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What Skills are Supply Chain Managers Lacking?

Aug. 10, 2015
Only 38% of executives, interviewed for the annual Deloitte survey, expressed confidence that their organization has the competencies it needs.

It’s not a good sign for supply chain organizations when only 38% of executives, interviewed for the annual Deloitte survey, expressed confidence that their organization has the competencies it needs.

One particular competency that is in short supply is strategic thinking and problem solving, according to 43% of survey respondents.

Looking more closely at the specific skills necessary, a large majority of respondents (73%) said it was extremely or very important to hire employees with the required technical competencies (enabling them to tackle, for example, complex aspects of risk management, statistical modeling, and multitier management) in order for their company to meet its strategic objectives.

Even more (79%) said leadership and professional competencies (valuable in problem solving, change management, and talent development) were extremely or very important.

In their report Deloitte concluded that of these two types of talent the leadership and professional competencies might be the hardest to hire for—or for that matter, to cultivate.  They point to the example of Cisco Senior Vice President Angel Mendez who expressed his enthusiasm for how the supply chain profession is evolving, saying that “increasingly this type of role—certainly our supply chain operation positions here, and in many, many companies— is at the core of bringing new capabilities to market quickly, and reacting to competitive pressure and market dynamics.” As a result, he believes, the executive in charge of supply chain operations is “really becoming someone that the CEO spends a lot more time with.”

To address this gap some companies have come up with nontraditional methods. Ten years ago Cisco found that they didn’t have enough applicants for high-skilled positions. The company decided to target “passive job seekers”—in other words, people who are happy where they are, but could be persuaded to take a more attractive position.

Cisco hosted focus groups of desirable talent, in the way most companies do of customers, and discovered patterns in how they spent their time outside work—at art fairs, home-and-garden shows, and microbreweries. Then, it started sending recruiters to those places to strike up informal acquaintances with potential recruits.

“Today, many more organizations are realizing it will take this kind of out-of-the-box thinking to recruit the talent needed for supply chain excellence,” the report says.

Looking to the future the industry is optimistic as 44% believe their organizations will be able to put the required knowledge, skills, and abilities in place. 

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