There’s a Supply Chain Talent “Perfect Storm” on the Horizon

February 18, 2016

It’s a talent deficit in Supply Chain. How can organizations respond?

For several years, we’ve been writing about the talent gap in Supply Chain. A combination of Baby Boomers moving towards retirement in the middle-to-upper echelons of Supply Chain Management, and a lack of education for young people about the tremendous opportunities the Supply Chain profession has to offer, means that going forward the demand for Supply Chain talent is only going to increase exponentially.

There is more opportunity for professionals in the field than ever before – but potentially more headaches for employers trying to fill the gap in Supply Chain talent. We’ve blogged about it on our own site. We’ve been asked to guest post on other sites as well on this very subject. It’s probably the biggest talent story that affects our particular vertical each and every day. 

 As a specialty boutique recruiter in this narrow area, it is obviously beneficial for us to point out that Supply Chain is a growing career field with lots of advancement opportunity for career seekers. But we’re not just blowing smoke here. There’s been a real uptick in articles from the wider supply chain community about this Supply Chain talent deficit, and how employers can and should prepare. This stuff is music to our ears and we love to pass this essential industry-related information on to our network – especially when it is something as important as staffing shortages.

We wanted to highlight a great piece from the Supply Chain space about the tremendous pressure that’s occurring in the Supply Chain talent market in Canada and the U.S. We wanted to share it with everyone in our network and in doing so make a few comments. This particular one comes from Supply Chain 24/7, who have written an excellent overview of where the job market in Supply Chain is going in the next few years. In their words, “in the rush for talent, a storm may be brewing that will contract the pool for Supply Chain talent.”

It’s winter, so naturally everyone has storms on their mind. But we think it’s an excellent metaphor for what’s on the horizon as it relates to the world of Supply Chain talent. The article was written by Kusumal Ruamsook and Christopher Craigshead, two Supply Chain researchers at Penn State, and goes into a lot of detail that’s extremely valuable for organizations with a Supply Chain and anyone thinking about how to manage their hiring of Supply Chain Talent. It breaks the issue down into four emerging trends:

1. Demand is increasing for talented Supply Chain professionals. 

As an example, the article cites data from the U.S. Bureau of Labour statistics saying that logistics jobs are estimated to grow 26% by 2020.

2. Supply Chain Professionals are retiring at a Rapid Clip. 

It’s estimated that 60 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. alone will retire by 2025. Canada also faces high retirement rates in the Baby Boomer generation. 

3. Supply Chain job requirements are changing rapidly. 

Instead of just the “hard” analytical skills that were crucial to the industrial era, today’s Supply Chain requires cross-functional skills, as well as “soft” communication and leadership skills. The article identifies how individuals need  to adapt to stay on top of these changes.

4. The number of faculty currently teaching the Supply Chain field at the postsecondary level isn’t high enough to train all the new professionals that are needed. 

This fourth trend is somewhat of a dark horse. High School grads aren’t even learning that Supply Chain is a viable career option – what’s that all about? This is the area that really concerns us here at Argentus. What is education doing to ease the pain for Supply Chain Management? Not a lot it seems. There are more post-secondary opportunities for Supply Chain education than ever, but it’s hard to build interest in the field if people younger than that aren’t even aware that it exists. 

So what’s the overall effect of these trends, if they all come to pass in the next few years as predicted? In the authors’ words: “In essence, organizations in the midst of the storm will find it increasingly difficult to simultaneously search for the right talent to back-fill those who have retired or are about to retire, raise the skill sets of existing talents to meet the needs of a changing environment, and groom high-potential talent into future supply chain leaders.”

While this article is specific to the U.S., Canadian trends and statistics tend to mirror what happens south of the border and are comparable from what we’ve read here and elsewhere.

It’s one thing to identify a problem, but what makes this article so outstanding is that the authors go on to provide overall strategies that hiring managers and companies can use to deal with this shortage of talent.

Here’s what top organizations are investing in to “weather” the storm:

1. Improving overall value propositions for potential employees. 

This involves looking at overall compensation, work/life balance, career growth opportunities, and other ways that companies can present themselves as an attractive option for top candidates.

2. Mapping talent needs strategically. 

What competencies are “must have”? What are the future needs of the business, and what’s the gap between existing skill sets and those needs in the future? According to the authors, this is something that needs to be reassessed on an ongoing basis to make the talent strategy future-proof.

3. Focusing on talent retention. 

The authors outline how younger professionals in Generation X and Y have higher rates of voluntary turnover compared to the Baby Boomer generation. Companies need to work to retain these employees so as not to lose them to roles that might seem initially more attractive.

4. Investing in leadership development for existing employees. 

The overall goal of these strategies is to turn a company’s “labour force” into its bench of leadership. The authors identify that most of today’s Supply Chain professionals don’t have undergraduate degrees in the discipline. They outline how organizations can invest in their employees by helping with formal ongoing education (university, certifications) as well as informal educational opportunities like mentorship and stronger internal training programs. 

5. Collaborating with Universities and Colleges to help identify up and coming young people who would excel in the field.  

This collaboration involves building relationships with students before they enter the workforce. This includes helping with industry-developed curriculum, offering scholarships, offering paid internships, and doing guest lectures in educational institutions to build interest and excitement for the SCM discipline as a whole.

This is just an overview of what the authors provide. It’s really worth reading through it in its entirety (here’s the link again). It’s likely that we’re going to see more and more news outlets in the Supply Chain field picking up on this hot talent deficit issue. This story is only in its infancy, and we’re only going to be hearing about it more and more.

While the threat of a Supply Chain shortage is worrisome in the long run, we’re thrilled that demand for skilled Supply Chain professionals is only increasing. Beyond that, it’s tremendously exciting that as a specialty staffing provider within Supply Chain management, we have the increased chance to partner with more companies to help them think more strategically about their plan for talent retention and acquisition both on the Direct Hire and Contingent sides of the equation.

If this is a topic you would like to discuss further, please do reach out to learn if it’s something you’d like to think about for your organization, please feel free to give us a call! 416 364 9919. favicon

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Sign up for Argentus’ Market Watch newsletter

It only takes a moment. You’ll receive low-volume, high-impact market insights from the top specialty Supply Chain recruiters including: Salary Information, Supply Chain industry trends, Market Intelligence, personal branding tips and more.