Does the Supply Chain Hiring Process Need Revamping? ISM’s M.L. Peck Discusses Talent Gaps and the “30 Under 30” Competition

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The nomination period has opened again for the “30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars” program, which recognizes some of the most talented young supply chain professionals. (A public service announcement: If you’re interested in nominating someone, you have until Dec. 3!) Organized by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and Thomasnet.com, “30 Under 30” is now in its fourth year and just as ambitious as ever in its aim to attract young people to the supply chain field and tackle that notorious talent gap.

Last week, Spend Matters talked to M.L. Peck, chief content and engagement officer at ISM, to get her take on what “30 Under 30” tells us about the next generation of supply chain professionals, as well as problems and challenges that companies and young professionals face in finding each other. Is it time for a revamp of the hiring process?

Spend Matters: Last year was the first year that “30 Under 30” was open to nominees from all over the world. Are there any changes for this year?

M.L. Peck: The program itself is not changing, the only thing that we did change a little bit is we added an early bird registration. If people submit their nominations by October 13, they get a special package [a month’s access to ISM’s “Just in Time” online course, a coffee mug and a Starbucks gift certificate]. The final date is December 3, so it's consistent with last year.

SM: Do the early-bird nominees get any sort of advantage?

Peck: They do not. We spoke about that, but this is really a program that rewards people based on their qualities, their capability and the leadership skill that they've demonstrated. We didn't want to water that down.

We know that the people who are nominating these young professionals are very, very busy. They want to nominate. So, psychologically, if there can be some benefit for them nominating earlier, maybe we'll get even more nominations, or, at the very least, it will be a reminder. We always get calls the day after [the deadline]. Hopefully this will encourage us to get even more nominations.

SM: Would you be able to share how many nominations have been received so far?

Peck: I don't have those numbers. We generally get a couple of hundred nominations each year since we've run the program, and we are on trend for that, so that's good. We do expect that we'll hit at least a couple of hundred.

SM: Maybe it’s still too early to tell, but have you noticed any trends among this year’s nominees?

Peck: From the past few years we've seen several really cool trends, like the fact that they admire their parents [or] the fact that most of the nominees do significant volunteer work. They're very active in their community.

A lot of the [nominations] that we've seen in the past years talk about [how the nominees use] technology for efficiency and really highlight collaboration skills that this generation brings. Collaboration is just natural to them. They grew up working with and playing games with people all across the world, collaborating virtually as well as in person. A lot of their school work is teamwork and team-focused. We're seeing the results of that in the nominations.

What's really cool is, as you've seen from the past winners, they highlight those skills but then they're able to actually translate those into either cost savings, or driving revenue, or quantifiable measures.

SM: To change the topic slightly, one of the main goals of the “30 Under 30” competition is to encourage young people to work in supply chain. We always hear about the mass exodus of supply chain professionals that’s going to come when the Baby Boomer generation retires. But at the same time, more universities are establishing supply chain programs, which are also becoming more popular. What is your take on the talent gap? Is it as bad as people say?

Peck: First, I do think the talent gap is substantial. We're now at the point where within the next five years or so, 75% of baby boomers are going to retire and Generation X wasn't big enough to fill all of those seats.

The other thing is, I think that there is a disconnect between what corporations are saying and what the professionals are experiencing. We had a press conference with last year’s winners, and one of the panelists said, "You know, I'm walking around and I'm hearing all of these companies talk about a talent gap and how they can't find people, especially young people. [But] we're all here trying to find jobs. We want to get hired."

A big part of that is probably the hiring process. Our hiring process is very, very outdated. It doesn't lend itself to how millennials work. I wouldn't even say it's a generational thing anymore. If you don’t have the right keywords in your resume, you’re not even going to make it to HR, so you’re getting people who can write great resumes but maybe not have the skills. I think that's a really big, broad issue that needs to be addressed societally.

SM: Interesting. The companies are not getting the candidate they want, but there must also be young professionals who have the skills but aren’t writing their resumes in the right way.

Peck: The whole way the process is set up is not really conducive to how these young professionals work and communicate, and that was maybe just one example. This is just complete theory, not backed by data. The young professionals are trying to get hired, and the corporations are saying "Hey, we can't find young professionals." Are the job descriptions over specified? To [the point] where young professionals are saying, "Well, I don't have all this experience, I can't apply for it”?

There are more and more supply management graduates, and I would agree with that. We've made great headway there, but there's still room to have more, we're not over saturated yet.

SM: So despite the trend of supply chain programs, there are still not enough college graduates to replace the departing Baby Boomers.

Peck: You've got to look at your talent pipeline a little bit differently. Start recruiting from other areas. You can go now into maybe finance or engineering, or even marketing, and attract some of the high potential [candidates] into the supply management field. That's because supply management is no longer a dead-end, back-office function. It is now super strategic. It is critical to a company's strategic plans and objectives. Most high potential people want to be part of that.

SM: When people send in their nominations, do they already know about the “30 Under 30” competition? Do you ever have instances where the nominees go to their bosses and say, “There’s this really cool program, can you nominate me?” Does that happen?

Peck: Unfortunately, not all of the nominators are members of ISM. We don't want to take that into consideration when we are selecting them either. Some of the nominators and some of the nominees actually were never familiar with ISM until this process.

We have had several stories where some of the winners, or even the nominees, would actually go to their boss or their colleagues, or a mentor, and ask them to nominate them. I think that speaks to this generation’s unstoppable attitude. They see something, they want it and they're going to try to make it happen.

SM: How are the previous three classes of “30 Under 30” winners doing? Where are they now in their careers?

Peck: We informally keep track of them. We have a Linkedin group that's really only for that crew. At some point we do want to go back and do a “Where are they now?”. A lot of the winners have progressed in their careers. There have been a couple of instances where they've gone back to get their Master’s at some really great programs. Again, that's testament to this generation's focus on continual learning and professional development.

From the ones that I've personally been in contact with, the majority of them have stayed in supply chain. One of them moved to finance. We need to steal them back. Finance, marketing, engineering, production, and manufacturing — they've all been stealing our high talent for a long time. Now it's time for the tables to turn.

SM: Right, no more!

Peck: A good majority of them stay in supply management, and it's because they love that field and they love the impact that they're making. They love that they can influence their team, their company and their community.

Know a young professional who could be a 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Star? The last day for submitting nominations is Sunday, December 3.

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