Addressing the Supply Chain Talent Gap by Looking Beyond Degrees

Spend Matters welcomes another guest post from Becky Partida of APQC.

With supply chain’s growing popularity as a discipline, many universities have created supply chain management degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels to better prepare graduates to enter the field. However, there are still unanswered questions about whether graduates with these degrees are adequately prepared for supply chain jobs and whether organizations are actively seeking employees with these degrees.

APQC recently conducted a survey of supply chain professionals that focused on the recruiting and talent management practices of their organizations. The survey results indicate that there are skills gaps among recent supply chain job candidates. These gaps primarily occur with more strategic skills. As a result, recruiting and retaining talent is more of a problem for strategic positions.

On the survey, APQC asked respondents to rate how prepared recent supply chain job candidates were in 18 areas. The scale ranged from 1, which indicated that candidates were not at all prepared, to 5, which denoted that candidates were very well prepared. The figure below gives the five areas rated highest by respondents, as well as their mean ratings. The results indicate that candidates are best prepared for more basic aspects of the supply chain discipline, such as procurement and inventory management.

Figure 1-March

It is worth noting that respondents gave all the areas a mean rating of less than 3.6. The top five areas had ratings indicating that candidates were somewhat prepared, but even with these results job candidates clearly have room for further skill development.

APQC also asked survey respondents to rate the importance of certain skills for supply chain talent. A rating of 1 indicated that a skill was not important at all, and a rating of 5 denoted that a skill was extremely important. The chart below presents the five skills rated most important by survey respondents as well as their mean ratings.

apqc graphic 2

The results indicate that respondents place more emphasis on “softer” skills for supply chain employees. They also highlight the gap in skills among potential employees, given that candidates are rated most prepared for tactical aspects of the supply chain field.

How does the apparent skills gap affect the recruitment and retention efforts of organizations? To look at this, APQC asked survey respondents to indicate the types of positions that are most problematic with regard to recruitment and retention. Respondents rated each type of position twice: once based on their recruiting difficulty and once based on their retention difficulty.

Respondents rated strategic level positions as most difficult both for recruitment and retention. The chart below provides the mean ratings for these positions.

graphic 3

APQC’s research indicates that organizations are addressing the need to further develop their supply chain hires in a number of ways. Some have adopted training programs to improve the skills of high-potential employees once they have been brought on board. These programs can include on-the-job training on the organizations’ processes and rotation programs that give employees broad experience with different aspects of supply chain.

Other organizations are taking a more proactive approach by partnering with universities that offer supply chain management degrees. These organizations provide internship opportunities to college students to give them real-world experience. Some organizations are even working with universities to develop supply chain management curricula for students.

Even with the increase in supply chain management degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level, it is clear that supply chain professionals are not entering the workforce with the skills needed in the complex, global economy. To ensure that they have skilled employees, organizations must invest in talent development (both with new hires and college students) that takes high-potential individuals and gives them the experience they need to excel in the supply chain field.

Voices (3)

  1. b+t:

    So its not a skill then.

  2. Pierre Mitchell:

    It is a skill, and a set of skills and formal process/techniques. Not just being friendly. It’s about listening, strategic alignment, ‘value selling’, and doing ‘customer management’ to understand what stakeholders are trying to do with their spend, and then be able to bring the right procurement services to bear for them. Procurement is a services business and in any services value chain, like a product value chain, there is demand mgmt and supply mgmt, and you can’t do demand mgmt withouth doing customer management, and you can’t do that without a customer focus – including designated responsibility in Procurement for ensuring that that stakeholder (major spend owner) is getting what they need from procurement rather than being randomly hit up by various procurement folks.

  3. bitter and twisted:

    what exactly is a ‘skill’ ? how is ‘customer focus’ a skill ? its a value judgement.

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