Worldwide supply chain executives know that success depends on the ability to attract and retain the right people.
Approximately 38 million baby boomers, from America’s top 500 companies, are currently nearing retirement age. The U.S. Labor Department estimates by 2012 there will be a shortage of more than 10 million skilled workers. This gap in skilled labor will place even further pressure on today’s well-known shortage of supply chain management professionals.
Addressing this issue, leading companies have developed a variety of people care and development strategies, including (diagram 1):
rotating high-potential employees through different functional areas and geographies
offering substantial training
collaborating with college and university programs
monitoring compensation levels and employing non-monetary rewards to supplement more traditional incentives
The two primary dimensions of talent management, skills and attitude, are balanced and optimized in order to manage retention and drive results (diagram 2):
Nurture vs. nature
Correctly deployed training programs can vastly improve employee competencies and capabilities. Program topics must be extensive and cover the multiple skill-sets needed by supply chain professionals. Topics should extend well beyond the traditional “win-win” negotiations courses, to be effective.
Spend analytics, supply market analysis, e-Sourcing tools, sourcing strategy development and methodology, negotiations and contracting, supplier development, supply market monitoring and risk management are merely the beginning of the list (see diagram 3).
Tailored, individual training plans should be developed providing flexible solutions. This training can begin with the use of online training tools, on-the-job coaches, external seminars and certifications. A.T. Kearney for example delivers negotiations training not only in a classroom setting, but also through a virtual world platform based on the original concept of ‘Second Life.’ This approach overcomes location barriers and helps develop the skills required to negotiate with business partners and providers remotely, a frequent reality in today’s supply chain world.
Training programs should also balance internal and external modules. This is where knowledge sharing amongst internal teams can have multiple benefits. These sessions not only allow the trainers to practice and improve presentation and public speaking skills but also create an informal culture of encouraged learning.
Nurturing of supply chain talent alone is not sufficient to support the performance goals of many supply chain executives. This is where talent acquisition comes into play.
Attracting and sourcing talent is a lot easier for some organizations than others. Whatever your position and the magnetism your company generates, there are several techniques to locate and draw-in talent.
Improving the visibility of your department’s reputation and brand both within the enterprise and employment marketplace is central to these techniques. One of the best talent sources is from other business functions within the same organization. These resources can have an immediate and dramatic impact on the supply function as a result of their intimate familiarity with the business model and objectives. Many leading companies achieve this goal through rotational programs that allow staff from other business functions to enter into the supply function on an interim basis, test it out, and determine if there is a good fit. Additionally, establishing an internal reputation for great results and innovation typically lends itself to internal staff pro-actively seeking opportunities within the supply function.
External branding can be achieved through university lectures, targeted marketing campaigns and select event sponsorships. Key suppliers are another good source for scouting talent. Procurement staff should be on the lookout for great talent at their suppliers. They often have supply market and category expertise to rapidly drive innovation within the enterprise. Although the impact is not always immediate, these initiatives improve your chances of landing that next great employee.
Back to school
The job market for graduates is currently more challenging than it has been for decades. Employers should seize this opportunity to develop relationships with universities that may be cultivating their next star. Find the right institution by reviewing supply chain-related programs and curricula, determine which universities have supply chain-related research priorities, and identify those who are open to corporate marketing and recruiting.
If possible, launch an internship program. This provides the opportunity to ‘test-drive’ candidates before a formal offer is made. Many supply chain executives also sit on certain University boards to help these type of relationships thrive.
Cheap, yet effective
The final channel, often overlooked, is that of referrals. The most effective schemes apply monetary rewards to referrals that result in successful placements. This strategy is significantly more economical than recruitment agency fees.
The attitude dimension
It is important to ensure programs are in place to support and motivate acquired talent. Leading companies use several strategies to accomplish this, including:
Everyone is motivated differently. Most, if not all, companies already have annual review structures in place based on individual development plans and appropriately aligned monetary incentives. Creating a sense of community within your department and ensuring that employees are stimulated by the work they are doing are just as important.
The importance of a community at work, especially in these turbulent times and a reviving economy, should never be under-estimated. It plays a pivotal role not only in retention but also improved productivity. After all of the waves of job cuts, plant closures and corporate bankruptcies, a sense of community is extremely important to help employees feel some element of stability.
A community can be built and nurtured on multiple levels such as 1-on-1 informal and formal mentoring schemes and company sponsored networks and/or affinity groups.
The community effect, with teams in multiple locations, can also be harnessed online with department discussions forums, webcasts, videoconferences and newsletters. Collaboration tools, such as Microsoft SharePoint, provide a platform for employees to meet and collaborate on any topic that captures their imagination.
The ultimate goal is to drive innovation amongst your team, keep them invigorated, encourage them to share ideas and support each other’s efforts and work towards the greater good of the enterprise.
The element of space
Preferred employers provide both the support and freedom needed to grow. This freedom should also be included across all elements of a talent management program, with appropriate delegation, encouraged risk taking and creative/flexible working arrangements.
Show me the money
Annual financial incentive reviews are still very important. Comparing employee compensation to industry benchmarks, such as ISM, Supply Demand Chain Executives and Purchasing Magazines’ yearly salary surveys, can help to minimize unnecessary and unwanted attrition.
A danger currently exists that the global recession has created a false sense of security in some companies where there is a perception that people are unlikely to move jobs and that new job opportunities are rare.
With economic revival on the horizon this sense of security is definitely misplaced. Earlier this year, the Conference Board conducted a survey which indicated that people’s happiness at work in the US is at an all time 20-year low (1).
As supply chain employers, our task is to not only recruit the right talent but also assure they stay with our organization, not out of fear, but because they enjoy what they do and there is an opportunity for growth. A supply chain executive with a structured talent management program in place can lead with the confidence that he/she has the right team in place to succeed.