The Talent Deficit in Supply Chain and Some Solutions

The Talent Deficit in Supply Chain and Some Solutions

Original Source: The Globe and Mail Custom Content Group

There is a real deficit in talent within supply chain and the people in the front line of trying to fill those gaps are the specialist recruitment consultants. We spoke with two specialist recruitment consultants to ask them a bit about the problems that they are facing recruiting for the roles they are being increasingly relied on to fill.

Argentus, who are a specialist Supply Chain recruiter, gave a bit of background on the issues they are facing. They do quite a few interviews with senior executives in Supply Chain about the state of the market as part of their own content initiatives to help create articles which inform and help. What they have heard from quite a few of these Supply Chain executives is that there’s some anxiety about the Supply Chain talent picture going forward.

As anyone within the Supply Chain industry will realise, the field is only expanding in its strategic importance to business, and in 2012 the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council estimated that the economy would create 26, 852 Supply Chain jobs every year from 2012-2017. There’s a concern that as the baby boomers begin to retire it will become harder and harder to fill positions in Supply Chain. On the junior end, there’s also a concern that secondary and postsecondary schools aren’t doing enough to educate young people about the field’s immense career potential. Among the wider public, there’s still a perception that Supply Chain is a very transactional, “blue collar” function. This image is at odds with today’s Supply Chain Careers, which offer strategic potential, fast pace and global scope (as well as very good compensation).

As expert recruiters, we asked the specialists at Argentus some questions about the challenges and solutions they see within supply chain recruitment:

SCMA: What do you feel are the skills a new graduate needs to enter supply chain? If you were advising teens today, what skills or courses should they make sure they gain/take.

Argentus: It’s important for new graduates to have strong analytical skills, just as it always has been, but all-important “soft” skills have become increasingly crucial. These include verbal and written communication as well as presentation ability. Today’s Supply Chain professionals are working with a diverse set of internal and external stakeholders in organizations, and the ability to win, influence, and gain buy-in from those diverse interests is the key to success. Soft skills are a big part of how you achieve that. If a new graduate lacks those soft skills it’s going to be difficult to succeed, even if they’re strong analytically.

In terms of advice to teens, there are of course a number of universities offering great Supply Chain degrees. That being said, individuals from all sorts of disciplines or university degrees can succeed in Supply Chain provided they have math and analytical skills.

SCMA: Is there anything business can do to help change the perception of supply chain and attract more talent?

Argentus: This is a really important question and something we talk about frequently in our blogging and other content we produce. There’s a perception that Supply Chain is a transactional, blue-collar function and that perception is at odds with its strategic role, fast pace, global scope and growing influence within organizations. Supply Chain is a high-growth field, it pays well, and it’s important to get the next generation involved.

To an extent, the perception of Supply Chain is slowly but surely changing on its own as the wider business community wakes up to its strategic importance and potential to improve the bottom line. But from a perspective of building the next generation of talent, there’s still a lot to be done to help inform and inspire young people about the possibilities in the field.

My opinion is that business leaders need to get out into the world and act as evangelists for Supply Chain. This includes speaking at universities and high schools to get people interested, but also providing thought leadership through writing blogs, articles, using social media and other channels to help spread the word. At Argentus, we ourselves act as evangelists for Supply Chain. Our recruiters have spoken about how to get into the field at Colleges like Seneca and Humber, as well as the Rotman School of Management’s MBA program. Business leaders who engage in these kinds of outreach help the field at large, but they also help build their own organizations’ talent pipeline for the future. So it’s a really worthwhile activity for everyone involved.

SCMA: What do you feel business should be doing to future-proof supply chain skills as baby boomers start to retire in increasing numbers?

Argentus: The field is changing, to be sure, but more senior employees still have tons of valuable skills and wisdom to give. Businesses can help build mentor-mentee relationships between more senior Supply Chain professionals and the next generation of talent and ensure that those skills are passed on.

There’s also a big trend of established Supply Chain professionals taking on contingent (contract) roles – temporary, strategic and project-based assignments to help improve various aspects of organizations’ Supply Chains. Companies can leverage these contingent roles to have more senior professionals help educate their up-and-coming employees.

In terms of building that pipeline of talent at the junior end, organizations can hold workshops, do blogging, offer podcasts, engage in the various forms of outreach that I mentioned previously. If a young professional comes to them with an interest in the field, they should build a relationship and offer them advice even if there’s not an open role at that time. Young people today are technologically adept, versatile and very strong independent creative thinkers. They want to be part of decisions, and if organizations can embrace that they’ll gain a competitive edge.

In addition to speaking to Argentus about Supply Chain Recruitment, we also spoke to Neil Drew from Winchesters who also specialise in supply chain recruitment. Neil has 12 years recruitment experience and is a specialist in Procurement and Strategic Sourcing Recruitment.  He is a Director of Winchesters, a Supply Chain recruitment company based in Toronto. We asked Neil about transferrable skills, attracting people from outside the industry and future-proofing.

SCMA: Are there transferable skills? Do you ever recruit outside supply chain to fill supply chain jobs?

Neil Drew: Yes.  Most people fall into Supply Chain careers and not many people specifically train for it, so most people get into SC with their transferable skills.  The most common areas I see are people starting from the bottom and working their way up.  For example – someone starts in a basic Warehouse role, does really well, learns new skills like inventory control and scheduling and climbs the ladder into a senior Supply Chain role.  I have seen people start work as a driver, progress within a company and end up in a Transport or Logistics Management role. People with an Accounting, Administration or Law/Contracts background often develop and progress into Indirect Procurement type roles.

Having industry specific knowledge will also help people move into a Supply Chain role.  For example, an Engineer working for an Engineering company who wants a change should be able to move in Supply Chain career. Soft skills like communication, negotiation, analytical and relationship building skills all help, so if you are strong in these areas, it may open doors into the Supply Chain.

However, most of these moves are internal moves within a company.  People who have proven themselves as motivated, trustworthy employees, get the chance to develop.  It is very rare that you will be able to secure a new role with a new company with your transferable skills.  As a specialist recruiter, I hardly ever recruit someone with just transferable skills as my clients want more specific experience.

SCMA: How would you attract someone from outside supply chain into this area of work? What would you do to sell the position and future within the field or is it very employer-specific?

Neil Drew: I feel the best way to attract someone into the field is just education.  The Supply Chain has really diverse parts that offer so many different career options.  There will be at least one area that will appeal to an individual so you don’t really have to sell too hard.  It is a secure, commercial career that pays relatively well and is a growing sector.

Its’ biggest issue for attracting new people from the outside, is most people do not really know what it is, and are not aware of the different careers available.  I am sure anyone in the Supply Chain can relate to this – where you are at social event and someone asks you what you do for a living.  When you answer you are in the Supply Chain, Purchasing or Procurement, you then have to spend the next 10 minutes explaining what it is and what you do.  The general public are just not aware of the work we do.

SCMA: What do you feel business should be doing to future-proof supply chain skills as baby boomers start to retire in increasing numbers?

Neil Drew: Investing in new talent in terms of recruitment, training and career development.  As a specialist recruiter for Supply Chain professionals, I am extremely busy as my clients want perfect candidates in a candidate market with rapidly reducing.  If they were a bit more flexible in their needs and were willing to develop their new employees, they probably would not need me.

There are very few businesses out there, really developing their Supply Chain teams at a junior or entry level and then developing these employees.  Yes it is expensive and time consuming to develop individuals, but the businesses who are investing, will be at a competitive advantage in the near future when the baby boomers are gone, as long as they look after their employees and do not let them get poached by their competitors who did not invest.

If you’re looking to recruit for your supply chain roles, Argentus is one of Canada’s leading Supply Chain specialist recruiters.

Argentus Search Group Ltd
2 Berkeley St #117
Toronto, ON M5A 4J5

Winchesters is a recruitment agency specialising in Procurement, Purchasing and Strategic Sourcing.

Winchester Recruitment Services Inc
PO Box 51516
2140A Queen Street East
Toronto, ON M4E 3V7

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