Overcoming a shortage of supply chain talent

By ToolsGroup Editorial Team • 15 Aug 2018

There is a shortage of supply chain talent. Supply Chain Insights reports that more than half of all companies are seeing an increase in employee turnover and experiencing unfilled job openings. In certain areas the problem is much worse. One senior manager at Boeing said he saw demand for supply chain professionals exceed existing talent by a factor of six to one.

So there is a need to think proactively about supporting existing employees and recruiting new hires, particularly among millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). We wanted to share some of the latest recommendations on this topic.

  1. Streamline your hiring process – A recent survey by Ajilon, a professional staffing firm, found that the average hiring process takes 43 days. This is almost three weeks longer than the 23 days a millennial candidate expects the process to take from start to finish. You can lose great prospects by simply allowing other firms to “close the deal” faster. Find ways to shorten your hiring cycle.
  2. Understand your team’s career needs – Most millennials don’t end up in supply chain by accident. According to an October 2017 APICS Millennials in Supply Chain study, 66% of them hold undergraduate or graduate degrees in supply chain, compared to only 19% of their senior managers. This dedication to a supply chain career brings different expectations. APICS says a lack of career advancement is a primary reason that employees leave their jobs. Yet a recent Gartner research report says that only half of individual contributors have a defined career path. A well-defined career path keeps employees onboard.
  3. Promote diversity and meaningful work – The same APICS study found that some of the highest rated attributes that millennials wanted in their employers were diversity, feeling connected to the big picture, and meaningful work.
  4. Work on soft skills – Soft management skills may not be hiring criteria or taught in manufacturing environments. But these are skills employees often need and want, so it’s an opportunity to both build organizational capabilities and improve employee retention.
  5. Hire and properly compensate female applicants – The number of women in supply chain is large and growing. The APICS study found that 39% of 2017 survey respondents were female, up from 24% the previous year. But firms often don’t pay enough attention to their needs, including addressing compensation gaps.
  6. Don’t chase “purple squirrels” – With a labor shortage it’s tempting to consolidate multiple responsibilities into one job, which raises the bar for anyone needing to fill the position, and making it less likely that any one candidate will be able check all the previous experience boxes. A 2017 Logistics Management article “Labor Crisis: A proactive approach to filling logistics jobs” says companies often pass on qualified, intelligent candidates with 70 or 80% of the necessary skills and experience, hence “chasing purple squirrels”.
  7. Embrace new technologies – Younger “digital natives” expect technology to solve problems. They want to associate with a progressive workplace that embrace the best tools and they want the experience of working with newer more advanced technologies. Yet many see companies as old and set in their ways. Employers can combat this belief and offload low level tasks by leveraging innovative technologies such as machine learning, robotics and automation. This not only makes supply chain planning “sexier” and improves job satisfaction, but also adds to planning productivity and reduces the number of new hires required.