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Why the Supply Chain Talent Gap Is Getting Harder to Bridge Every Year

There’s a talent gap in the supply chain industry that has many industry leaders worried. It’s not a new problem, but it is becoming increasingly urgent every year, especially as industry needs evolve. Although the strong growth predictions for 2018 have tapered off somewhat, there is still a significant demand for professionals at all levels, from entry-level employees to executives. And most supply chain organizations are having trouble finding enough qualified talent to fill those open roles. That is why experienced supply chain recruiters are vital to helping to bridge the gap.

There are three serious questions facing the supply chain industry:

  1. What’s causing the talent shortage?
  2. What’s happening in the industry and how will that affect your ability to fill high-demand roles?
  3. How can you overcome the challenges to source, screen, and hire the people you need?

In this three-part series, we’ll take a look at each of those questions with the goal of giving you a big picture view of what you can do to hire the best employees for your company.

Let’s start by zooming in on several factors contributing to the widening talent gap.

Three Reasons for the Supply Chain Talent Crisis

According to Harvard Business Review, the supply chain industry comprises 44 million jobs, and as of 2018, experts predicted a talent gap of 1.4 million. That’s a broad estimate that includes both suppliers and supply chain services like truck drivers, computer programmers, and operations managers, but it is still a good starting point for understanding the extent of the talent shortage problem.

More than two-thirds of industry leaders say that the high demand for talent is a contributing factor to the talent shortage. The industry is growing rapidly, especially as automation and technology have created greater efficiency and increased opportunities. But it may come as a surprise that most leaders also say demand isn’t the most significant factor. In fact, 86% gave changing job requirements a high or very high ranking as a contributor to the talent shortage, while only 67% ranked overall demand in those categories.

Which variables, then, have the greatest impact on a company’s ability to find and hire the right people?

  • Changing Job Requirements – As we mentioned above, nearly nine in ten supply chain leaders say changing job requirements are significantly hindering their ability to hire enough workers. Supply chain jobs require different skill sets than they used to. Organizations need people with both supply chain competencies and professional soft skills like leadership ability, teamwork, and problem solving. On top of that, companies may also expect proficiency with a certain type of software or experience in a particular industry niche. The true problem may not be that there aren’t enough candidates on the market, but rather that there aren’t enough people with the unique combination of skills the company is looking for, especially for middle management and executive positions.
  • Technology Advancements – The supply chain industry is on the cutting edge of technology innovation, creating unprecedented demand for technology roles across the industry. The 2018 MHI Annual Industry Report lists robotics and automation, predictive analytics, IOT sensor technology, AI innovation, and driverless vehicles as key contributors to growth in the supply chain industry. To stay competitive, organizations will need to hire data analysts, software developers, and IT technicians with both technical skills and business acumen. These “purple squirrels” are among the most difficult to hire, especially in a job market where their skills are highly sought after in every industry.
  • Negative Perceptions Among Young Workers – While it’s true that technological innovation is a key driver of growth in the supply chain industry, younger professionals don’t see it that way. They’re more likely to envision being stuck in a boring, repetitive job with no opportunity for advancement. Part of the image problem lies with companies that don’t give supply chain the same prominence as they do other parts of the company. But equally important is the fact that supply chain jobs have a marketing problem. Millennials and up-and-coming Generation Z workers simply don’t know what a supply chain career has to offer in terms of opportunity, compensation, and professional growth.

Moving the Needle: Critical Talent Needs Call for Strategic Hiring

Finding, hiring, and retaining enough workers to keep up with the explosive growth of the supply chain industry won’t be easy. One study found that 32% of companies have taken no actions to create a talent pipeline. That’s a huge problem, because the competition for talent will only continue to escalate as the needs of the industry evolve.

So how can you move the needle? In Part Two of this series, we’ll discuss which roles are most in demand and what you need to know about industry trends as you create your hiring strategy.

In Part Three, we’ll pull back the curtain on our top strategies for sourcing, screening, and hiring the talent you need to carry your organization into the futureNew call-to-action