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Saving Supply Chain Mid-Management Talent

Today, there's a dearth of experienced employees to fill middle management positions. Currently, it is a small pinch to the organization, but eventually it will become a big problem.

Unfortunately, many enterprises seem to be unaware of the looming and imminent talent shortage, even with many current signs pointing in that direction. It's time, now, to find a solution.

Identifying the problem
Not long ago, Jennifer Baljko reported for EBN on The Generational Crossover of Supply Chain Professional. According to some other reports, we see there is a very little attention given to middle management. Not surprising. Supply Chain Insights conducted a study (Feb-Jul 2013), and found that the highest shortage is in middle management, representing 49% of the total supply chain talent deficiency, whereas the entry level positions account for just 40%, and the executive level for a mere 6%.

Without a doubt, there is a need for cross-functional skill development for mid-management supply chain leaders. It's about time supply chain leaders took some serious time to rethink supply chain talent, unless they want this already endangered species to disappear.

Applying successful solutions
Here there are three valuable recommendations which I have summarized from an insightful report by Supply Chain Insight offers several valuable recommendations. (If you'd like to see the full PDF report, click here.) The recommendations aim to help supply chain leaders fight the growing shortage of supply chain mid-management:

  1. Make current employees feel valued: To achieve satisfaction among current employees, you should work on internal issues to make mid-management supply chain leaders feel more valued. Eliminate political issues with supply chain planning; this often reduces job satisfaction. Develop training programs to alleviate turnover, and make employees feel more valued. When you value the mid-management, you get incredible ROI results.
  2. Build a human resources plan to focus on the elements that matter in recruiting: Competing on salary will not be enough. Companies need to build a reputation based on the attractiveness of the company,  as well as the role of the supply chain group within the organization, in order to attract and retain key talent for mid-management positions.
  3. Build robust cross-training programs: According to a survey, only 23% of companies incorporated a structures cross-training program for existing employees. The areas where cross-training is offered are usually distribution, manufacturing, and marketing. However, the largest gaps are found in strategy (-69%), and finance (-57%).

Mid-management supply chain has been taken for granted for a long time. Now human resource plans need to be adapted to include cross-training, and skill development to try to change the future, and don't allow talent to become the supply chain's missing link.

35 comments on “Saving Supply Chain Mid-Management Talent

  1. jbond
    December 26, 2013

     I think cross training is a big key. So many companies don't use the employees they have and keep looking for new employees to fill positions and they are frustrated that they can't find the talent they need when it is sitting right in front of them. They only need to train them more or differently.

    Another issue is finding the right talent for certain positions because many people don't have the same work ethics.

  2. SP
    December 26, 2013

    Quite agree with your article. Mid management is very important and works closely on the project deliveries. I like your first point “Make employees feel valued”. This is extremely lacking in my opinion especially in India since the population is high and its easy to get another manager or engineer. But companies and HR must remember that once you loose or made to loose a harworking an honest mid manager its not just the work that gets afftected but co-workers morale and company's reputation in the market also goes down. 

  3. ahdand
    December 26, 2013

    @SP: Indeed and they are the most influential set of the organization., since they have a clear picture of the overall setup of how the process works.    

  4. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 27, 2013

    @jbond, i agree that cross-training is a key strategic approach. Supply chain workers, though, are so overstretched that the time to do that training is hard to come by. I wonder if there are ways to push it up the agenda of the organization. Ideas anyone?

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 27, 2013

    @SP, what do you think are the best ways to make workers feel valued? What ways do organizations use that really don't work? Glad to hear from anyone!

  6. Anand
    December 27, 2013

    Fresher management students turning out from management schools and colleges generally have talent. However, the top management people are people with skill, and ability to handle any situation thrown at them. Some of this talent and skill is from birth, and some people have to learn from management colleges. However, supply chain management systems are plagued with bad work ethics, which does not enable management to show their full potential. What the author points out, is of the main concerns in companies nowadays. And not just creating job satisfaction, a certain degree of job security has to be given too. 

  7. FLYINGSCOT
    December 27, 2013

    Where are all the middle managers going and why are they choosing to do so?

  8. Susan Fourtané
    December 28, 2013

    Lol, Rich! 😀 

    -Susan

  9. Susan Fourtané
    December 28, 2013

    jbond, 

     “So many companies don't use the employees they have and keep looking for new employees to fill positions and they are frustrated that they can't find the talent they need when it is sitting right in front of them. They only need to train them more or differently.”

    Exactly!

    It's like having the solution to your problem in front of your nose without being able to see it. Or not having appreciation for what you have, even though it's the best for you, and instead keep on looking in any other different direction. 

    -Susan 

  10. Susan Fourtané
    December 28, 2013

    SP, 

    Yes, it's just like that. I believe the mid-management problem is quite global, wouldn't you agree? 

    -Susan 

  11. Susan Fourtané
    December 28, 2013

    Flyingscot, 

     

  12. Susan Fourtané
    December 28, 2013
  13. Himanshugupta
    December 28, 2013

    Nice strips Susan, one can always find good refence material in Dilbert!

  14. Himanshugupta
    December 28, 2013

    The problems in middle management are high work pressure, low salaries (as compare to upper management) and no clear path upward. The onus is on companies to develop the future management but only a few companies have programs for middle management. Most of the companies focus on acquiring fresh talent out of college by providing attractive rotational programs but forget about them once the talent lingers on.

  15. Susan Fourtané
    December 28, 2013

    Hi, Himanshu 😀 

    Yes, indeed. And I didn't remember about Dilbert until Flyingscot mentioned Wally. 🙂 I could have add one at the end of the article. Oh, well, next time. 

    Can you see them well? For some reason I can't see the complete strip here. I tried to fix the size with not too much success. 

    -Susan

  16. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 30, 2013

    @Rich, LOL…. where do you find these things?!

  17. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 30, 2013

    @Flyingscott, I suspect that its less that existing middle management is going anywhere and more that the demand is on the rise. Organizations that have never had a dedicated supply chain function are realizing that this is a strategic business area that needs someone trained and dedicated…. and that finding those people can be challenging.

  18. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 30, 2013

    @jbond and susan, it's a good point. I am wondering of folks have examples of good training that organizations have done? I know more universities have programs for supply chain but i don't know if those can be done as continuing education. Has anyone had their company pay for continuing ed? Let us know your stories…

  19. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 30, 2013

    @himanshagupta, I think tech companies are particularly guilty of this. I can point to a variety of tech companies (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Oracle all come to mind) that have a reputation for getting people young, working them hard and then they go somewhere else. I suspect it's not just engineers and marketing folks but probably supply chain too.

  20. Himanshugupta
    December 30, 2013

    Susan, I agree that the comic strips are difficult to read as they are not complete but the link that you have provided worked well and good.

  21. Himanshugupta
    December 30, 2013

    @Hailey, i agree that companies now-a-day find it tough to keep talent especially the young talent. There are so many options available. But comanies can device longterm programs such as 5year rotational job programs with incentives for program completion and keep track of growth progress of these people to keep talent intact.

  22. ahdand
    December 30, 2013

    @Himanshugupta: But if you have the capability to understand the meaning of it, then you are through in most cases 

  23. jbond
    December 30, 2013

    Susan – I agree they don't appreciate what they have. Unfortunately that is true in many aspects.

  24. jbond
    December 30, 2013

    I think reorganization would be a wonderful option. It usually takes someone new to come in and make the changes and see the talent that they already have an start cross training. Also having someone that is six sigma or lean certified will help with the thinking of cross training.

  25. ahdand
    December 31, 2013

    @jbond: Identifying the talent is something which is very important. That is where the real value of the company comes in to play. You do need to identify and give your employees a chance to show their talents    

  26. ahdand
    December 31, 2013

    @jbond: That is the common scenario in many cases. Im not sure why they cant be happy with what they have.     

  27. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 31, 2013

    @Himanshugupta, keeping talent is tough because it is a complex recipe and one that shifts from generation to generation and from career level to career level. Newbies want mentoring, for example, while mid-management want a career path they can see and a chance to work on cool and innovative stuff, for example. I think a rotational program might be useful, but organizatoins also need to listen to employees. Ask what would be meaningful. I suspect that doesn't happen as often as it should.

  28. jbond
    December 31, 2013

    Unfortunately too many companies look only at the current job at hand and not at the other talents of their employees. Sometimes employees can be an asset in many areas.

  29. jbond
    December 31, 2013

    Not being happy with what they have is more than just a company problem. It is a world problem.

  30. Susan Fourtané
    January 4, 2014

    jbond, 

    “Not being happy with what they have is more than just a company problem. It is a world problem.”

    Exactly. That is how it is. And it's quite sad because it contributes to no one's happiness. Companies are just an extension, a reflection of society so you can't expect companies to be better if society doesn't change as a whole, starting for every individual who is part of it. 

    -Susan

     

  31. jbond
    January 9, 2014

    Susan – It would be wonderful if there was a way to make a difference and make a change. I wish there was a way to start making a change because it takes more then 1 or 2 individuals.

  32. Susan Fourtané
    January 9, 2014

    jbond, 

    Yes, there is a way. If everyone starts changing thinking they can make a difference soon you start seeing that difference. Remember that Ghandi once said: Be the change you want to see in the world. 

    If one by one everyone starts changing in a company, at the end of the day the whole company will see the benefit. 🙂 Can you see? 

    -Susan

  33. Susan Fourtané
    January 9, 2014

    jbond, 

    Yes, there is a way. If everyone starts changing thinking they can make a difference soon you start seeing that difference. Remember that Ghandi once said: Be the change you want to see in the world. 

    If one by one everyone starts changing in a company, at the end of the day the whole company will see the benefit. 🙂 Can you see? 

    -Susan

  34. jbond
    January 9, 2014

    Susan – You are correct. Maybe we can be the start of that change. 🙂

  35. Susan Fourtané
    January 9, 2014

    jbond, 

    Exactly. When you start the rest follow. 🙂 

    -Susan 

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