The Supply Chain Talent Gap: Are We Addressing the Wrong Problem?

Yesterday, while planning a supply chain forum with some industry partners, I heard a resounding cry, “We need supply chain people!"  Today, I sat down at my desk and an online article referred to the 6:1 ratio of supply chain job openings to capable candidates. I'm sensing a theme here.

Whack_a_MoleTo confuse this problem, when you start asking hiring managers what they mean when they say that they want 'supply chain people,' they often give different answers.  Some refer specifically to procurement, others to demand planning and forecasting, some to merchandise planning and allocation, some to warehouse associates...the list goes on.

To respond to this supply chain talent gap, the industry is in 'full systems go' mode with relevant certifications, undergraduate, graduate, and professional education programs. Even companies like LeanCor have begun running down the online training path.

Yet, we’re missing something.  In a very pragmatic and myopic way, we are playing a sophisticated game of 'whac-a-mole.'  I've seen a similar pendulum swing in recent years for IT professionals - first we didn’t have enough talent, now we may not have enough in certain specialities. I’m wondering what the next 10 years will look like for supply chain.  While this activity at an individual level can be helpful in solving specific problems, I question whether we are addressing the wrong problem when it comes to the supply chain talent gap.

Supply chain-centricity is defined as making decisions with an understanding of the impact and risk to the overall supply chain total cost (expanded in scope beyond supply base to truly encompass supplier to consumer).  CEOs and CHROs must be careful in how they approach supply chain, because their company runs as a system.  If we truly think of the supply chain as a central nervous system of a company, the problem is much larger than just a gap in a few headcount or certifications. It's moreso the ability to connect various functional areas of our company.  As leaders of our companies, we should be talking about centricity when it comes to supply chain risk management. A product development group that continues to exponentially expand raw material SKU’s may do more damage than a sophisticated supply chain expert can manage. Likewise, a manufacturing plant indiscriminately running large batches to absorb overhead will not comply with the strongest of allocation plans (yet measurements will point to a marketing problem while the plant manager receives bonuses).

Supply chain starts at the top of the organization; it's a central nervous system and companies should be managed with a supply chain-centric mentality - connecting consumers to every part of the organization.  So let’s set down the whac-a-mole hammer, and go to the board room to connect people before just filling a bunch of open job requisitions. Look to vendors, customers and third party partners to collaborate on solutions, and you may find supply chain-wide demand planning or a supplier development system would eliminate many problems at a fraction of the cost and risk.

By: Derek Browning, Regional Vice President at LeanCor


Posted by Derek Browning

blog author

As a Director of Consulting services, Derek directs a portfolio of end-to-end supply chain projects for companies in a wide array of sizes and industries. He's trained thousands of professionals in lean, six-sigma, leadership, and supply chain through LeanCor and leading education partners. Derek complements his experience with an MBA, a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and several professional certificates.

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