5 Ways to Plug the Supply Chain Talent Gap

Unless you've been living in a bubble, you have probably heard about the threat of a supply chain talent gap.

To lessen the threat, companies will have to start thinking of alternative ways of addressing the problem. A recent DHL report targeting the automotive sector provides a few ideas that can be applied more broadly across other industries, including electronics.

Like other sectors, the automotive industry is at a crossroads. Increased demand, a growing demographic gap, new required skills, and potential staff shortages could leave auto companies in a bind.

And, the odds of bringing on enough talent are not in many companies' favor.

One big hole that needs to all be filled is in the middle management ranks, which was affected by massive corporate layoffs during the recent recession, the report found.

“Supply chain capabilities and knowledge were lost permanently,” wrote Frank Vorrath, vice president, Global Sector Head – Automotive, DHL Global Forwarding. “Companies have been very cautious in their hiring efforts, so they have not replenished that loss.”

There are also plenty of entry-level positions, too. Currently for every graduate with supply chain skills, there are six positions waiting to be filled, and that ratio could worsen in the next few years, according to the report which was researched and written by Lisa Harrington, president of the lharrington group LLC and senior research fellow at the Supply Chain Management Center, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.

“The supply chain talent crisis is a serious issue for the automotive industry, particularly in emerging markets where growth rates remain strong,” Harrington said in a press release. “Many companies are already struggling with lack of infrastructure and skilled workforce in these countries, and the simultaneously increasing need for supply chain expertise further exacerbates these issues. Solving the talent shortage calls for new thinking, new approaches, and collaboration on an industry-wide scale.”

Unfortunately, relying on universities to turn out the number of students needed to fill the gap won't be enough. The report contends that the supply chain focus in the academic landscape keeps shrinking, and students interested in the automotive sector consider a supply chain career as “a fallback option.”

Harrington suggests five strategies companies can adopt to help recruit talent. Although it's geared at the automotive sector, it's easy to see how they can be applied in other markets. They are:

  1. Industry collaboration: Companies should consider intensifying their collaboration with universities to create specific industry-centric supply chain programs While the downside is it will take several years to implement and several more years before there are graduates ready with these skill sets, it ensures that graduates would better understand the complex supply chain requirements for the automotive sector or other sectors.
  2. Expanded in-house education options: Companies can also develop their own education programs and expand their in-house and external education options, which provide continuous learning opportunities for those already in the field or for those interested in pursuing job in the field.
  3. Job rotation programs: This is also proving to be a successfully way of growing people's skill sets. Rotating supply chain professionals through different departments and functions both deepens their working knowledge of supply chain management and offers them broader business perspectives.
  4. Formalized knowledge transfer: One way to do this is to encourage soon-to-retire supply chain professionals to serve as educators and mentors to the younger generation. Formalizing a way to capture this knowledge will ensure continuity when staff retires and new supply chain professionals step up to resume the work.
  5. Employer-of-choice focus: Companies have to go beyond retaining the supply chain talent they have; they will find ways to attract new talent. Some ways to do that include offering incentives, higher or more competitive salaries and benefits, establishing attractive career paths, or job security.

What other strategies is your organization using  to fill the gap?

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