Championship baseball teams like the Washington Nationals win by developing a talent pipeline of young players like left fielder Juan Soto and acquiring savvy veterans like three-time Cy Yong award pitcher Max Scherzer. Akin to the General Manager of any great baseball team, we as sourcing leaders spend a sizable portion of our time laboring to nurture and acquire talent to foster a competitive edge for our companies.
Much has been made about the sourcing talent shortage, especially with the U.S. unemployment rate at 3.6%, the lowest it’s been since 1969. As more baby boomers retire, it’s Generation Z that is now joining our farm systems as future sourcing stars. However, if we want to continuously field a sourcing team that can win in the game of business, we need to also acquire talent in new and creative ways for areas in which we might not have internal talent waiting on deck. Below are 10 plays to aid your short- and long-term talent needs so you can win today and for years to come.
Nurture your Talent Pipeline
Yes, you should attend local and regional college career fairs if you are looking to fill several positions. Now with that out of the way, we will move beyond nuanced plays. We will focus instead on those plays that will differentiate you and your company, so you are the club of choice that consistently attracts the best and brightest young minds.
1.) Map attributes that your company values. There is a major disconnect between employer reality and student perception of the skill sets needed in today’s workplace. Supply chain students ranked themselves as more competent than employers felt they were for nearly every attribute in a recent student and employer research survey conducted by Western Michigan University that was published in Scientific Research. The study distilled 10 core attributes that employers should focus on: 1) college major; 2) college GPA; 3) study abroad experience; 4) internship experience; 5) involved in extracurricular activities; 6) technical skills; 7) written communication skills; 8) verbal communication skills; 9) ability to work in a team; and 10) problem-solving. As sourcing leaders, we need to partner with our recruiting teams to dial in the top attributes that students must possess to align organizational needs with ideal talent.
2.) Communicate attributes that your Company Values. Sharing what attributes your company values shouldn’t be a game. Both employers and students value and prioritize different attributes in part due to wanting to impress one another. Thus, employers can influence the development of the type of talent they are looking for. Leading companies do this by verbalizing the specific types of attributes they look for (such as verbal communication) and then tie it specifically to how to acquire that attribute (for example, XYZ case competition). “Rank and consistently communicate what attributes your company values during all your student interactions; leading companies that link attributes to specific contextual campus experiences win most,” stresses Sime Curkovic PhD, Valluzzo Faculty Fellow, and Professor of Supply Chain Management, at Western Michigan University.
3.) Join job shadow programs. Most supply chain programs have official one- to three-day job shadow programs that offer excellent opportunities for students and potential employers to foster deeper relationships. If the university you recruit at doesn’t offer a program you can opt into, then develop your own program to offer a unique talent edge. An afternoon of thoughtful planning under the guise of your Generation Z internal talent can lead to a trending experience on campus that your ideal students actively seek out.
4.) Develop student projects. Exposure to the brightest and most outgoing students is likely your goal. None of us wants benchwarmers. In a tight job market, you need to strive for creative ways that you and your company can become more top of mind. Partnering with professors to develop engaging classroom projects with real-world data can not only add critical student touchpoints but it will help you identify and target the top students you want on your team.
5.) Award focused scholarship. Focus in on the top attribute you wish to acquire at your company (such as written communication skills). We all want and frankly need teammates with command of the pen, but this is difficult for recruiting teams to evaluate in interviews. Awarding a scholarship that requires a written essay can accomplish two goals at once: it will attract attention to your company but also attract the right type of candidates that align with your top attribute.
Acquire Experienced Talent
College grads can contribute to wins in the long term, but like most businesses, you probably have spots on your starting roster now that require years of industry experience. As with nurturing your long-term talent, there are many tried and true plays you can deploy, like hiring full-time employees, contractors and consultants. We will focus on less widely used plays that stand to foster a competitive advantage and leave your competitors to stick with the traditional approaches.
6.) Empower remote team members. There are many qualified candidates that are available now but not located within driving distance of your office. Fostering a flexible and remote work culture will expand your talent pool. Further, top experienced all-stars know they are amazing, so you need to give them the flexibility to work from home as needed to attract and retain them. Give your team access to the latest cloud collaboration software and connected devices to make working anywhere in the world seamless.
7.) Enable part-time team members. Grow your pool of available talent with new parents looking to reenter the workforce part-time. Developing part-time positions can enable access to proven teammates. Splitting one full-time role into two part-time roles can often result in a net talent gain with expanded access to two team members’ skill sets versus one.
8.) View suppliers as a talent ecosystem. As sourcing leaders, we need to redefine talent from only inside our four walls to include our expanded ecosystem of suppliers. Invite suppliers in to discuss some of your most challenging bandwidth gaps. You will likely walk away with not only creative solutions but proposals from suppliers that can take on more. Weighting your efforts toward small to midsize (SMB) service providers tends to generate outsized results as they are often more entrepreneurial and thus better able to quickly tailor cost-effective support.
9.) Outsource tasks to free up time. Take the next week and track on an hour-by-hour basis what tasks you and your team spend your time doing. There are many things we do as sourcing professionals that take up a ton of our time that could be better used elsewhere. Two common tasks that often require a ton of our team’s time but have lower company commercial impact are onsite supplier audits and early new product prototype quoting. Focus on tasks that take up the most time. Multiply each task’s time by each team member’s hourly cost, which is their salary divided by 2,080 hours. This is a great back-of-the-envelope way to calculate the cost of each team member doing a specific task. Outsource tasks to suppliers to save money and improve team productivity.
10.) Leverage managed services for spend categories. There are several ways you can engage a partner to execute processes and parts of your supply chain where you have talent gaps. Traditional targeted approaches include procure-to-pay, but newer firms can now execute all end-to-end activities from new product idea to ongoing product production delivery. A newer bread of technology-enabled services firms are lowering fixed people costs by doing and delivering work using cloud software. Typically, niche lower volume product lines are low risk and a high return on investment managed services sourcing opportunities.
Playing Offense to Win the Talent Game
Ultimately, there’s no one play that guarantees you win the talent game. As with baseball, business is a long competition won in large part due to the talent that is both nurtured and acquired. You need to get a lot right in sourcing to win, but with great people, you can accomplish nearly anything.
As sourcing leaders, we need to do our part to narrow the gaps that exist between employer and student opinions around the most important attributes that we use to rank candidates on hiring decisions. Clear, direct communication and small investments of our time in student projects and events can go a long way toward influencing our talent pipeline.
Today with unemployment at record lows, we need to foster unique plays to win the talent acquisition game. Most of us simply can’t afford to bid the highest for talent.
Our limited budgets require we follow the lead of smaller market baseball teams that have won with less. We need to change the rules of the game by acquiring experienced, sometimes overlooked, talent and in new and different ways.
Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Bean pioneered new talent approaches to field a winning team at a fraction of large market team budgets. As sourcing leaders, we need to follow his lead to reshape the rules of the talent game. We need to choose different plays than our competitors to win the sourcing talent game. We must move beyond the traditional approaches and play aggressive offense to both nurture our future talent for the long term and acquire talent so we can win in the short term.