Exploring How to Retain the Top Supply Chain Talent in 2016

April 26, 2016


It’s 2016, and a number of economic trends are shifting the bedrock factors underneath the world of talent. The workforce is becoming nimbler, more mobile, and less tied to long-term, permanent employment. At the same time, continued economic recovery in the U.S. – as well as a shortage of talent in some key areas such as Supply Chain – is tightening the job market, and the best candidates are more prized than ever. (Check out our post from last week about how some companies are so desperate to keep the top Supply Chain talent that they’re resorting to suing them when they leave for competitors).

As this recent WSJ report outlines, talent is taking on more prominence in organizations’ big-picture decisions. Companies are using big data and social media to figure out where they’re going to open new offices – or relocate their headquarters – based on the availability of talent in specific regional markets, rather than assuming that the candidates will flow wherever the jobs might be.

A recent Hays/CIPS survey indicated that 64% of organizations plan to recruit for their Procurement function in the next year, but 75% of executives surveyed said that they had difficulties finding the right people.

Make no mistake, the market for talent is heating up and companies need to do all they can to retain their best, senior employees – the individuals who drive change towards more strategic processes, cut costs, and add to a positive workplace culture. The cost of replacing high performers can be devastating for companies – not just in terms of retraining, but in terms of the lost (as the recent lawsuits about Supply Chain talent demonstrate). So what does employee retention look like in the Supply Chain function in 2016? How does your organization work to make sure that the best individuals can thrive, grow, and (most importantly for companies’ bottom lines) stay on board?

Allow Employees to Have an Impact:

Supply Chain and its related functions – Procurement, Logistics, and Planning — are becoming more strategic. In the words of this recent article in UK magazine Supply Management, “the Procurement profession has come a long way since the days of sitting in an office signing purchase orders all day.” And yet too many organizations see the function as a static, transactional necessity instead of a source of growth and innovation within the business. Part of retaining and developing the best talent in Procurement is to be open to strategy, to continuous improvement, and to change. Identify individuals within your organization that can take on a more strategic role, and offer encouragement and support to help get buy-in from stakeholders in the business.

Encourage Collaboration:

Supply Chain is an inherently collaborative function. It touches on myriad aspects of your business – from the way that Operations intersects with Logistics to the way that Demand Planning brushes up against Sales. Procurement and Strategic Sourcing works with all aspects of a business, from the real estate category to information technology to marketing. So the thing that makes Supply Chain professionals feel like they’re stagnating in a role is a lack of collaboration. When employees feel like their role in Supply Chain is narrowly defined, without opportunities to find improvements in the business alongside peers in other functions, that’s when they start to feel like they should be looking for new opportunities. Your organization needs to do all it can to encourage collaboration across the Supply Chain, and break down overly-defined silos in terms of “who does what” with the goal of driving value.

Keep Your Technology Moving:

Obviously, one of the main factors driving Supply Chain’s increased relevance in global business is the growth of information technology. Organizations have access to untold amounts of data about buyers’ habits, but also suppliers’ habits. Data allows companies to look at the way product is made – and moves – on a more granular and specific level than ever. Yet so many companies are behind the 8-ball when it comes to their Supply Chain technology. The best employees in Supply Chain are highly connected. They’re networked with their peers, and they know what technologies allow companies to make their Supply Chain’s top class – instead of a back room, transactional function. Failing to invest in sophisticated technology leaves tons of valuable Supply Chain data on the table, while preventing your employees from growing their skills at the same pace as the rest of the field. Why would they stick around?

Be Humane:

The traditional things matter, too. In our conversations with top candidates, priorities such as stability, competitive salaries, work / life balance, and flexibility come up all the time. Lots of Supply Chain professionals are also looking for opportunities to travel to meet with international suppliers, as well as opportunities for further education and skills development through Supply Chain institutions. Factors such as flex time, opportunities to occasionally work from home, and commitment to sustainable Procurement practices come up very often with millennial workers looking to make a move. Since millennials account for 36% of the workforce, and are expected to move up to 46% by 2020, your company needs to compete with competitors in the humanity department – especially because Supply Chain talent is even more prized among the millennial set.

The secret of these employee retention techniques is that these practices won’t just keep high-performing, motivated employees from hopping to your competitors – they’ll actually also improve your Supply Chain in the process. It’s no secret that people are what gives companies competitive advantage. So invest in your Supply Chain employees’ growth, and you’ll encourage a virtuous cycle, developing employees who foster the kind of innovation that will keep your organization relevant and competitive into the future. logo_icon

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