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People in Supply Chain- Motivating and Innovating

By Mehran Ravanpay, VP, Global Supply Chain Logistics, Schneider Electric

Mehran Ravanpay, VP, Global Supply Chain Logistics, Schneider Electric

Digital supply chain capabilities are transforming how companies collaborate in the future. At the same time, supply chains must become more business-focused and business-friendly. To manage the shift to digital, talent will become the critical piece, helping supply chain organizations evolve to a digital age. With a renewed focus on talent, we can’t ignore that the skills gap in the supply chain and manufacturing industry is rapidly growing. Technology and globalization have completely evolved the skillset needed to keep pace with the shift to the digital-first revolution.

And as millennials increasingly start to make up more of the broader workforce, the gap continues to widen, from a combination of the retirement of the baby boomer generation and fewer millennials entering the industry. The challenge has emerged to attract and engage the younger generation and invest in training to keep up with the changing needs of the industry.

"Technology and globalization have completely evolved the skill set needed to keep pace with the shift to the digital-first revolution"

Recruiting and Hiring

To manage the industry shift, we need to begin to look at a different recruitment and hiring strategy focused on bringing in a more diverse pool of candidates. Traditionally, “diversity” was centered on gender, nationality, and ethnicity, but now its needs have broadened to include different education pools not previously considered. This includes specialized universities, military schools and different majors that take advantage of new skill sets.

In a new pool of candidates, supply chain managers should be looking at new technical expertise, including the knowledge and aptitude to learn new manufacturing technology and the software systems SCMs use to do their jobs well. In a digital-first industry, the ability to innovate legacy systems, build on new tools like predictive analytics, and incorporate customer experience services is a necessary part of the strategy.

Business acumen is now required as a fundamental skill to understand the financial impact of decisions and understand customer needs and requirements. And strong leadership skills in candidates showcase an ability to motivate and do their jobs well.

Attracting New Talent

While the perks and benefits of a higher salary are always important, no matter the company or the role, engaging a younger, more skilled workforce requires demonstrating a strong mission. Today’s generation is motivated by working for a company with strong values that provides purpose. Providing a rallying cry is an important part of attracting new talent. Tying in renewable energy promotion can appeal to employee attitudes around preserving the planet.

One of the key motivators and innovation drivers for supply professionals is to solve big problems for the customer. Progressive supply chain companies recognize that customers have different needs and requirements– mandating a differentiated or segmented supply chain to accommodate their customer’s needs. This approach is highly strategic and attracts a new type of talent to space.

Additionally, the round-the-clock nature of supply chain makes demonstrating a commitment to work life balance even more important. There are many options companies can employ to address flexibility within an inflexible environment. For example, providing an opportunity for team members to be rotated from one shift or location to another based on their skill set and project or product they are working on keeps work from becoming mundane. Another strategy is cross training which allows team members to train in different specialties. This skills worker in multiple areas and helps team members cover for each other during overtime.

Finally, setting an alternative work schedule can accommodate different circumstances. A “4:4:30” structure allows a 1st and 2nd shift that works four days a week for 12 hours, with the third shift scheduled for Friday-Sunday, working a 12-hour shift. Providing a realistic schedule allows employees to plan and be able to take their time off.

Areas for Investment

With the right strategies in place, as an industry, we can close the skills gap–but it takes significant investment at all levels.

• Organizational Structure: Human Resources need to be empowered and dedicated to search the right avenues for talent and pursue the appropriate promotional activities. A strong mission and values statement needs to become a critical part of the job posting and should be reinforced throughout the hiring process to attract and push through younger talent. Thinking outside of the box in both the types of background and high-tech skill sets will allow new types of candidates to appear that can solve the unique challenges of an industry driven by more connected and digitized technologies.

• Training: No matter how highly skilled, new and rising talent needs a strong investment in training to attract and retain the right workforce. Building a culture of learning and development helps keep younger talent engaged and focused, as well as fosters creativity and innovation within the organization.

• Technology: Technology is now the heart of supply chain management. The business of the industry is problem-solving. New technology can help personnel better understand the equipment they are managing, manage the decision-making process more efficiently and intelligently and drive down costs. For example, supply chain networks are built on customer demand and cost optimization. The uses of analytics help personnel understand behaviors to react quickly to rebalance inventory and adjust transportation.

In short, supply chain management has evolved into a technology-led, customer driven industry. To take advantage of this shift, the focus can’t be on just the technology. The right talent equips supply chain management companies with the resources they need to fully leverage connected technologies to improve their business processes. The right personnel unravels the complexity of emerging technologies like IoT, helping the industry continue to innovate and stay relevant in this industrial revolution.

Supply Chain Management Special