Supply Chain Talent: The Missing Link?

By November 6, 2012Supply Chain

Members of today’s supply chain teams are busy. Business complexity is rising and teams are trying to get to data and align the organization against supply chain objectives. It is not easy. Disparate systems and gaps in supply chain technologies lead the list. Supply chain talent falls midway on most lists. We think that it should be more important. Here I share insights from a recent talent study conducted in conjunction with Supply Chain Brain.

In the last decade, supply chain talent has increased in focus. Over 76% of companies have a supply chain organization, and 32% of companies have a dedicated HR team focused on supply chain human resources.  The primary focus is on new hire programs and onboarding of college recruits. Progress has been made in new hire recruiting with the average company having a supply chain HR department for seven years.

Figure 1.   Supply Chain Positions with Greatest Talent Shortage

The missing link in supply chain talent is mid-management. While many companies have focused on hiring entry-level talent from universities, the looming issue is turnover and a shortage of mid-level managers, especially in supply chain planning positions.  As shown in figure 1, the shift is fundamental.

While companies today are struggling with change management and the adoption of new business practices, the looming issue is upcoming baby-boomer retirements. The most important activity that supply chain leaders can take now to mitigate turnover and attrition in mid-management planning positions is to define clear job progression and career paths for mid-managers.

The pain is high and growing higher. Sixty percent of companies surveyed have open positions. The ability to recruit, train and develop employees is growing more difficult.  As shown in figure 2 below, the greatest challenge is supply chain planning.  While positions in customer service, transportation management and procurement are relatively easy to fill, the positions in mid-management, especially in supply chain planning leadership, are growing more difficult to recruit.  Today, the average company has 15% of jobs open and 42% are attempting to fill the positions from within. There is more demand than supply.

Figure 2.   Ease or Difficulty Filling Supply Chain Positions

The Answers Are Not Easy

So, what is the opportunity for supply chain leaders to mitigate issues with mid-management supply chain leader retention? The answer lies not with benefits, image or salary. Instead, the primary drivers to mitigate the pain are clear definition of career paths, the opportunity for cross training and skill advancement.

Interestingly, in the face of this looming issue, only 16% of companies are increasing their budget for supply chain training.  For manufacturers and distributors, current  training is typically left up to the individual or offered as part of a project. Only 18% of companies have a clear road map with a preset budget for supply chain leader training. This is problematic.

The answer lies in cross training, clear job definition with skill progression, and skill building. Employee turnover will be high, but those that build talent will fare better.  The clock is ticking. What are you doing about the missing link?

For the full report, check it out on Supply Chain Brain’s website. And, join us for our upcoming webinar with industry specialists to discuss the issue and the potential solution. (We had to cancel the webinar on November 8th due to the disruption of power in the Northeast. It will be rescheduled soon.)

For more on supply chain talent see this blog post.

Lora Cecere

Author Lora Cecere

Lora Cecere is the Supply Chain Shaman. A shaman interprets and connects an evolving world to a group of followers. Lora does this for supply chain. As the founder of Supply Chain Insights and the author of Supply Chain Shaman, Lora travels the world to chart the course of supply chain practices and disruptive technologies. Her blog focuses on the use of enterprise applications to drive supply chain excellence.

More posts by Lora Cecere

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • “the primary drivers to mitigate the pain are clear definition of career paths, the opportunity for cross training and skill advancement.”

    I think this holds true for any job field, not just mid-level supply chain managers. People want to know they are working for a company that is going to invest in their continued education and development. Younger generations are entering the workforce and they don’t want to sit on the same rung in the corporate ladder for years upon years. Your company has to be just as appealing to candidates as the candidates are to you.

  • Samantha Darnell says:

    As an undergraduate supply chain student currently recruiting for full time positions, I have seen these same sentiments expressed by supply chain recruiters. A common theme I have heard during the last few months is that companies are trying to hire college recruits who could be “fast-tracked” into management positions. This, of course, resonates with many students who equate “fast-tracked” to more responsibility, power, and a higher salary. But, the only way these high achieving students will stay long enough to realize the recruiter’s plan of filling a management vacancy a few years down the line is to keep them happy, challenged, and constantly learning. I completely agree with your suggestion of increasing supply chain training budgets to help solve this problem.

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