What Should Supply Chain Students be Learning? Here’s What Google Thinks.

February 20, 2018

This guest post comes from Fronetics, a boutique marketing firm focused on the Supply Chain and Logistics industries. Written by Elizabeth Hines. 

Google’s management study shows that supply chain students who learn soft skills will be more innovative and successful.

A recent Google study of its top employees is shaking up the way we think about how we should be educating students. We’ve all heard about the importance of focusing on a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum to give students the skills they need to compete in the workforce. But Google’s study, dubbed Project Oxygen, suggests that the conventional wisdom about “hard skills” might be counterproductive.

Google’s findings have broad implications for the way supply chain companies think about training and recruitment. While an understanding of the industry and relevant technologies is, of course, important, it turns out that “soft skills” are often a more accurate predictor of innovation and success.

STEM expertise is not a priority

Project Oxygen ranked the seven most important qualities of Google’s top employees. STEM expertise ranked seventh. The shock waves of this finding are still resounding through the tech sector, as Google and other companies are rethinking the way they recruit talent.

Rather than searching only for top STEM students, Google has changed its hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and MBAs.

For Google’s top employees, these six “soft skills” all ranked higher than STEM expertise:

  1. Being a good coach;
  2. Communicating and listening well;
  3. Possessing insights into others (including differing values and points of view);
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of colleagues;
  5. Being an effective critical thinker and problem solver; and
  6. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.

What to look for when recruiting supply chain students

For training and recruitment of supply chain students, what’s emerging is a picture of a team player who is creative, empathetic, communicative, and caring. As a recent Argentus guest post on Fronetics’ blog points out, “soft skills are taking on more relevance as automation begins to handle the nuts and bolts of how products come to market, and how companies work with suppliers.”

This means that the function of the human component is to do what only humans can: be flexible, strategic, creative, understanding, and empathetic.

According to Cathy Davidson, founding director of the Futures Initiative and a professor in the doctoral program in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY, “We desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational.”

Davidson goes on to point out that “what helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers.”

What do you look for when interviewing supply chain students?


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