies, and talent sourcing strategies. Developing a plan is the best way to make sure you hit the ground running on day 1 when hiring restarts, and avoid losing out to the other companies who are in a currently frozen position and are making similar plans.
  • Take a pause to think about strategic needs. This crisis has forced Supply Chains everywhere to adapt. It’s worth using this time to consider your medium-long term strategic Supply Chain position. What kind of transformation can you undertake to make your Supply Chain more agile and responsive? Develop a similar plan to above to identify these needs for when you unfreeze hiring. This is even more crucial than for more transactional roles, as strategic people will be the hardest to find – and companies the world over will be looking for the transformational game-changers who can make their Supply Chains more resilient. Will you be pivoting your offering, going into new markets, expanding your verticals? Those plans require strategic Supply Chain muscle as well. The sooner you identify those needs, the better.
  • Consider contingent staffing if you haven’t before. Last week, we blogged about how contingent short-term staffing represents an alternative option for companies responding to COVID-19’s demands on your Supply Chain. The other factor to consider here is that contingent resources can be brought on quicker than permanent employees, and they’re often better equipped to slot into roles – both strategic and tactical ones – without extensive training and onboarding.
  • Think about your outsourcing options. When the floodgates reopen, it’s possible that your internal talent sourcing resources will be stretched thin and won’t be able to cover all your bases. Outsourced recruitment partners will be valuable to organizations when needs increase, but they can get started now: even if you’re unable to close new hires at this moment, a recruitment partner like Argentus, who works on a contingent model, can begin sourcing and identifying candidates without any upfront cost to give you an advantage going forward. You can take the process as far as you’re able to now, including video interviews, offer negotiation, and preliminary onboarding with an open start date.

It’s a trying time for everyone, with uncertainty in the air. But one thing is sure: this period will end. As you work to deal with the day-to-day challenges, it’s worth preparing a strategy for how to attract Supply Chain talent when everyone else will be trying to do the same, all at once.

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