Archive for the "Talent" Category


Why You Should Hire People for Their Superpowers

Why You Should Hire People for Their Superpowers

Great people don’t always focus on expressing their superpowers at work out of a fear of limiting their scope. Here’s how employers can identify and coach employees to work to their fullest potential.

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

In people management and hiring, we might assume that we’re emphasizing what our employees are best at. “Play to your strengths” is one of the biggest truisms of business, and life in general. If the people we’re managing – or hiring – are talented, we might assume that they’re working to their full potential in their roles. The cream rises to the top in any organization, but how often are we failing to hire and manage talented people based on what they’re truly best at?

A great new article from executive coach Whitney Johnson in the Harvard Business Review details how employers can help their teams play to their strengths. More than strengths, actually: Johnson offers strategies for identifying and coaching employees based on their superpowers – the things that come most easily, the things that those employees are not always willing to boast about.

People sometimes undervalue their own superpowers because the tasks associated with them feel “too easy” compared to hard-won skills. But let people focus on their superpowers and real opportunities for innovation start to spring forth. Click To Tweet

As Johnson puts it, people sometimes undervalue their own superpowers because the tasks associated with them feel “too easy” compared to hard-won skills. But let people focus on their superpowers and real opportunities for innovation start to spring forth.

Often you can spot superpowers in the wild; some people are such high performers that it’s obvious what they’re best at, and they’ve found their way into a role that utilizes those skills. But the HBR article makes the point that great people don’t always focus on expressing their superpowers at work out of a fear of limiting their scope. It’s rare that you find someone who’ll put what they’re truly a genius at on their resume – either out of a desire not to boast, or to present a more balanced profile.

The article identifies some strategies for managers to identify their team’s “superpowers.” They encourage managers to ask their employees a few key questions:

  • What exasperates you? Ask people if there’s anything in their job that frustrates them when other people don’t understand it easily.
  • What compliments do you dismiss? The article makes a great point that people tend to downplay the things that they’re best at – the things that come most naturally to them – out of humility or because they feel “easy.” If someone regularly dismisses compliments around a certain task or deliverable, that’s a sign that thing might be their superpower.
  • What do you think about when you have nothing to think about? In downtime, our brains regularly come back to the things that stimulate us most – the things our minds gnaw at that we can’t let go. Leaders should try to find out their employees’ fixations, because – through coaching – these can develop into passions and ultimately superpowers.

But why stop at coaching and development? We think that companies should strive to adopt this approach for hiring as well: as much as possible they should hire employees for their superpowers, rather than their ability to carry out an over-wide range of tasks.

For example, in Strategic Procurement: is someone particularly elite at communicating and building relationships? Assign them specifically to build buy-in from internal stakeholders across the business, and act as a point-person between those internal clients and the sourcing group. Leave the sourcing to those whose “superpowers” are evaluating the supplier marketplace, or negotiation, rather than structuring your department around a bunch of generalists.

Does someone have a deep understanding of a particular category, for example marketing spend, perhaps from working on the other side of the fence? Hire them for that category. These are just a few examples of how we think companies can adopt the “superheroes” approach to hiring.

Companies should tailor job descriptions towards key deliverables, and consider including the questions mentioned above in the job interview process, as a means of trying to uncover what comes easiest to job candidates – which also happens to be the areas where they’re most likely to innovate.

Budgets, organizational structure, and directives from senior leadership will often be impediments to this approach, but specialization is the name of the game in improving efficiency, which is after all what Supply Chain Management and Procurement are all about.

Related posts:

social media white paper download

Archive for the "Talent" Category


Should You Let Your Employees Work from Home?

Should You Let Your Employees Work from Home?

Considering instituting a work from home policy for your business? Ask yourself these three questions first.

As the supply chain becomes increasingly digital, many employers may be considering implementing a work from home policy. After all, we know one way to attract millennial talent is to allow for this kind of flexibility.

But before you make the decision to open the door to a work from home arrangement, consider these three questions.

3 questions to ask before implementing a work from home policy

1.      Are your employees organized and self-motivated?

Ask any employee who works remotely, and they’re very likely to tell you that working from home makes them happier and more productive. And they aren’t necessarily wrong. There’s certainly evidence to suggest that with today’s technology, there’s essentially no downside to working from home, and it does often enhance productivity.

But working from home isn’t for everyone. Writing for the Harvard Business Review, marketing strategist and Duke University Professor Dorrie Clark suggests that workers considering a work-from-home arrangement first take a moment to introspect and understand how they work best.

According to author Natalie Sisson, “If you’re good at managing your own time, and you’re productive and have discipline, you’ll be able to do work from anywhere. But if you need to be in one place, and you need to go into an office, or need to be surrounded by the same people all the time, it probably won’t work for you.”

2.      Is there a wealth of local talent?

One of the less-often-considered factors when businesses consider remote work arrangements is actually an important potential benefit for employers. Not every location has a tremendous amount of local talent, but that doesn’t have to limit your business. If you’re in an area where finding qualified employees is a challenge, making remote options available can be a big resource — essentially, the world is your oyster!

Not every location has a tremendous amount of local talent, but that doesn’t have to limit your business. If you’re in an area where finding qualified employees is a challenge, making remote options available can be a big resource. Click To Tweet

Consider having remote hires come onsite for training, team-building, or orientation, and make sure they’re equipped to meet the requirements of their positions. Once that initial foundation is laid, and expectations are clear, they can work from anywhere in the world — and save you the office space.

3.      How much collaboration is required?

Are you considering remote work options for positions that require extensive collaboration with other employees? If so, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it does require some additional forethought.

With the technology available today, remote collaboration should theoretically be a piece of cake. But it’s important that everyone be on the same page about expectations. If remote workers are needed in a scheduled daily meeting, for example, it’s important that that expectation be made clear from the outset.

It’s also crucial to make sure that remote workers are given the resources they need to collaborate with their colleagues, and that they have a good understanding of the technology they’ll be using.

Work from home arrangements can be beneficial for employees and employers alike. But it’s important to consider all the variables to ensure that it’s the right thing for your business.

Related posts:

social media white paper download

Archive for the "Talent" Category


In This Job Market, More Companies are Lowering Experience Requirements

In This Job Market, More Companies are Lowering Experience Requirements

In today’s job market, candidates are in such high demand, companies are posting positions with little or no experience requirements.

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

On the Argentus blog, we’ve spent the past few months charting the strong job market and its effects on hiring. My, how things have changed. A few short years ago, publications were writing about how employers weren’t bothering to hire for their open positions. Now, candidates are in such high demand, companies are more and more doing something that would be considered radical in the previous economy: posting positions with no experience requirements.

Companies like Microsoft, Bank of America and Github, are in particular relaxing education requirements and looking at candidates who don’t have degrees for positions that would have required a degree during the recession. Click To Tweet

Kelsey Gee at the Wall Street Journal gave some frontline reporting about the talent picture in the U.S. economy, which is beginning to see strong wage growth follow historically low unemployment rates. She charts how more companies are becoming flexible in their hiring process, to the point of doing away with experience requirements for some positions completely. We’ve written before to argue that companies should hire people for their potential – especially junior employees – and in this market it seems that more companies are putting this into practice.  Companies like Microsoft, Bank of America and Github, are in particular relaxing education requirements and looking at candidates who don’t have degrees for positions that would have required a degree during the recession.

Alicia Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University, has argued that in times of recession companies tend to raise job requirements, like in 2008. In times of expansion – like we’re seeing now – companies become more flexible in their requirements to compete for talent, a practice Modestino calls “Down-skilling.”

At first, it might be easy to assume that companies are only doing this for transactional or administrative positions, but the Wall Street Journal interviewed the President of SCM talent group – a Supply Chain Recruitment firm in the U.S. – who said that companies are re-evaluating their requirements for Supply Chain Managers and other strategic positions. He said that his recruitment firm has been turning away clients who want to fish for underpaid or unaware applicants instead of bolstering education, experience and compensation levels in order to compete.

At Argentus, we’re working in the same vertical in Canada. Candidates in our market are in such high demand that we’ve been doing the same.

Anecdotally, we’ve seen a small uptick in roles for high-potential entry level grads in Supply Chain Management – (though still not as many as we’d like to see, with the high number of new grads that come to us!) Companies are becoming slightly more willing to relax requirements on the junior end to hire quickly; in a hiring market as strong as this one, “entry level” can actually mean entry level instead of, paradoxically, requiring at least 3 years of experience. But companies should be more flexible, at least if they want to actually hire instead of kicking tires.

In strong job markets, companies can’t afford to hire the same way they did during a recession. More employees in Procurement and Supply Chain are waking up to their own value, and the strong job market is compounding an already-considerable talent crunch. Hiring managers can’t afford to practice magical thinking in their hiring in this economy – the type of thinking that says, “if we post it, they will come,” or that treats employees like they have no leverage in the process.

The WSJ outlined three options that companies have to keep down hiring costs and secure talent in this market:

  • Offer more money up front
  • Retrain current staff to upskill them for changing requirements, or:
  • Become more flexible in their job requirements.

All three are valuable options, but for some reason the third one has always been a bit of a third rail. Hiring is a risk, and companies don’t want to hire someone who can’t do the job. But just because someone hasn’t done the exact same thing before, or just because they don’t have a degree, or just because they’ve done it before, but in another country, doesn’t mean they can’t do it.

There will always be lots of positions with considerable requirements that can’t be flexed away: a Director of Vendor management who’s conducting a business transformation obviously needs to have done that in the past. A Senior Manager tasked with setting up a totally new Supply Chain needs the deep base of knowledge and connections that certain experience provides. The necessity of strong experience and education requirements makes sense for some positions.

But for a Supply Chain Analyst, or a Buyer role, companies are well-served to relax hard-and-fast requirements and treat applicants on a case by case basis. Assess skills, assess technical and analytical capability, without requiring that candidates fit a specific experiential profile.

In our interviews with senior Supply Chain and Procurement leadership, one thing we hear again and again is that strong business acumen and soft skills – in other words, potential – is more important for junior employees than specific education requirements. So if the Wall Street Journal report is accurate, and more companies are waking up to this line of thinking, you know what?

Bring it on.

Related posts:

social media white paper download

Archive for the "Talent" Category


What’s the Cost of Bad Leadership in Procurement?

What’s the Cost of Bad Leadership in Procurement?

Bad leadership in procurement has the potential to sink a company’s reputation, making it difficult to hire at all levels below it.

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

Everyone knows that a bad hire can be really costly to a business. When you account for hiring, training, and onboarding costs, plus the opportunity cost of not hiring a successful employee – not to mention the impact on workplace culture – hiring the wrong person can set a company back tens of thousands of dollars. This is something that people have written about widely across the vast array of blogs about talent.

But what are the costs of hiring the wrong employee (or employees) at the leadership level of a business?

It’s something we’ve been thinking about recently at Argentus. As a firm that helps companies hire at all levels, we have our ears to the ground about the costs that companies bear when leadership issues have hurt their reputations in the marketplace. So particularly in Procurement – one of our core areas of recruitment expertise – what’s the cost of hiring the wrong leadership?

In short, it’s this: a bad hire at the junior level costs lots of money, but a bad hire at the leadership level has the potential to upset the apple cart and sink a company’s reputation, making it difficult to hire at all levels below it. Having the wrong leader in place can create a noxious effect that filters down into senior managers, managers, sole contributors, and junior employees. Procurement sometimes struggles to get buy-in from executives and stakeholders, and having mishandled leadership can make this task even more difficult for everyone in the organization.

Even if it’s a company with a storied history and a powerhouse brand as an employer, word always gets out if the wrong leadership is in place within any specific function. It means that individuals won’t apply for jobs. They won’t respond when recruiters contact them about certain opportunities.  At a certain point, it becomes hard to find recruiters who are even willing to help hire for open roles at the company. Given that recruiters, especially those who work on a contingent basis, are usually all over clients trying to send them candidates, if a recruiter won’t work with a company, you know something must be wrong.

As we’ve written about a lot, the marketplace for talent in Procurement and Supply Chain is particularly tight in this strong economy. Companies are battling to bring in star performers who can enact business transformations, implement total cost of ownership models, boost their vendor and risk management, and modernize their Procurement as the function evolves for the future. And if your Procurement leadership develops a negative reputation in the marketplace, attracting those individuals becomes simply impossible.

We should clarify what we mean by bad leadership in Procurement.

We all know it when we’ve seen it, but there are a few traits that ineffective leaders have in common: quite often, they’re individuals tasked with leadership of a Strategic Sourcing organization who don’t have boots on the ground experience in Procurement. They often don’t have the war wounds to understand the function from bottom to top. Strategy and vision are important, but subject matter expertise helps leaders gain credibility with the managers and analysts who are expected to execute that vision.

We all know it when we’ve seen it, but there are a few traits that ineffective leaders have in common: quite often, they’re individuals tasked with leadership of a Strategic Sourcing organization who don’t have boots on the ground… Click To Tweet

It’s not absolutely necessary for a CPO or VP of Procurement to have done every job in the function. But if they haven’t, it’s important for them to be able to be humble enough to recognize the subject matter expertise of the people they’re working with – especially if they’re expected to bring changes to the organization. A great leader will admit the gaps in their own knowledge, and work to figure out how they can combine their strengths with those of their team. A bad leader will act like they understand every detail of every Procurement process and category – even if they don’t.

Beyond that, in our experience, the biggest issue with troubled Procurement leadership often comes down to soft skills. For a function that often comes down to negotiation, relationship-building, and getting buy-in, people skills are everything. Ineffective leaders will micromanage, yell, and show a lack of respect for junior employees. How can a leader expect to get buy-in from executives if they can’t build relationships with their own team members? The best leaders in Procurement will empower their teams to pursue cost savings, minimize risk, and increase value without watching them like a hawk.

Leadership is a topic so complex it’s inspired a cottage industry of books and academic research – so we can’t hope to address everything about how to hire effective leaders. But what can companies do to make sure they don’t risk the almost-priceless commodity of their employer brand by installing bad leadership? Be very careful about the leaders that you hire. These individuals should either be subject matter experts, or be very willing to learn from their team-members. When interviewing prospective hires, try to assess their ability to be empathetic and build consensus, and be wary about boasts that they can enact sweeping changes through their force of will alone.

If you can’t, you might be risking more than just the time it took to hire.

Related posts:

effective content strategy

Archive for the "Talent" Category


For 64% of Marketers, Social Media Management Is Just One of Their Jobs

For 64% of Marketers, Social Media Management Is Just One of Their Jobs

Too many supply chain businesses are devoting inadequate resources and personnel to social media management.

Let’s be honest. It’s time for the supply chain to start taking social media management seriously. Even when we think we’re embracing the future, too may supply chain companies are stuck in the past when it comes to the way they think about marketing — and particularly the role of social media.

A robust and effective social media strategy needs to be just that — a carefully designed and well-thought-out strategy, rather than simply something that an already overworked marketer adds to his or her plate. Click To Tweet

Case in point: the latest Social Media Marketing Industry Report indicates that for nearly two-thirds of marketers, managing social media marketing for their business is just one of their jobs.

Let’s think about that for a moment. That means that only one-third of the 5,700 businesses surveyed are prioritizing social media management to an adequate degree. For the other two-thirds, the vast and time-consuming task of social media management is squeezed into someone’s job description essentially as an afterthought.

If your business falls into that 64%, this is your wakeup call. Used to its fullest, social media is an immensely valuable set of tools for supply chain marketing. These platforms help brands increase visibility, establish themselves as thought leaders, attract new leads and customers, and much more.

If you’re not convinced (and you should be), take a look through Fronetics’ recent survey report on the benefits of social media for supply chain and logistics industries.

Social media management is no easy task

The thing about social media that so many businesses get wrong is that it’s not an easy task. Maybe you’re a marketer who’s been tasked with managing your brand’s social media efforts — on top of the rest of your responsibilities. It might have sounded like fun at first, essentially getting to scroll and post on Facebook for a few minutes out of the day. But chances are, you’re realizing that it’s a much bigger task than you thought.

A robust and effective social media strategy needs to be just that — a carefully designed and well-thought-out strategy, rather than simply something that an already overworked marketer adds to his or her plate.

For your business to truly take advantage of the benefits that social media can offer, you either need to devote adequate resources to it, or consider outsourcing it.

Is outsourcing right for you?

Supply chain companies are increasingly reaping the benefits of outsourcing their marketing efforts, particularly social media, as it allows them to focus on core competencies and improve productivity. As you consider trusting a professional with your social media, consider these 6 signs that outsourcing might be right for you.

The bottom line: if you’re frustrated that your social media management efforts are not as fruitful as you would like, chances are, you’re not giving them a chance. For social media to work for you, you need to devote the resources it demands — whether in house or out.

Related posts:

social media white paper download

Archive for the "Talent" Category


Are We Facing the End of Supply Chain Management?

Are We Facing the End of Supply Chain Management?

A new article discusses the way that automation, AI and big data are transforming the industry. It raises the alarm that supply chain management will soon cease to exist, only to assert that it will still exist, just in a very different form.

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

A new article in Harvard Business Review has been generating some automation-related controversy in the Supply Chain Community, as well as lots of buzz and interesting conversation. Naturally, we at Argentus want to weigh in. Titled, “The Death of Supply Chain Management,” the article discusses the way that automation, AI and big data are transforming the industry. It raises the alarm that the function will soon cease to exist, only to – as these “is dead“ articles often end up doing – assert that it will still exist, just in a very different form.

Beyond the obviously clickbait headline – which we couldn’t help but indulge in ourselves – the article makes some fascinating predictions about the future of supply chains. But even more relevant to us at Argentus, it has some interesting forecasts about the future of supply chain talent in particular, in the coming world where automation is king.

Automation is one of the hotter topics in the supply chain community – as it is across the entire economy. As a major feature in McKinsey discusses, automation has already made a number of jobs in the field way less relevant, threatening to eliminate those jobs entirely. Many companies have already automated their front-line transactional purchasing activities. Automation has eliminated a number of blue-collar supply chain jobs in warehouses and distribution centres, and driverless trucks stand to transform the logistics field, eliminating the need for millions of truck drivers.

But many are alarmed that automation will replace white-collar workers as well. The HBR article talks about how more companies are automating functions like demand forecasting, which has long been seen as more of an “art” than an exact science. No longer.

In the authors’ words, “within 5-10 years, the supply chain function may be obsolete, replaced by a smoothly running, self-regulating utility that optimally manages end-to-end workflows and requires very little human intervention.”

Automation through digital technology isn’t really just about lowering labour costs, it’s about creating huge opportunities for companies to dive deep into data and create end-to-end visibility into their own supply chains. Click To Tweet

Automation through digital technology isn’t really just about lowering labour costs, it’s about creating huge opportunities for companies to dive deep into data and create end-to-end visibility into their own supply chains. This kind of visibility opens up huge opportunities, not only by lowering risk but also by letting companies become more strategic.

The HBR article outlines an interesting development: more retail and manufacturing companies are adopting “digital control towers” for their supply chains. These companies have physical rooms staffed with dozens of data analysts working in real-time to identify and squash challenges.

Picture an airport control tower, but for supply chain management: staffed 24/7, full of large screens full of 3d graphical representations of potential bottlenecks and inventory shortfalls all the way from order to delivery. These control towers are full of systems that can automatically correct for various issues, and they’re increasingly considered to be core aspects of company operations.

The authors outline how mining company Rio Tinto is using robotic train operators, cameras, lasers, and tracking sensors to monitor and fully automate its supply chain from train to port.

But do these developments hearld the end of the need for skilled Supply Chain professionals? Of course not.

A highly-automated “digital control tower” needs responsive individuals with deep understanding of how to solve Supply Chain challenges. An automated mining supply chain deep in the jungle, monitored in another country still needs people to monitor it and respond to issues.

Maybe unsurprisingly, the HBR article ends up saying that Supply Chain people will always be in demand, but that skill needs are changing, and we agree. People need to re-skill, up-skill, and educational institutions need to make sure that they’re training people with skills for the future and not the past. In the short term, executives who can manage people doing repetitive tasks (like transactional purchasing) need to learn how to manage information flows for more highly-specialized workers. Further down the ladder, the highest-demand analysts will be those who can draw insights from an ever-expanding pool of data and communicate them to senior leadership. Companies will need specialists with deep understanding of both technology and operations to design and implement automated supply chains – even more than they already do.

But beyond the trends that the HBR article outlines, we think they’re missing a key element: even if automation progresses to affect white-collar workers, even if data automates functions like supply planning, logistics, and sourcing, the human element will always matter. Companies will always need people who can build relationships with vendors when conducting large-scale Procurement. They’ll always need people who can negotiate contracts and rates, people who have the emotional intelligence to understand the psychology of the person sitting on the other end of the table, and arrive at a deal that drives value.

Machines will get better at the tactics, but the strategy will always be human, at least until the robots take over the world completely. (Which we don’t think will happen, by the way).

In the 19th century, luddites protested the adoption of machines in the British textile industry, fearing that they’d be out of a job. And they were. But while opportunities for weaving by hand disappeared, employment didn’t: the industrial revolution pushed new skillsets to the fore, creating a demand for people to manage production – leading to today’s supply chain function, by the way – while raising overall wealth and standard of living in the process.

While the rise of AI, big data and workplace automation has some important differences, we think it’s a worthwhile analogy: as with then, these new technologies will shift the employment landscape and put the squeeze on individuals with transactional or blue-collar skillsets. But supply chain professionals who can up-skill themselves, and become masters of the interpersonal skills that will never go away, will have more opportunities than ever before.

Take it from a company that’s on the front-lines of hiring in Supply Chain: while automation eliminates jobs at the lower-skilled end of the spectrum, demand for high-skilled candidates is higher than ever before, and only rising. So is Supply Chain Management on death’s door?

Not so fast.

Related posts:

effective content strategy