Supply Chain Leaders, Prioritize These Three Talent Strategy Essentials

To build a flexible supply chain workforce, companies need to widen employees’ view, embrace technology, and engage a diverse talent pool.

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Leaders are hyper-focused on developing overall supply chain resiliency to better prepare for and quickly respond to an ever-growing number of unpredictable challenges — from sudden global shocks to inflationary pressure to new ESG (environmental, social, and governance) requirements. A critical task for success on this front: building flexibility into the talent base.

Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) know this; Accenture research shows that 82% of CSCOs believe their organization needs to develop employees with broad-ranging skills, rather than narrow technical competence, so that they can solve complex, cross-industry problems. At the same time, only 38% of surveyed CSCOs say their workforce is mostly or completely ready to leverage their technology tools, and under half (44%) have enough specialists (such as data scientists) in their talent pool.

Staffing the supply chain workforce is a big challenge — in fact, it’s one of the biggest challenges businesses have ever faced. Yet CSCOs may be overlooking or underestimating three essential elements of their talent strategy. This might be because they’re too slammed managing day-to-day crises to think even a few months ahead or because, given the ever-quicker pace of technology evolution, it’s difficult to pinpoint the particular skills they need most.

The rise of cross-supply-chain thinkers. While deep, specialized skill sets in procurement, operations, manufacturing, and logistics will always be important, companies also need individuals attuned to driving important bigger-picture outcomes like greater resiliency, innovation, enhanced business responsibility, and sustainable cost reduction. Those high-priority areas aren’t easily addressed with siloed functional teams executing a series of transactional activities that rarely ultimately connect.

Meaningful ideas and insightful answers don’t come from an inventory specialist, demand planner, or warehouse manager working in isolation. Rather, they require a setting that recognizes and values creativity and, critically, those individuals who can understand dependencies and influences. Solving problems requires working beyond silos and divisions, including beyond the bounds of the company itself — perhaps even driving strategic ecosystem partnerships to address bigger issues.

One way to build your team’s skills in cross-supply-chain thinking is to implement a system of rotating assignments among the various supply chain departments. Everyone involved will see the bigger picture firsthand; for example, demand planners will have a new perspective on their own role after a three-month stint in logistics, manufacturing, and procurement.

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