Supply Chain Shaman

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Buckle Up! I Think It Will Be a WILD Ride.

Supply chain talent is constrained. As we try to find a solution for the supply chain talent gap, there are more questions than answers.
Last week, I attended a Penn State networking conference on the topic. It was attended by 35 supply chain leaders.  This week, I continued to learn about talent development by facilitating an executive workshop at the Logility Connections conference.
To prepare for the conference, I worked with Karin Bursa, Vice President of Logility marketing, to complete a survey of 44 Logility clients on the state of talent in the supply chain. (I think that the responses from the Logility customers are typical of the industry.) In this blog post, I share insights from these two experiences.
At a high level, supply chain leadership teams are facing a talent shortage. It is driven by three forces: baby boomer retirement, growth in emerging economies, and growing recognition of the importance of supply chain as a discipline. No one has an answer; but here, I share some insights on the approaches teams are trying.

The Problem

Data and Understanding. Getting clear on the problem is the first step. Despite 30 years of supply chain evolution, as shown in Figure 1, executive teams are still struggling to understand supply chain.
In the last year, the talent gap has become more acute.  It is a common for executives to look at the situation and question why jobs have been vacant for SO long. Many wonder if “ the HR department is doing their job.” In short, it is a new era. There are new obstacles. Closing the gap of understanding by the supply chain executive team is the first place to start.
Figure 1. Supply Chain Management Pain

Open Jobs. Of the 44 respondents, 52% currently have open supply chain planning jobs. Business pain is acute in the area of demand planning.  The average time to fill a job is five months. I believe that this is only going to get worse.
Building retreads –stealing planners from other companies–is not going to be an answer.
I also believe that hiring students from supply chain programs at Universities will not resolve the problem. Why? The graduates from schools like Penn State are heavily recruited. As a result, only large companies with well-established recruiting programs will be successful with this approach.
Vertical Silos. While companies talk of breaking down vertical silos, only 27% of companies actively manage supply chain careers focused on cross-functional training (across make, source and deliver); and only 16% have a human resources department focused on the management of supply chain talent. As shown in Figure 2, in the survey responses, there is a clear gap in job progression opportunities. Skill requirements are also changing.  The planner today needs to be a combination of analytical skills, business knowledge and influence skills.
Figure 2. Today and Five Years

My Take

Demand is eclipsing supply. The gap will grow larger. Buckle your seatbelt….
There are no “Sure-fire” answers, but here are some things people are trying:
Invest and Grow your Own. I do not believe that the industry need for planners will be satisfied by the current programs at business schools. Graduating students are being courted heavily, and many have unrealistic expectations. I think that companies will need to actively recruit from other disciplines –engineers and math students– and train them through active cross-functional development programs to be supply chain leaders. The Johnson &  Johnson Gold Program or the Intel Supply Chain Masters Program are good reference models for the industry.
Actively Partner with Local Schools. Go to your local school and try to get momentum with internships and co-op programs. Work to train talent in disciplines that are not as great in demand.
Career Move for Customer Service Employees? One company was having good experience in training talented customer service representatives to be planners. They were investing in training and working on teaching long-term employees new skills. I find this to be an interesting idea. Senior customer service respresentatives know the customers and the supply chain constraints.
Oops! Plane is ready to land. Gotta wrap this up!  I am off to Australia to speak to a conference.  And, I will miss my flight. We will be continuing this discussion on the SCI Community.
Also, please join us for our first webinar on September 24th.  We will be sharing insights on supply chain financial benchmark data and evaluating how companies historically make trade-offs.  It is designed for anyone with an interest in metrics that matter (reference

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