The Supply Chain Talent Gap, Explained

supply chain talent gap

What you need to know about the supply chain talent gap.

The supply chain talent gap has been called a “perfect storm.” Few topics are shrouded in such doom and gloom. Every report cites doomsday statistics of the impending crisis when, by 2025, 60 million baby boomers will exit the workforce, leaving a gigantic gap when 40 million millennials take their place. To make matters worse, the retirement exodus is only one factor contributing to the sinking ship. Future supply chain professionals need to master not only the hard analytical skills but also the soft leadership skills fueled by the transition from an industrial economy to an economy grounded in service and information. In numbers, it means only 20% of the workforce will possess the skills required of 60% of all new supply chain jobs.

But listen up, all you forward-thinking millennials and midlevel supply chain managers with cross-functional expertise. There’s some good news: The market can’t get enough of you.

Yes, amid all the dire facts, there is opportunity. There has never been a better time to be, so to speak, on the other side of the table — a college graduate or a motivated professional looking for a career with upward mobility? What other field of work can offer as much promise to new recruits and current employees as the supply chain industry?

Just as all reports predict a brewing crisis, they also tout talent management as the primary remedy. For a self-motivated individual, fresh out of college or in the midst of a corporate climb, this focus on professional development presents a smorgasbord of options. Many companies have taken note and adopted a strategy of action for recruiting and retaining new talent. A growing number of university program offerings reflect a strengthening partnership between academia and the supply chain industry. Many supply chain companies are building partnerships with academic programs to offer internship opportunities; a move that’s creating strong early relationships with students and will likely have a positive effect on future recruitment efforts. A company that can offer its current staff competitive salaries in addition to cross-functional training is much better positioned to meet the challenges of the talent shortage and the evolving nature and demands of the supply chain.

Another way companies within the logistics and supply chain industries are attracting top talent is through their use of social media. Considering the global reach and vast talent pool of LinkedIn’s 300 million users, the business-focused social network is helping companies with open positions that might require a unique and specific skill set to connect with candidates across the globe.

What’s clear is that companies that follow a plan of inaction will be left behind. This new talent pool will swiftly turn down a company that remains stuck on strict functional divisions and favors the old siloed approach to doing business. Many supply chain managers have grown up in such divided organizations themselves, so they have been slow to take appropriate action to retain and train talent, according to a Supply Chain Insights survey, leaving those better prepared with a competitive advantage.

If a company does not appeal to the desires of top candidates, individuals will take their talent elsewhere. And there will always be another company to welcome them. As Rebooting Work author Maynard Webb points out in a 2013 interview with Elance, in order for companies to remain competitive they’ll need to adapt to the modern workforce. “Companies have traditionally thought of people as a disposable resource,” he says. “They have valued their buildings much more than employees… this doesn’t make sense in a world where the best people can choose to work wherever they want. Businesses have to realize that some jobs can be done from anywhere, anytime, and save the brick and mortar buildings for the few jobs that demand a physical presence.”

Touting the unlimited opportunities and unparalleled growth in the supply chain field should be part of turning the tide. Sure, there is a lot of talk about doom, but mainly for those companies that fail to attract and retain top talent.

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