Logistically Speaking: Are You So Good at Your Job that Your Boss Will Be Upset If You Leave?

The market for supply chain jobs is expanding, but companies are looking for a wide range of very specific skills.

Despite an economy that’s still quite a few miles short of recovery, one of the crying needs of material handling and logistics managers is for qualified workers to take on some of their company’s crucial supply chain tasks. The shortage of truck drivers has been frequently cited in recent years, and in many areas of the country it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find, train and retain warehouse workers. What you may not be aware of yet, but which could very well happen (at least, according to one recent survey), is that you may find your company short a supply chain analyst or two in the near future, too.

LifeWork Search, a search and recruitment firm, recently asked members of its LinkedIn social network if they planned to leave their current company in 2012. Since the firm specializes in supply chain recruiting, respondents to the poll are people who work in such areas as demand planning, supply planning, production planning, purchasing and logistics. Of the 281 responses, 39% said yes, they will be moving on to another job at some point this year, and an additional 32% said maybe they’ll leave. So that’s a potential 71% of supply chain planners, analysts and other professionals who at the very least are less than enthralled with their current job situations.

“What we are witnessing is an employee backlash,” explains Jason Breault, managing director of LifeWork Search. “Lack of confidence in management has employees tempted to move elsewhere.” Breault says corporate management should see this as a wake-up call. “Many organizations will lose their top players, and although the talent pool is large, it remains weak.”

So let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you’re one of those disenchanted souls who has one foot out the door already. What kind of a job market can you realistically expect to find, should you decide to offer your supply chain services to the highest bidder? The University of Tennessee’s Global Supply Chain Institute set out to answer that very question. A group of senior supply chain executives that serve on the Institute’s advisory board compiled a “wish list” of skill sets that they look for when hiring supply chain professionals, including:

➤ Six Sigma green belt training

➤ Lean supply chain experience, including familiarity

with value stream mapping

➤ Critical thinking and data analysis skills

➤ Strong customer service skills.

Supply chain professionals also need to be familiar with financial matters, and be able to hold their own on such topics as budgeting, cash flow, financial planning and analysis, and risk management.

“Many supply chain managers don’t know how to speak the language of the financial community,” points out Paul Trueax, vice president, North America customer service and logistics, with consumer packaged goods producer Colgate-Palmolive. “It’s important to know how to translate process improvements to the financial statements.”

It would also be a good thing to have on your resume a global skill set, as the job market for top supply chain talent has spread far beyond the borders of the United States. “Tremendous growth opportunities in Asia are fueling companies to move more of their leadership to Asia, including their headquarter operations,” observes Daniel Myers, executive vice president of supply chain, with Kraft Foods.

As the economy slowly rolls toward what we hope will be a long and sustained recovery, both senior managers and supply chain professionals should take an honest assessment of their situations. If you’re a manager, are you doing all you can to keep your supply chain talent actively engaged in the business, or are you just throwing work over the wall to them, expecting them to stay in their silos cranking out forecasts for you? If you’re a supply chain pro, are you investing in yourself and expanding your skill set, or are you just marking time doing the same old same old five days a week?

Continuous improvement isn’t just a lean manufacturing principle; it should be an apt description of how you approach your job every day, whether it’s managing a staff or nurturing your own career.

Follow me on Twitter @supplychaindave.

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