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It's time to address the supply chain talent shortage

by James Gherardi on 20 Aug 2018
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The supply chain is facing a talent shortage. And organisations need to be doing more to invest in succession planning within the function.

Our recent Supply Chain Risk Survey 2018 revealed that 71% of supply chain professionals were recruited into their current role from external sources rather than being promoted internally. This suggests that there is work to do in supply chain succession planning strategy and management, with some investigation needed into what is causing the capability gap.

Preparing for the future

The challenge is how do you bring the practicality of managing an end-to-end supply chain operation into the classroom so that you have effective leaders for the future?

It’s very much up to employers and academic institutions to work together to ensure the right set of skills are available in the marketplace. Particularly around the use of technology, IT and innovations such as 3D printing in the supply chain.

Over the last few years, there has been a drive towards having fewer people but of a better quality working in an organisation. But do these few high calibre individuals need to come from external sources? It's not just about a lack of succession planning strategy. Companies value the insight that people coming from a different industry can bring. They are realising that they need to be looking to not only competitors but to others in the industry and other FMCG organisations who are innovating in the world of supply chain. This brings a whole new mindset that enables them to think about things differently.

Many organisations are also not thinking proactively in terms of what the future skill set for the supply chain is going to look like. But those who are preparing for the next ten years are seeing a very different picture to the legacy operating model that has been held for the last twenty.

The diversity challenge

Diversity has long since been a challenge for the supply chain. Take the gender split. There tends to be an even mix of men and women at university level and in entry level roles. However, what we then tend to see is attrition of female talent as time goes on and levels of seniority increase.

We need to identify and provide solutions for the driving forces behind this trend. For instance, we’re seeing a problem in retaining women post-maternity leave. Organisations need to create the right sort of pathway back to work and a return environment that stops this pattern from recurring.

Attracting new talent

The supply chain function recognises talent shortages as a problem. In fact, 72% of those who responded to our survey said they thought their workforce issues are going to increase in some way.

The unavoidable fact is that we don’t have enough people in the UK workforce today to meet the requirements that businesses have. This is primarily, but not exclusively, from a blue-collar worker perspective. We are facing white-collar worker shortages too.

There is a growing realisation that other countries have been more proactive in STEM education than we have been in the UK. The UK has to do a lot more to create a buzz around why STEM subjects are interesting and to encourage people to study them. Issues like gender diversity are also less of a problem in other countries, particularly in Eastern Europe.

For blue-collar workers, there needs to be a ten-year vision. Technology is inevitably going to create more automation, and organisations need to be thinking about what the workforce will need to look like in this new environment.

However, there are some manufacturing processes that companies won’t be able to automate without a significant step change in CapEx performance. Instead, they will need to maintain a relatively steady stream of cheap labour that doesn’t turn over very often. And that’s where we are seeing a big risk at the moment - we are losing a lot of the bulk blue-collar workers, many of which are returning to Mainland Europe.

The time has come for a shift to take place. But that shift needs to come in the form of; what’s our short, our medium and our long-term goals? In the short-term, it’s about how we create a more welcoming environment for all our EEA workers, as well as recognising the shift towards greater automation and what this means for the workforce of the future. Companies need to start thinking about their ten-year vision, how they can create an attractive environment for a diverse group of workers, and investing in an appropriate succession planning strategy.

In our Supply Chain Risk Survey 2018 we explored the biggest challenges for the supply chain function, how organisations are dealing with current risk factors, and how much of a role transformation is playing within the function. To download your copy of the report, click the link below.

Supply Chain Risk Survey Report 2018

Topics: Succession planning, Supply chain, Automation, Diversity

James Gherardi

Written by James Gherardi