Remember the Human Supply Chain

I recently made what seems on the surface to be a major professional change, going from working in global distribution for {complink 5844|Tyco Electronics Ltd.}, a large global manufacturer of electronic components with more than 80,000 employees, to starting my own executive search company with an employee base of one: me.

Although company picnics will no doubt be much smaller in scale, there are many similarities between the two careers, primarily that in both positions I am part of the electronics industry supply chain.

Wikipedia describes a supply chain as a system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer. Supply chain activities transform natural resources, raw materials, and components into a finished product that is delivered to the end customer.

The process of identifying an organization’s talent needs and finding, acquiring, and retaining employees is essentially human capital supply chain management. In recruiting, human capital supply chain activities transform relationships and data (ad responses, resumés, social networking profiles, LinkedIn connections, etc.) into candidates that are delivered to hiring managers.

Relationships are key in the equation, in that along with specific skill sets required for particular jobs, there are certain “personalities” that also assist in making or breaking someone in those jobs or with those companies. Culturally, there needs to be a fit. A recruiter having intimate relationships with both the hiring company and the candidate can create a more harmonious match right from the start.

A recent blog by Glen Cathey examined how lean principles and just-in-time concepts from the manufacturing supply chain can and should be applied to the human capital supply chain. It struck me that the “leaning out” of unnecessary steps or waste, regardless of what is being supplied — products, services, or people — is not just applicable to the manufacturing world where I came from, but also the recruiting world into which I’m diving.

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue to be a part of the electronics supply chain by offering insights and links to the human capital supply chain.

12 comments on “Remember the Human Supply Chain

  1. Ms. Daisy
    February 22, 2011


    Your analogy of the two supply chains is interesting. I really have not categorized employee recruitment as human capital supply chain management until now, and you are right on thte fact that candidates like electronics are delivered to the end users. Congratulations and Goodluck! 

  2. Tim Votapka
    February 22, 2011

    Good post! You can easily take the definition of a supply chain into any organization and we often do just that in our line of work. It's all about efficient workflow and the faster things move (accurately of course) through the organization the greater the morale and gross income. When you pull a thread to see where some barriers are, you'll often find some one who either hasn't been hatted up on their post correctly, or they're in the wrong post altogether.

    This can be avoided in advance if candidates are assessed ahead of time for their aptitude and personal proficiency. We do it for clients all the time and it's prevented a few disasters despite “great interviews.”

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 22, 2011

    Hi Carla–would you say there are certain characteristics that make someone a good fit for the supply chain? Or is fit with the corporation that's  the primary goal?

  4. Parser
    February 22, 2011

    Excellent points. While new hires are interviewed how much a personality weighs on hiring decision?

    Yes, I am puzzle about this specific job what would be the criteria for the applicant screenings?

  5. jbond
    February 22, 2011

    I've never really thought about people and the hiring process being considered a supply chain. Usually services or materials are what comes to mind when somebody mentions supply chain. The main difference between the 2 would be that the typical supply chain is fairly set in place. When you think of humans as the supply chain, many variables come into place. That's where the interviewer comes into play. 

  6. Carla Mahrt
    February 23, 2011

    Some interesting posts!  

    The Supply Chain has many different job functions within it, so I think it is difficult to pinpoint what attributes make for a great candidate/employee as it is somewhat job dependent i.e. engineers need to be more analytical, quality needs to be very process driven, etc…  However, there are some traits that are universally desired regardless of job function, such as honesty and a good work ethic.  Underlying all of this, is the cultural fit a candidate/employee has with the company itself.

    I think the HUMAN supply chain may be more complex because the products are HUMAN and therefore dynamic, unpredictable, capable and fallible etc  – sometimes all at the same time!

  7. prabhakar_deosthali
    February 23, 2011

    I beg to differ with the blogger that all Human resource activity is a supply chain. But some of the labor intensive activities can be categorised as requiring Supply chain techniques.  The best example is the labor contractors who can supply workforce on demand to construction sites, or the scurity agencies which manage the security staff of many companies or the house-keeping contractors . For such organizations the  human workforce is the goods which have to be moved to the customers ( requiring the services) in right quantity at the right time at the right price. These contractors have to keep their labor pool ready in anticipation of the demand and with the requisite skiil sets.

  8. Himanshugupta
    February 25, 2011

    Carla, you are right that human supply chain, although i disagree with the term, is more complex than the normal supply chain. Although we by nature differ a lot even though we have gone through the same procedure (education, environment etc.), we have been able to replace and fit people in the job. As in normal supply chain we constantly look for bottlenecks and money saving strategies so do the human supply chain by looking for better and more suitable candidates to get the work done.

  9. Carla Mahrt
    February 25, 2011

    You are right, Himanshugupta.  And the need for “better and more suitable candidates” is what keeps someone like ME busy!

  10. Himanshugupta
    February 25, 2011

    The normal supply chain has gone global, i wonder do human feel the same way? As you might also have noticed, an executive rank person needs to shift his/her base to the headquarter of the company. This is quite a stress because one needs to get accustomed to the new culture (social) and can put a lot of stain on the family relationships. As you recruit high ranking professionals for companies, does the factor that they will have to move to another location/work in a new environment important? 

    Do you sometime go with “good and suitable” than “better and more suitable” candidate?

  11. Tim Votapka
    February 26, 2011

    Good points on the human side of the formula. You can standardize products to certain specs. You can apply industry standards to quality assurance. The human element though is a bit of a challenge, particularly if you have people who may be operating with false impressions or false data about their posts, or who may be misplaced in the organization. This is why I encourage businesses to run Personal Proficiency and Aptitude tests on new candidates. You'll get a more objective view of the individual's tendencies in several areas, including their ability to solve problems or follow instructions. It's an amazing tool that has helped many organizations avoid bad hires or assignments.

  12. Ashu001
    February 27, 2011


    This is a big-big move which you now need to justify by bringing in the right results.Do not be disheartened if Initial results don't go your way exactly.Most Businesses take time to get off the ground and become sucessful.

    I am also very sure there will be times when you will miss the ambience/ Caramaderie of your old employer.

    You have to remember you are here chasing a dream and this is the level of hardwork and dedication required to achieve it,



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