FROM GAP TO CRI­SIS

LogisticsNews Middle East - - Report -

The sup­ply chain sec­tor is fac­ing a tal­ent short­age that is quickly es­ca­lat­ing from a gap to a po­ten­tial cri­sis. The US Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics re­ports that jobs in lo­gis­tics are es­ti­mated to grow by 26% be­tween 2010 and 2020, while one global study es­ti­mates that de­mand for sup­ply chain pro­fes­sion­als ex­ceeds sup­ply by a ra­tio of six to one. Oth­ers put those num­bers even higher.

“For every grad­u­ate with sup­ply chain skills there are six holes to be filled, and it could be as high as nine to one in the fu­ture,” warns Jake Barr, CEO of Blue­world Sup­ply Chain Con­sult­ing. The sit­u­a­tion is ex­ac­er­bated by the ex­o­dus of baby boomers from the work­force. Some stud­ies as­sert that 25 to 33% of the cur­rent sup­ply chain work­force is at or be­yond re­tire­ment age, and the back­fill pipe­line is in­ad­e­quate to sat­isfy re­plen­ish­ment de­mand. Lead­ing com­pa­nies un­der­stand they must act to re­solve this sit­u­a­tion or face the ef­fects of hav­ing the wrong kind of tal­ent to run their sup­ply chains. The po­ten­tial con­se­quences are wor­ry­ing – in some in­dus­tries the tal­ent gap could threaten the abil­ity of com­pa­nies to com­pete on the global stage. So, what are or­gan­i­sa­tions do­ing to ad­dress the prob­lem? To find out, DHL Sup­ply Chain sur­veyed over 350 sup­ply chain and op­er­a­tions pro­fes­sion­als in the five ma­jor re­gions of the world.

SUR­VEY RE­SULTS: HIGH-LEVEL TAKE­AWAYS

The fac­tor with the great­est im­pact on the tal­ent short­age is chang­ing job re­quire­ments. To­day, the ideal em­ployee has both tac­ti­cal/op­er­a­tional ex­per­tise and pro­fes­sional com­pe­ten­cies such as an­a­lyt­i­cal skills. 58% of com­pa­nies say this com­bi­na­tion is hard to find. But to­mor­row’s tal­ent must also ex­cel at lead­er­ship, strate­gic think­ing, in­no­va­tion, and high-level an­a­lytic ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Nearly 70% of sur­vey re­spon­dents list “per­ceived lack of op­por­tu­nity for ca­reer growth” and “per­ceived sta­tus of sup­ply chain as a pro­fes­sion” as hav­ing a high or very high im­pact on their abil­ity to find, at­tract and re­tain tal­ent. Only 25% of the sur­vey par­tic­i­pants say their com­pany views sup­ply chain as equally im­por­tant as other dis­ci­plines. In con­trast, 40% see sup­ply chain tal­ent’s value in a sit­u­a­tional con­text – i.e., ei­ther a com­mod­ity or cor­po­rate as­set, depend­ing on the level and po­si­tion.

Lead­ing com­pa­nies are work­ing on the short­age prob­lem. They are tak­ing steps to cre­ate more ro­bust tal­ent pipe­lines and de­velop their sup­ply chain work­force – through clear ca­reer pathing, ed­u­ca­tion, cul­tural adap­ta­tion, tal­ent devel­op­ment part­ner­ships, and other means. How­ever, one third of com­pa­nies sur­veyed have taken no steps to cre­ate or feed their fu­ture tal­ent pipe­line.

High de­mand is not the main rea­son for the short­age.”

A CLOSER LOOK: CAUSES AND EF­FECTS

With­out ques­tion, the over­all de­mand for sup­ply chain tal­ent is driv­ing a global short­age. 67% of re­spon­dents to the DHL sur­vey cited this as a high or very high fac­tor. But high de­mand is not the main rea­son for the short­age. Ac­cord­ing to the re­sponses, chang­ing job re­quire­ments is the big­gest sin­gle driver be­hind the short­age. 86% of re­spon­dents ranked this fac­tor high or very high, in terms of its ef­fect on com­pa­nies’ abil­ity to find the right tal­ent. It is rel­a­tively easy to find peo­ple who are tech­ni­cally fit for jobs – only 10% of sur­vey par­tic­i­pants say they have a prob­lem in this area. Find­ing tal­ent with solid pro­fes­sional com­pe­ten­cies is a bit tougher – 27% in­di­cate dif­fi­culty. But the real chal­lenge to­day comes when or­gan­i­sa­tions try to find tal­ent with both sets of at­tributes. Here, 58% re­port hav­ing had trou­ble.

In terms of ex­pe­ri­ence, en­try level peo­ple are easy to at­tract and hire. Mid­dle man­age­ment is harder to find—46% of the re­spon­dents in­di­cate a higher level of dif­fi­culty. But ex­ec­u­tive level beats both, with 73% rank­ing this cat­e­gory the most dif­fi­cult.

A re­lated sur­vey ques­tion asked what vari­ables im­pact or­gan­i­sa­tions’ sup­ply chain tal­ent sourc­ing and re­ten­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, the top scor­ing el­e­ments on this ques­tion all re­volved around sup­ply chain’s im­age as a ca­reer. The in­dus­try has known for years that it has an im­age prob­lem. The wide­spread per­cep­tion, es­pe­cially in emerg­ing mar­kets, is this: sup­ply chain is not as “good” a ca­reer as one in

fi­nance, op­er­a­tions, man­u­fac­tur­ing, prod­uct devel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing or sales.

While the in­dus­try has worked hard to change this per­cep­tion, judg­ing by the DHL sur­vey re­sults, it still has a long way to go. Nearly 70% of re­spon­dents list “per­ceived lack of op­por­tu­nity for ca­reer growth” and “per­ceived sta­tus of sup­ply chain as a pro­fes­sion” as hav­ing a high or very high im­pact on their sup­ply chain tal­ent man­age­ment en­deav­ours. In a re­lated find­ing, 59% of sur­vey par­tic­i­pants re­port hav­ing dif­fi­culty re­tain­ing tal­ent. Com­pa­nies them­selves may be part of the prob­lem. Only 25% of the par­tic­i­pants say their com­pany views sup­ply chain as equally im­por­tant as other dis­ci­plines. In con­trast, 40% see sup­ply chain tal­ent’s value in a sit­u­a­tional con­text – i.e., ei­ther a com­mod­ity or cor­po­rate as­set, depend­ing on the level and po­si­tion.

An­other is­sue that may af­fect ac­qui­si­tion and re­ten­tion is that or­gan­i­sa­tions ap­pear to strug­gle with in­te­grat­ing “old” and “new” ways of work­ing. 62% of sur­vey par­tic­i­pants re­port “cul­ture clashes” around such is­sues as how tal­ent wants or ex­pects to work, what kind of en­vi­ron­ment em­ploy­ees are will­ing to work in, and how they ex­pect to be man­aged.

Fi­nally, de­spite dire head­lines about the lack of a tal­ent pipe­line to back­fill for the baby boomer re­tire­ment bub­ble, only 37% of the DHL sur­vey pool rated an “ag­ing work­force” as hav­ing a high or very high im­pact on their or­gan­i­sa­tion’s tal­ent man­age­ment en­vi­ron­ment.

SKILLS AND STRATE­GIES FOR TO­MOR­ROW

Look­ing to the fu­ture, what skills will be re­quired for the sup­ply chain pro­fes­sional of 2020? In­ter­est­ingly, com­pared to the com­pe­ten­cies val­ued highly to­day, fu­ture re­quire­ments look very dif­fer­ent. The pri­mary em­pha­sis broad­ens to in­clude more strate­gic abil­i­ties. When asked to rank the most im­por­tant skills a sup­ply chain man­ager of the fu­ture must have, the top three re­sponses were lead­er­ship; strate­gic and crit­i­cal think­ing; and prob­lem­solv­ing skills, cre­ativ­ity, and imag­i­na­tion.

The bad news is that 32% of the com­pa­nies sur­veyed have not taken any steps to cre­ate or feed their sup­ply chain tal­ent pipe­line for the fu­ture. In a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment, where hu­man cap­i­tal pro­vides the in­tel­lec­tual, strate­gic, and op­er­a­tional ex­cel­lence that dif­fer­en­ti­ates win­ners from losers, such in­ac­tion seems a risky course in­deed. 42% do not have a tal­ent man­age­ment strat­egy in place to sup­port their needs over the next three years, and 15% don’t know whether such strat­egy ex­ists in their or­gan­i­sa­tion.

A POW­ER­FUL OP­POR­TU­NITY

The sup­ply chain in­dus­try has a clear chal­lenge ahead of it in tack­ling the tal­ent short­age is­sue. Com­pa­nies have made progress, but there’s still a long way to go. As such, there are tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­prove­ment. And the re­wards are worth the ef­fort. As a Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group study re­cently found, com­pa­nies that ex­cel in tal­ent man­age­ment in­creased their rev­enues 2.2 times as fast and their prof­its 1.5 times as fast as “tal­ent lag­gards”.

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