Interview

Argentus Partner Rosanna Palermo Speaks about the State of Play in Supply Chain Talent

June 22, 2020

At Argentus, we provide thought leadership on a wide variety of topics in Supply Chain hiring and talent. As part of this, we also aim to highlight the particular perspective of our recruiters who spend their days in constant contact with clients and candidates from across the industry.

Today we want to highlight Rosanna Palermo, an Argentus partner and one of the superstar recruiters in the Supply Chain field.

If you haven’t met Rosanna, let us introduce you: Rosanna Palermo is a superstar of Supply Chain recruitment, with over 15 years of experience supporting clients in their hiring for Procurement, Strategic Sourcing, Logistics, Transformation, Demand and Supply Planning, and other Supply Chain Management disciplines.

Rosanna has a deep understanding of the evolving skills picture in these vital functions, working across industries — with a particular emphasis on Food Production, Consumer Goods, Pharmaceutical, Financial Services, and the Public Sector.

Rosanna’s consultative approach to recruiting makes her highly sought-after by clients looking to understand the Supply Chain talent marketplace, and hire more strategically. She is also one of Argentus’ practice leaders for contingent staffing, helping numerous clients craft their strategies around hiring high-skilled Supply Chain performers for temporary assignments.

We caught up with Rosanna for this interview, where she offered her perspective on:

  • The state of play in Supply Chain talent,
  • The unique challenges faced by Supply Chain organizations in the wake of COVID-19,
  • Her predictions about the market for Supply Chain professionals in the coming months, as well as
  • Her advice for organizations developing their talent strategies around reopening.

Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective with the Argentus blog readers, Rosanna! Immediately after COVID-19, many companies froze their hiring to put out fires on the ground. From your perspective, what’s the state of play right now as things have evolved?

It was quite a transition, as everyone knows, and has been dealing with in their own way! Right after COVID-19, much of hiring came to a screeching halt overnight. It was the right thing for most companies to do, because we were facing an unprecedented situation, and there was so much uncertainty.

Thinking back on those first days, I don’t think many companies were prepared for the fact that this wasn’t just a pit stop. Eventually, the reality set in that we weren’t looking at a couple weeks, and that this pandemic could be with us for the remainder of the year or longer. I don’t think companies were originally prepared for this reality – and we didn’t expect it either!

Since then, companies have had to adapt. When this all began, many companies froze their hiring to deal with day-to-day firefighting in their Supply Chains. Many companies have moved out of the “firefighting” mode and are thinking about what’s next. Some are still in a holding position when it comes to hiring, but the Supply Chain needs are great, and we’ve seen some companies innovate and push through remote hiring and other alternatives to help fill these needs.

What are you hearing from your contacts in the field about how their Supply Chain organizations are adapting?

One thing we saw, in the initial days, is companies transitioning resources from other areas into their Supply Chain areas because the needs were so immense. Companies want to protect as much of their internal equity as they can. In many cases, projects were put on hold in terms of sales, marketing, product development and those other areas. Rather than lay people off in these areas, many companies transitioned people with project management capability into their Supply Chains. Business analysts from other areas have been transitioned into Supply Chain analysis roles, because there’s some skills overlap.

I think in particular, Planning and Supply Chain Analysts have been important roles, because they’re the ones getting the product on the shelves for industries like grocery, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, and food production. Those are the roles that will help them get through this period of uncertainty, so there’s been increased demand there.

In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, we’ve seen layoffs in certain sectors of the economy including restaurants, travel, live entertainment, and others. But we haven’t necessarily been seeing that in Supply Chain – why do you think that is?

There have been some layoffs of people in Supply Chain roles as companies restructure their operations, but the bottom line is that demand for Supply Chain people remains high. No one knows how long this will last, but I think in any economic downturn or recession, companies turn to Supply Chain to get them through.

We certainly saw this during the last recession. Demand for Supply Chain people was incredibly resilient. During any kind of downturn, companies tend to tighten up on certain essential areas like sales, marketing and new product introduction, but they can rely on Supply Chain to deliver efficiency, cost savings, renegotiate contracts, and other improved strategic operations. If Supply Chain does their job properly, they make the company more efficient in almost everything that they do, and that protects profit margins even if demand is flat.

I think this key factor, combined with unique Supply Chain needs that companies have to cope with physical distancing, eCommerce and other issues raised by the pandemic, is driving the continued demand for Supply Chain professionals – even if some companies are still gunshy about hiring.

In fact, as restrictions start to lift, I think companies that have frozen their hiring will experience a bit of a “crunch” — in a number of areas, but especially Supply Chain. For many of these roles, hiring has been frozen but the needs haven’t gone away.

As you know, we blogged about this prediction of a recruiting crunch. What’s your feeling for how this will develop?

I think as restrictions continue to lift, many companies will experience a shock as they see that all their competitors are trying to hire the same people, all at once. It might be harder to find the right talent than hiring managers anticipate, right now, given that the recruitment cycle will be so compressed – and competition will be high.

At Argentus, we’ll be ready for it to help these companies find the Supply Chain talent they need. I anticipate increased demand for high-skilled contract workers that companies can use to navigate this initial period.

I also think companies will also say, from a project management perspective, “now that we’ve lived through this, let’s position ourselves better for other possible disruptions in the future.” Continuous improvement, process re-engineering were in high demand before, but I think demand for those skills will go way up – and that trickles down to analytical roles, demand planners, supply planners, etc. I think this is particularly true in manufacturing.

If you were to give some consultative advice to a hiring manager for their Supply Chain or Procurement function, what would you advise them at this point? How should companies prepare?

What I’m saying to some of my clients is, preserve your recruitment lifecycle if you can, and don’t stop hiring. It really is possible to get top performers during this period – and it’s easier than it will be later.

If people can start working from home, get them going. Beat the wave if you can, and hire now. We’re working remotely, and are able to reach out to our network and get you a head start. We’ve had clients use video interviews and start off individuals in new roles 100% remotely during this period. Others have negotiated offers with an open start date to lock down the talent. These companies are being creative and flexible, and winning out in talent over the companies who assume it will be easier to hire Supply Chain people when everything reopens.

If you’re facing organizational pressure to stay frozen, you can at least figure out what your needs are for the transitional period and formulate a strategy. Those would be my big pieces of advice.


We hope you enjoyed the interview with Rosanna! If you’d like to reach out to her to fill an immediate recruitment need, or to discuss how to form your strategy around Supply Chain hiring in this moment, you can reach her on LinkedIn or at rpalermo@argentus.com. She’s a pleasure to work with, and she knows her stuff better than anyone.

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