Supply chain professionals say that finding people with the necessary skills is a major concern for their enterprise.
When the recession hit in 2008, and for a number of years thereafter, the stories were all about the lack of jobs in the U.S. The real story, one that holds great impact for the future, is that while so many people couldn’t find work, more than 3 million jobs remained open due to the lack of a skilled labor force to handle the specific tasks necessary. Whether it’s manufacturing, automotive, or IT, the fact is the move to automation and other technological advances has forever changed the skillsets needed for these and other industries. And that includes the supply chain.
Every year, Deloitte asks supply chain executives what the major issues are for their profession and what they are doing to address these issues. The 2015 Supply Chain Survey from Deloitte reveals the concern that supply chain executives have regarding a void in the workforce, when it comes to management and leadership, for the 21st century supply chain. The survey quotes Linda Topping, vice president and chief procurement officer with Colgate-Palmolive Co, who said, “Supply chain management is getting exponentially more complex, so supply chain talent is the price of admission for the next decade.”
That this is an issue that may become even more concerning is evident when executives indicated whether they were extremely or very confident that their supply chain organization had the competencies required. The confidence level was different for those respondents that were considered leaders or followers in the industry.(Leaders were those who were rated by their executives as significantly above average when it came to inventory turnover and deliveries that were on time and in full).
- 38% of all respondents were very confident that their organization had the necessary talent today; but 44% of that same number felt they would have that necessary talent in five years.
But break that number down into leaders vs. followers and there is a striking discrepancy:
- 34% of supply chain followers are confident they have the talent in their organization today; but 41% felt they would have that talent five years from now
- 87% of supply chain leaders expressed confidence that their organization has the necessary skills today; but that number actually drops to 77% of a confidence level in five years. The survey doesn’t posit a reason for this drop. One can speculate that it may possibly be due to an understanding of how quickly technology is changing mixed with a concern for the available talent to manage that new and ever-changing technology.
The survey also asked about 13 evolving technical capabilities, some in relative widespread use today and others that are more forward-looking, like artificial intelligence. Optimization tools and demand forecasting are the most widely used; but a full 70% of responding executives indicated that they were using 12 of the 13 capabilities today or expect to do so in the future. Along with new technologies, supply chain executives are also anticipating a transformation in the profession where the supply chain takes on a number of new responsibilities. In the past, supply chain executives occupied a tactical position in the enterprise. Now, with globalization and all the additional complexities that brings, the tactical responsibilities have shifted to much more strategic ones. And that switch from tactical to strategic is where the concern is when it comes to having access to the right talent. When respondents were asked about a range of competencies supply chain leadership needed to possess and how much more important those competencies would become, the biggest jump occurred in strategic thinking and problem solving, 43% felt they currently had an excellent or very good current performance, but 74% indicated this was going to be a huge asset going forward.
According to Deloitte, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there will be significant growth in supply-chain related jobs over the next five years. And, the survey states that “the talent qualified for these increasingly high-skill positions is scarce. Already, some observers believe the demand for supply chain professionals might exceed supply by a ratio of six to one.” In fact, the survey found that close to 75% of respondents were finding it difficult to recruit senior supply chain leadership. That may be because the competencies required today are so different from those required in the past.
Finding this talent is going to be an ongoing challenge, but the survey found that leading supply chain performers are outpacing industry laggards by employing a wide range of practices to find the talent they need. Among these are: increasing diversity, creating both formal and informal development programs, and using nontraditional methods to recruit. While 47% of supply chain leaders are using nontraditional recruitment methods, only 15% of followers are doing so today. But in a bow to reality, companies expect those methods to grow in importance in the future, with 70% of leaders and 53% of followers seeing this as a primary route to finding the necessary talent.
What is abundantly clear is that for those currently seeking a career path that will offer great opportunities, the supply chain looks like a promising road to follow.