The Most Sought After Skills in Supply & Demand Planning

March 3, 2015

supply and demand planning blog pic

Supply planning and demand planning are some of the hottest career areas within the broader supply chain function today. On the demand planning side, skilled professionals are highly sought after for their ability to “read tea leaves”—to expertly forecast demand and base their reports not just on internal sales and ERP, but on external market factors as well, such as seasonality, trends, consumer behaviour, and macroeconomic projections. On the supply planning side, organizations are looking for highly-skilled individuals who can assess suppliers beyond their stated numbers, evaluate their organizational culture, and assess the supplier’s business motivations; in other words, professionals who can take a hands-on approach, visit suppliers, and develop long-term relationships.

So what skills are the most sought after in this high demand vertical? Where are the gaps in the market? What industries are producing the top planning talent? Read on for a snapshot of market intelligence on the topic, with insights our recruiters have gleaned directly from clients and candidates in the supply chain space:

  • Professional certifications such as PMAC, APICS, and undergraduate degrees are seeing wide proliferation, but aren’t necessarily the same mark of distinction on a candidate’s resume that they used to be. Many organizations are seeing them as more of a prerequisite than a distinguishing characteristic that sets candidates apart.
  • Relationship-building skills are in extremely valuable. Planning professionals interface with a wide variety of different business functions. Our clients have been telling us that what they’re looking for in planning professionals are individuals who can work with a diverse set of internal and external stakeholders to create quality decisions (e.g. management, sales, finance, and manufacturing on the demand side; vendors, third party service providers, and regulatory agencies on the supply side). In practice, this means the ability to compromise and avoid digging in one’s heels or becoming too emotionally invested in negotiation.
  • Negotiation skills are what set truly great planning professionals apart, more than the ability to create reports, spreadsheets, and interpret data. Quantitative skills are important, but they aren’t the most needed qualification. To this point, clients have reported that many candidates on the junior end (like new grads) are strong on business awareness, but weaker when it comes to the ability to win influence within an organization.
  • Supply planning in particular is a difficult area to hire for at the moment, as it’s becoming harder and harder to form long-term relationships with suppliers given the constant changes that global events like labor conflicts, fuel prices, and political changes can wreak on the international supply chain. For this reason, individuals who can navigate this dynamic and changing environment well are actively sought after.
  • Hot industries to watch: at the moment, our network has been saying that a considerable amount of planning talent is emerging from the technology sector, riding the wave of tech growth in southern Ontario. In addition, some of the top planning talent continues to emerge from food production and consumer goods, drawing sophistication from the need to work within those industries’ consistently low margins to succeed.

If you’re a senior planning professional in a hiring capacity, how does this line up with what you’ve been experiencing? We’d love to hear your feedback! Feel free to respond in the comments, reach out to us on Twitter, or call us at 416-364-9919 and make your voice heard. 

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