Do We Need to Build a Skills Supply Chain?

March 19, 2015
Finding new solutions to plug the talent gap will require traveling down many roads.

"Companies that succeed in building a global skills supply chain will be positioned to excel in innovation and performance," states a recent study conducted by Deloitte. Based on the results of that study, the consulting firm strongly suggests that the supply chain community needs to develop its own skills supply chain to address the talent gap.

When asked what areas of focus were most urgent, respondents to the survey chose four:

Leadership: In a world where knowledge doubles every year and skills have a half-life of 2.5 to 5 years, you need leadership.

Retention and Engagement: Companies should redefine their engagement strategy to move from keeping people to attracting them and creating a passionate and compassionate place to work, Deloitte advises.

One trucking company took the "compassionate place" idea to heart and is using it in its effort to both retain and attract long-distance truck drivers.

"Drivers can be sent to a specific region like the Southeast, if that's where they want to be," Nathan Seiders of Keen Transport Inc., Carlisle, Pa., told The [Carlisle] Sentinel.

"It's a great opportunity to explore the country, especially for younger and older couples. We allow our drivers to have their wives or spouses ride along."

Reskilling the HR function: Companies need to make sure that their HR departments have a strong relationship with the organization's leadership. Programs that build workforce skills internally are needed and best practices have to be shared across the company.

Talent Acquisition via Social Media Tools: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are now part of any recruiting strategy and require that a company focus on its branding efforts.

Matthew Milam, CEO of Foundry Service Corp., a trucking company based in Vineland, N.J., told The [Vineland] Daily Journal that he uses Facebook and a driver incentive program to engage drivers. Monthly memos address driver issues to keep them informed on the company and the industry.

All of these strategies are useful; however, the most important part of retention and recruitment is to understand your labor pool. "To get the right people, you have to be attractive to the right people," says Milam.

A key component in the success of the driver program, Milam explains, is having an involved group of professional drivers. Another large trucking company often gets referrals from current employees.

Other potential labor pools are receiving attention as well. Boston-based Jobs for the Future focuses on giving young adults from low-income areas opportunities to gain skills and credentials. They provided a grant to CareerEdge, which is based at State College of Florida, to provide workforce training in the Tampa area due to the region's growing transportation, distribution and logistics sectors.

The tactic of providing credentials has proven to be attractive; by early March the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council had already issued 419,528 certifications, which puts the initiative a year ahead of reaching its goal of 500,000.

The Skills Certification System focuses on the industry-wide core technical competencies for front-line work (entry-level through first line supervisory), which constitutes over 70% of the jobs in manufacturing and logistics.

Training, seeking new labor pools, understanding the needs of the future workforce—these are all tools companies can use to build a skills supply chain. Finding these solutions will require traveling down many roads.

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