Companies are struggling to fill critical supply chain roles. And some skills are harder to find than others.
We all know that supply chain management has broken through into the mainstream. As we’ve written about on the Argentus blog, a series of ongoing disruptions (for example the pandemic and global conflicts) have changed the game. Companies have pivoted their supply chains towards resilience and agility, while transforming their supply chain processes and technology.
All of this, of course, takes people with the right mix of skills. Hiring the top supply chain professionals was tough enough in 2019, when there was already a supply chain talent shortage. Now, they’re in even more demand. And the skills companies need are even more sophisticated than ever.
A great recent Financial Times article caught our eye. It’s all about the difficulties that companies are having hiring supply chain managers, even three years after the start of the pandemic. The FT’s journalists reviewed data showing that number of U.S. job postings for supply chain managers doubled between 2019 and 2022. UK vacancies were 39% higher last year than in 2019. Supply chain managers are getting a seat at the leadership table, and companies have realized that they need more senior people in these roles—people who have the right business acumen, data skills, and ability to break down silos in an organization to transform their supply chains, and manage risks before they arise.
So if companies are struggling to fill critical supply chain roles, which skills are hardest to find?
Recruitment thought leaders Korn Ferry just released their 2023 Supply Chain Talent study, where they laid bare a variety of supply chain shifts by surveying leaders. Those surveyed included CEOs, Chief Supply Chain Officers, VPs, Directors and Managers. They hailed from industries as diverse as manufacturing, retail, consumer packaged goods, and logistics. The goal of the survey? To give a birds-eye view by answering some big questions about how supply chain management has evolved since the pandemic. What cultural changes have executives seen in supply chain organizations? Which skills are hardest to find for hiring managers, and which are easier?
If you know anything about Argentus, this release had us champing at the bit. We’re a recruitment firm specialized in supply chain and procurement. We sit at the intersection between supply chain professionals looking to build their careers, and organizations looking to onboard talent to lead their supply chains into the future. So this data is very relevant for us.
The toughest skills:
- According to 57% of survey respondents, candidates with end-to-end supply chain knowledge are the toughest to find. 35% struggled to find candidates with integrated supply chain experience.
- 43% of the executives surveyed said that candidates with supply chain transformation experience were hard to find, including operational transformation and process improvements.
- 41% struggled to find candidates with sufficient data analysis and reporting abilities.
- 36% said they weren’t finding candidates with digital transformation skills.
- 31% are having trouble finding candidates with the right strategy execution and project management expertise.
It’s interesting—although not surprising—that there’s a lot of overlap between the skills that these executives are struggling to find, and the roles Argentus’ clients come to us for. Companies will often reach out to us for difficult searches for supply chain roles, after their internal efforts have failed to yield candidates with the right mix of skills. These difficult searches are where our network of talent—which we’ve spent 20 years building—shines.
Some skills are easier to find:
Conversely, there were several skills that weren’t as hard for these executives to find. Some core supply chain skills fell to bottom of the list, including budget creation, purchasing, sourcing, and transportation management. In each case, fewer than 20% of executives said that they were consistently having difficulty finding candidates with those skills.
So what’s the takeaway here? It’s not that these skills are necessarily easy to find. At Argentus, we hear from hiring managers all the time who struggle to find candidates with these skills. But increasingly, these core supply chain competencies are table stakes, both for candidates, and companies hiring them. These skills represent the basic skills for the profession. For candidates, that means that these core skills are still valuable (and necessary), but to build a progressive career, or advance into senior leadership, they’re no longer enough.
Implications for companies looking to hire:
20 years ago, it may have been enough to find a candidate with a particular functional expertise, for example, someone who has issued purchase orders. Those demands still exist—especially at the junior end of the spectrum. People who can do this are crucial, otherwise your supply chain will grind to a halt. But they’re not where the true strategic value lies.
As the survey shows, today’s companies want people with a mix of skills. And more than that, they want people who can apply that mix of skills not just to “do the job,” but to drive the supply chain strategy forward. They want people who can break down silos in an organization, implement digital tools to gain better insight, and deliver projects for real transformational change. They want people who have the business acumen to improve the supply chain’s overall strategic position and maturity, not just people who “have done it before.”
Those are the people who will build a supply chain for the future—one that’s not only cost-effective, but agile and resilient to disruption. Unsurprisingly, those people are also hardest to find. And as anyone who has struggled to hire knows (and in this market, that’s almost everyone), they’re worth their weight in gold.
Do you have any immediate or upcoming hiring needs in the supply chain space? Argentus has spent the past twenty years building the most robust network of supply chain talent in Canada.
We augment your internal hiring efforts with our deep pool of supply chain passive talent—the people who are too busy being good at their jobs to apply to jobs. Call 416 364 9919 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to chat with one of our recruitment specialists!