In an era of uncertainty, where does the supply chain talent market stand?
The past few years have been a wild ride for the supply chain industry in Canada. As we’ve covered on the Argentus blog, a period of unprecedented supply chain disruptions has raised the stakes for supply chains everywhere, and organizations have had to pivot to meet the demands of creating resilient supply chains while minimizing risk.
At Argentus, we live and breathe supply chain management and procurement. As part of our recruitment practice, we religiously follow the emerging trends in hiring for our verticals, both in terms of what we’re seeing on the ground, and in industry studies. It helps us better serve our clients through market intelligence, and it also provides info to share with our readers, as you plan your hiring efforts or possible career moves.
So as 2024 kicks into gear, we wanted to write a post to share some intel from what we’ve been seeing on the ground.
Where does the market for supply chain and procurement talent stand? What are the biggest hiring challenges companies face? Are we still in a candidate’s market? What trends are impacting the overall hiring picture, and how can organizations respond?
Over the past number of years, we’ve seen a few major trends that set the stage for today’s market as we turn the page into 2024.
Here are some of the biggest major trends behind the current environment:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the market already had a shortage of supply chain and procurement talent.
For a number of years, we had noted a rising supply chain talent gap, where companies were struggling to access talent. In 2020, shortly before the beginning of the pandemic, Supply Chain Canada released a survey in collaboration with Supply Professional magazine indicating that there were a whopping 6 open jobs for every new supply chain graduate. The field had been increasing in prominence for years, but the industry wasn’t doing enough to bring young people into the fold.
The pandemic and other disruptions raised the demand for supply chain professionals, which compounded the problem.
Many supply chains had focused on razor-thin inventory margins. When demand for hard goods spiked during the pandemic, customers faced empty shelves. Companies everywhere decided to pivot their supply chains towards risk mitigation. Since 2020, supply chains have faced even more disruptions—from natural disasters, to the war in Ukraine, to the microchip shortage, to the current shipping bottleneck in the red sea. Supply chain resiliency has become the order of the day, and a truly resilient supply chain is the new holy grail.
But achieving this isn’t easy. It relies on upgraded processes and technology—business transformations that are complex even in normal times. And these transformations require talent. Companies are seeking to upgrade these capabilities while also maintaining core supply chain functions (e.g. purchasing, vendor management, supplier relationship management, strategic sourcing, logistics, distribution, warehousing, etc.). That means hiring either skilled consultants or new permanent employees to manage these disruptions and transformations. Supply chain has broken through in a big way, and demand for skilled professionals has never been greater.
More candidates are entering the field, but it isn’t enough to close the gap.
Time was, most supply chain and procurement people “fell into” the field by accident, without setting out from school to build a supply chain career. Over the past few years, the supply chain industry—as well as governments—have recognized the need for more supply chain talent, and have made efforts to boost enrolment in supply chain educational programs. More people are going to school to study supply chain management, realizing its potential as a career. There are also a number of strong overseas candidates arriving with solid supply chain experience with Fortune 500 and global companies. These efforts have served to broaden the talent pool, but it’s not enough to close the gap.
The overall labour market remains tight.
Despite prognostications of recession since 2022, the labour market remains resilient, and that’s especially true for supply chain professionals given the factors mentioned above. Many candidates in supply chain are fielding multiple job offers at a time, and companies are struggling to get hires “over the finish line.” Time-to-hire has emerged as a key driver of whether companies can secure talent in this difficult marketplace.
So that’s where we stand. If you go to hire in supply chain and procurement, and you haven’t experienced the current market, you may find more challenges than you expect. This is especially true in smaller cities in the country, in remote areas, as well as in hard-to-fill niche roles. So how can organizations bridge the supply chain talent gap and get the talent that they need?
Here are our tips:
Hire with purpose and urgency.
There’s an old saw in the recruitment industry: “time kills deals.” And in 2024, you can’t expect to go to market and successfully hire a top supply chain or procurement performer if you don’t have a certain level of urgency. It’s important to get your team aligned before beginning a search. Benchmark compensation, sort out your remote/hybrid policy, ensure that the relevant stakeholders who will be interviewing won’t be on vacation for the next several weeks. Make hiring a priority, because if it’s on the backburner, it won’t generate results. Searches evolve as they go, but the less evolution necessary after you’ve started seeing candidates, the better your chances of success.
Consider contract or interim staff for transformational roles.
We beat this drum a lot, but contract and interim staffing isn’t just a stopgap for leave coverages anymore. In fact, it represents a massive alternate talent pool. After the past several years of disruption, you may find yourself in the position of wanting to accomplish major projects without sacrificing day-to-day core supply chain functions. You may be struggling to find people who can accomplish these tasks—say an ERP transformation, or an effort to broaden your supplier base to build out resiliency. A contract or interim hire represents an opportunity to accomplish these projects without increasing your permanent headcount. The supply chain space has many transformation leaders who prefer to act as consultants, as opposed to taking on a permanent role. This presents a different avenue for hiring, with a different set of candidates. You can also hire them faster than permanent employees, and they can hit the ground running immediately.
Look beyond the job boards and applicant tracking systems.
Job boards (Indeed, Monster etc.) and applicant tracking systems promise to present you with a wealth of candidates and smooth out your hiring process. The truth is, job boards have never been the most effective way to hire. This is true even with sophisticated applicant tracking systems promising AI functionality and other bells and whistles. They allow decision makers and HR managers to “hide” behind a layer of technology that stops them from actually engaging with candidates. If you’ve had a job sit open for months, it’s possible that you’re relying too much on these passive methods of building a talent pipeline. It’s much better to be proactive. Work your network of current and former employees, reach out to candidates on LinkedIn, attend industry events. Focus on the shoe-leather recruiting that engages candidates on a human level, and stop looking at them as a set of data.
Work with a dedicated recruiter.
It’s possible—even likely—that most supply chain and procurement decision makers don’t have the time or energy to engage in this kind of boots-on-the-ground recruiting. And if HR isn’t bringing qualified candidates through the door using passive talent streams like job boards, it can leave you in a bind. At Argentus, our biggest source of business is hiring managers who are having trouble filling open roles through traditional channels—often hard-to-fill roles with very specific competencies.
If we may boast for a moment, our chief value is in being able to do this kind of boots-on-the-ground recruiting, through our extensive referral network and a base of supply chain candidates that we’ve built over many years. A dedicated, specialist recruiter will hire faster because it’s likely they already know several strong candidates. We also build open communication and transparency with candidates—connecting with them on that human level—to ensure that their needs are met at every step of the process. We can help you navigate multiple-offer situations, making the candidate much more likely to accept the offer if it’s made.
Are you experiencing any of these challenges in your own hiring? We’d love to hear from you!
As a boutique recruiter specialized entirely within supply chain management and procurement, we’ve built an unparalleled network of talent within Canada. We specialize in helping companies overcome these gaps. So reach out to explore whether we can augment your existing hiring efforts! Call 416 364 9919 or send an email to email@example.com.